MassCOSH, National COSH Release Worker Safety Recommendations for Obama Administration

On Jan. 6, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and its national association, the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), released a platform outlining seven priorities for federal action in 2009 to protect worker health and safety.

The document, “Protecting Workers on the Job: Seven Priorities for Federal Action in 2009,” includes proposals to improve occupational safety and health in areas of education, legislation and stronger enforcement of health and safety regulations.

“Over the past 8 years, federal job safety agencies have failed to fulfill their promise to protect workers' health and safety on the job. Workers continue to be killed and injured on the job at appallingly high rates, yet federal OSHA refuses to issue new protective standards or adequately enforce existing safety and health rules,” said Tolle Graham, president of the National COSH and a MassCOSH health and safety specialist. “Acts of gross negligence or criminal behavior leading to workplace deaths result in minor fines. And millions of public safety employees – the very workers that protect us all from natural or deliberate disasters – are outside the jurisdiction of federal OSHA entirely.”

The platform is centered on correcting these failures of the OSH Act by expanding workers' rights to a safe and healthy workplace and increasing the effectiveness of OSHA enforcement through the following goals:

  1. Put worker health and safety first by making the Protecting Workers on the Job agenda a top priority of the President and Congress.
  2. Ensure health and safety protection of all workers through rigorous enforcement of existing regulations, new worker protections, and research.
  3. Count all occupational injuries and illnesses and increase funding for federal and state-based public health tracking programs.
  4. Increase worker participation in workplace safety and health programs and protect workers from retaliation.
  5. Eliminate disparities in the high rates of deaths, injuries and illnesses among all workers.
  6. Reform workers’ compensation programs to ensure appropriate and equitable remedies for the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses for all workers.
  7. Reduce or eliminate widespread use of toxic chemicals to protect workers on the job and to safeguard the communities in which we all work and live.

“These measures are an integral part of a broader effort to ensure the health and well being of all working Americans,” the document read.

The platform also recognizes the intrinsic link between work and family life and the price that families pay when workers become injured or lose their lives.

“No one knows and feels the consequences of these problems more than the victims and their loved ones. We need to act now to save others from the pain and suffering these preventable tragedies bring,” said Tammy Miser of United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF). Miser's brother was killed by a dust explosion at a Hays Lemmerz aluminum wheel plant in Indiana in 2003.

National COSH and MassCOSH urged the Obama administration to take swift action in addressing these priorities to protect worker safety and health.

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