Protecting America’s Workers Act

The last time a bill for occupational safety and health (OSH Act of 1970) made it to the desk of the oval office, Richard Nixon was sitting behind it. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), is looking to change that by reintroducing the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA) (S.665).

PAWA will aim at making improvements to the 43 year-old bill and increase the penalties available to OSHA and prosecutors in the case of certain infractions. The bill looks to address the workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths, which have continued to plague American workers since the original bill in 1970. In 2010 alone, over 4,600 workers were killed on the job and another 3.8 million were reported injured. That works out to an average of 13 workers dying every day on the job and nearly 11,000 injured.

Every worker, in every industry, deserves to be confident that while they are working hard and doing their jobs, their employers are doing everything they can to protect them.That is why I am proud to reintroduce the Protecting America’s Workers Act. The legislation is a long-overdue update to the OSH Act, and a good step towards making workplaces safer and healthier across America.

-Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

Highlights of The Protecting America’s Workers Act

Covers more workers.

  • Over 8.5 million American workers are not covered by OSHA’s protection. These include federal, state, and local public employees, and some private sector employees.
  • The bill provides OSHA protections to these workers, which include flight attendants, state correctional officers, and workers in government agencies.

Increases penalties for those who break the law.

  • Under current law, an employer may be charged — at most — with a misdemeanor when a willful violation of OSHA leads to a worker’s death.
  • The bill makes felony charges available for an employer’s repeated and willful violations of OSHA that result in a worker’s death.
  • The bill also updates OSHA civil penalties — which have been unchanged since 1990 — and sets a minimum penalty of $50,000 for a worker’s death caused by a willful violation.

Protects workers who blow the whistle on unsafe conditions in the workplace.

  • OSHA whistleblower provisions have not been updated since their adoption in 1970.
  • The bill 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.

  • The bill improves public accountability and transparency.
  • It mandates DOL to investigate all cases of death or serious incidents of injury.
  • It gives workers and their families the right to meet with DOL investigators.
  • And it requires employers to inform workers of their OSHA rights.

Clarifies an employer’s duty to provide a safe worksite, safety equipment and track recordable injuries and illnesses for all workers onsite.

  • Amends the General Duty Clause to include all workers on the work site (new in the 113th)
  • The bill clarifies employer responsibility to provide the necessary safety equipment to their workers, such as personal protective equipment.
  • 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 work site (new in the 113th).

Additional Resources