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  • Report: MA Executive Worker Protection Law Reduces Human and Financial Costs of Workplace Injuries
    Updated On: Apr 07, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, April 7, 2016

    A law that went into effect last year extending federal safety and health standards to 36,000 executive branch employees in Massachusetts is being hailed by advocates as having a significant impact on stemming the human and financial toll of workplace injuries. When the Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted nationally in 1970, it provided an option for states to provide OSHA-level protections for public employees. However, for the following 45 years, the Commonwealth had a law specifically excluding workers in the executive branch from being covered. Marcy Goldstein-Gelb is Executive Director of MassCOSH, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health:

    [Marcy Goldstein-Gelb]: “Unfortunately in that gap, too many executive branch workers suffered from unnecessarily injury, illness and death which, in most cases or many cases would have been prevented had these standards been enacted and been in place.”

    MassCOSH has just released a One Year Progress Report highlighting the laws’ achievements and areas for improvement:

    [Marcy Goldstein-Gelb]: “We have a number of examples of injuries and what the measures that are now being enacted would save in terms of lives and pain-and-suffering, and of course cost.  We were able to bring together, with the Department of Labor, some additional resources to enable agencies to purchase certain types of equipment that are lifesaving. That alone has helped contribute to reducing injuries. In addition, the state Department of Labor conducted 93 investigations. They were able to ensure and assist and support and encourage each agency to enact very critical safety and health measures that would be preventing incidents and injuries.”

    A similar bill that would extend these protections to all public employees in Massachusetts has passed the state Senate and is now on its way to the House. With all public agencies covered by OSHA protections, the state would also become eligible for federal OSHA matching funds. MassCOSH’s education efforts have gone a long way to reduced opposition in the legislature:

    [Marcy Goldstein-Gelb]: “Public agencies are realizing that safety measures aren’t the enemy. They actually are good for saving money, and, of course, the health and well-being of your employees. We’ve been able to show, that when you enact federal safety and health standards you don’t have to add a lot of cost. What you’re doing is enacting minor changes in many cases that have life-saving impact.”

    Goldstein-Gelb hopes that other states, about half of which still do not provide OSHA-compliant protections for public employees, will be encouraged by their findings:

    [Marcy Goldstein-Gelb]: “We hope that both our state extends its OSHA protections, that there are more resources for the department of labor, and that those states around the country that have not yet got into the 21st century and realized that federal safety and health measures are life-saving and save money as well, they will also move forward and make some changes.” They’re pushing for more resources for the DOL so they can do their job as effectively as possible. They feel like this could be extended to other agencies as soon as this other law passes.
     


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