Legislature Considers Bill Extending Safety Protections to Public Employees

On Wednesday, February 13, injured workers, a doctor, labor leaders and safety advocates testified in support of a bill requiring public employers to institute safety measures required of private employers. These basic measures may have saved the lives of some 100 workers since 1990.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 14, 2008

CONTACT
Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, MassCOSH
W: (617) 825-7233 ext. 15
C: (617) 642-1878

Worker deaths, injuries spur call for safety

 

In 2004, Roger LeBlanc, a 39 year old Massport electrician, was
electrocuted and lost his life while working at Logan Airport. On
Wednesday, February 13, injured workers, a doctor, labor leaders and
safety advocates testified in support of a bill requiring public employers
to institute safety measures already required of private employers.
These basic measures might have saved Leblanc’s life and some of the
100 other public employees killed and thousands more injured on the job
since 1990.

“We have a chance to ensure that similar accidents, similar injuries
and similar loss of life do not happen to workers and their families in
the future,” said Robert Haynes, President of the Massachusetts
AFL-CIO.

Filed by Representative Martin Walsh and Senator Marc Pacheco, House
Bill 1866/Senate Bill 1088 would mandate that public employers observe
OSHA-established safety procedures, currently only required of the
private sector. Though twenty-seven states already apply these
regulations to public employees, Massachusetts has failed to pass this
important safety measure.

“What does New Hampshire know that we don’t know?” Marcy
Goldstein-Gelb, MassCOSH’s executive director, asked the committee.
“One thing that New Hampshire knows is that, aside from doing the right
thing by protecting their employees, when you reduce injuries, you save
money.”

According to data provided by New Hampshire’s Department of Labor,
after implementing OSHA protections to state employees in 1998, the
state of New Hampshire reduced their workers comp claims by an average
of 51% - and between the years 2001 and 2004 they saved $3.3 million.
Each year, Commonwealth residents spend more than $50 million in
workers’ compensation costs for injuries and illnesses incurred by
state employees alone. If you include all state, county and municipal
employees the cost goes up to almost $200 million per year.

“A wood shop teacher in the Metro Southwest area became deaf because
of the consistent noise exposure in his classroom,” AFT-MA’s Phil Katz
told the committee. “If the schools were subject to OSHA, this
unfortunate occurrence would never have happened.”

Contact your legislator and urge them to call Chairmen David Torrisi
and Thomas McGee and express their strongest support for this bill.