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Blog Author Angelique Sanders

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

ASSE Pushes For Inclusion of Public Sector Workers

C. Christopher Patton, President of ASSE has written to Lynn C. Woolsey,Chairwoman of the congressional Subcommittee on Workforce ProtectionsCommittee on Education and Labor urging inclusion of public sector OSH coverage provisions in the Protecting America’s Workers Act. Here is the letter:

Dear Representative Woolsey:

On May 24, 2007, Jon Turnipseed, a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and at that time a Safety Program Manager for a California municipality, testified at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to express ASSE’s support for providing all of this nation’s state and municipal workers with federal occupational safety and health (OSH) protections. ASSE’s statement that day, with extensive support for our position, can be found at http://www.asse.org/professionalaffairs_new/communications/federal/archive/files/052407HouseTestFinal.doc. You were present at that hearing and also

voiced support for protecting the more than 8 million public sector workers who are not guaranteed this level of protection because the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) only requires such coverage in states with their own occupational safety and health plans.

Now, because of your unwavering support for advancing safety and health for workers, you are in a pivotal position to help achieve full public sector coverage by advancing the current version of your bill, HR 2067, the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA). ASSE, however, is troubled to learn through the trade press and discussions in the occupational safety and health community that the provision to achieve this coverage may be dropped in a redrafted PAWA now under consideration. If this is true, ASSE strongly urges you not to turn your back on the workers who deserve this coverage and make sure that Section 101 of the current bill remains in any new version of PAWA that goes forward.

Achieving OSH coverage for public sector workers long has been a key ASSE goal. ASSE’s current efforts to advance the issue were spurred on by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s (CSB) investigation of the 2006 Daytona Beach municipal water treatment facility that took the lives of two workers. As you know, CSB found Florida’s lack of OSH coverage for its public sector workers contributed to those deaths, an unprecedented finding by the CSB. In response, our members in Florida led ASSE to provide the resources needed to help pass legislation establishing a task force charged with determining how to best protect Florida’s workers. Again ASSE led the effort this year to pass the task force recommendations into law. A bill that simply would have required the state’s public sector employers to meet federal OSH Act standards – without any enforcement provisions or resources to support the requirement – passed the Florida House but was not heard in the Senate because of the Legislature’s attention to the state’s budget problems. Achieving full enforcement of federal OSH standards in Florida could take years of continued effort, with no guarantee for success.

We can tell you from our members’ experience in this one state that going from state to state to the 25 states that still do not require federal-level protections would be an effort beyond the resources of any stakeholders like ASSE. We understand the difficulties this measure faces in Congress, but that level of difficulty would be multiplied 25 times if the effort had to be repeated from state to state. The reality is that the only effective way full public sector worker OSH coverage will be achieved any time soon is through your leadership right now at this unique time in history when Congress is in a position to consider reforms to the OSH Act.

Thank you for your attention to our concern. ASSE and our members stand ready to help you achieve our shared goal. We strongly urge inclusion of Section 101 providing OSH coverage for public sector workers in any new version of PAWA that goes forward. Public sector workers are depending on your unwavering commitment to their safety and health.

Sincerely,
C. Christopher Patton, CSP
President

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