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Breaking it down | Protecting America's Workers Act (PAWA)

Posted by Joshua Fleishman on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

The OSH Act (That created OSHA) was passed over 40 years ago in order to protect America’s workers. Since then, great progress towards keeping America’s workers safe has been made. However, more work must still be done as we still have the statistics, almost daily, about serious injuries and/or fatalities.

In 2010 alone, over 4,600 workers were killed and 3.8 million workers reported injuries (and think about how many DIDN’T report). That makes an average of almost 13 injuries per day!

So a return to a previous idea of updating OSH Act in the form of a bill, Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), with the intent to expand & strengthen workplace safety laws. PAWA was introduced a few different ways before in several congressional sessions, but never passed.

What is PAWA? Well it looks to update/amend OSHA to cover more workers, update penalties, strengthen protections, enhance public accountability, clarify an employer's duty to provide safe work environment. What does it entail? Let’s take a look at what PAWA aims to do:

Cover more workers
  • Over 8.5 million workers are not covered by OSHA. This includes federal, state, local public employees and some private sector.
  • PAWA would include flight attendants, state correctional officers and workers in government agencies and provides OSHA protections to these workers.
Beavis & Butthead - Breaking the LawIncrease penalties for law-breakers
  • Current law says willful OSHA violations that lead to a worker's death may be charged, at most, with a misdemeanor.
  • Repeated and willful OSHA violations that result in serious injury or death can be charged as felony.
  • Updates OSHA civil penalties (unchanged since 1990). Sets minimum penalty of $50,000 for worker death caused by a willful violation.
Protects whistle-blowers on unsafe conditions in the workplace
  • OSHA's whistleblower provisions have had no update since adoption...in 1970.
  • Updates those whistleblower protections by incorporating successful administrative procedures adopted in other laws (like the Surface Transportation Act).
Enhances the public's right to know about safety violations
  • Improves public accountability and transparency.
    • Mandates Department of Labor (DOL) investigates all cases of death or serious incidents of injury at work.
  • Gives workers (and their families) the right to meet with DOL investigators.
  • Requires employers to inform workers of their OSHA rights.
Clarifies employer's duty to provide a safe work environment, equipment and track recordable injuries/illnesses for all workers on-Caution - Recordable Injury Signsite
  • Amends the General Duty Clause to include all workers on the worksite.
  • Clarifies employer responsibility to provide the necessary safety equipment to their workers (example: PPE).
  • Directs DOL to revise regulations  for site-controlling employers to keep a site log for all recordable injuries and illnesses among all employees on the worksite.

That about wraps up PAWA and its goals. Think for a moment about these questions and then comment what you think in the box below!
  • Does this frame of mind have merit
  • Do you think this should be passed
  • As an employee, do you feel this is headed in the right direction? 
  • As an employer, do you feel this is headed in the right direction? 
No matter what side of the fence you are on, how can workplace safety training companies continue to assist employees & employers while its being negotiated?
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Tags: PAWA, OSHA, safe work environment, safety training, protecting america's workers, workplace safety