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Senate approves federal protections for state, municipal workers

The city of Boston, Massachusetts, has a wide array of employers, some public, and some in the private sector. Naturally, workers in both public and private sector occupations want their jobs to be as safe as possible. Employers should want that, too, for humanitarian reasons firstly, but also secondly, to avoid situations that result in workers' compensation claims.

Recently, the Massachusetts State Senate approved a bill to ensure that workplace protections accorded to private sector workers will be accorded to state and municipal employees as well. When the bill becomes law, city, county and state level employees will enjoy those protections.

The bill is S 2167. It was filed by Senator Marc Pacheco. It takes the occupational safety standards outlined in the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and requires that all Massachusetts public employees be covered by those standards. OSHA was passed in 1970 to mandate protections for private sector while giving states the ability to extend those protections to the public sector if they pass legislation, like S 2167, to make that happen.

Massachusetts executive branch workers got the protections extended to them back in 2014, and legislators like Senator Marc Pacheco felt that it was long past time to extend them to all Massachusetts public workers. According to another legislator, Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, it never made any sense to include executive branch workers only while leaving other state and municipal workers out.

In Massachusetts, about 28 municipal workers suffer injuries each week that require them to take five days or more off from work. That fact has led the executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health to label the bill's passage a critical step.

Many people in the state hope that the bill will become law. If it does, many more workers will be protected by OSHA standards, which will be an effective way to reduce workplace injuries.

Source: Worcester Business Journal, "OSHA protection bill clears Senate," Oct. 05, 2017

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