The Public Worker Post Victory Plan

January 29, 2019

After over a decade of steadfast advocacy by labor advocates, a bill extending Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protections goes into effect February 1, 2019. Now, MassCOSH is working to ensure public sector workers know all about their new health and safety protections and to make sure the law is fully enforced. 
“This was a historic victory for workers in the state,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan. “Over the coming years, an untold number of lives will be saved because OSHA protections will now cover thousands more workers. But we know this is just the first step, education, and enforcement are just as critical to the years of work we put into this law.” 
MassCOSH is offering training to public sector workers and working to ensure this law is properly funded, worker retaliation concerns are addressed, and data required by OSHA is collected.  

In a confounding move by elected officials, The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) budget has been cut since the bill’s passage, meaning they now have less than eight inspectors to cover 458,000 workers in the state. Although OSHA regulations make retaliation against a worker who reports dangerous work illegal, DLS’s tiny staff is forced to rely on collective bargaining agreements to ensure workers are protected. However, there are many non-unionized workers in municipalities who will have no protection under this scenario.  

OSHA regulations also require data collection on injuries and illnesses to identify health and safety issues in need of targeted action. Concerned about municipalities’ capacity to provide this data, DLS has proposed shortcuts that may result in critical information about the state’s public sector workforce going untracked.  

As members of the DLS Health and Safety Board overseeing the law’s implementation, MassCOSH will continue to ensure that these concerns are addressed moving forward. While these provisions of OSHA are critical to ensuring public workers receive the protections they deserve, enforcing them is also a prerequisite of becoming an “OSHA State Plan” which will bring millions of federal dollars to Massachusetts to support DLS in its efforts to protect the health and safety of the state’s public sector workers.