Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dina Titus Introduces Legislation to Strengthen OSHA Oversight

It's about time!

Rep. Dina Titus introduced a bill this morning that would give the federal government more flexibility in its oversight of state workplace safety program. [...]

At stake: Nevada’s control over the workplace-safety program. Nevada is one of 22 states operating such a program, which is supposed to protect private and public employees. The federal government shoulders the responsibility in all other states.

Federal OSHA has required the state to make changes to its program. But under current law, federal officials have only one option if the state fails to improve: terminate the state workplace-safety plan and take over. Titus called such a measure a "drastic step what would ... leave state and local government employees unprotected" and put the Labor Department on the hook for federal funding.

Titus' bill, dubbed the Ensuring Worker Safety Act, would create "a formal mechanism" to allow federal OSHA to step in, identify problems with state programs and exercise oversight without stripping states of day-to-day control. [...]

“The tragic deaths of numerous workers in Southern Nevada highlighted the need to ensure that state OSHA plans are doing their job of protecting workers,” Titus said in statement. “Unfortunately under current law, federal OSHA is left with only two options, both at the extreme end of the spectrum, when it finds state plans that are ineffective. This legislation provides OSHA with an important middle ground so it is not left with the choice of doing nothing or the drastic step of terminating a state plan.”

It wasn't that long ago when the 25 construction worker deaths at casino sites up and down The Strip in 2007 and 2008 caused people to wonder why all these workers were dying on the job. The Sun launched its now famous investigation into what happened, and discovered that Nevada State OSHA regulators had a far too cozy relationship with the very casinos in the hot seat over these construction deaths.

Hopefully if Dina Titus' proposed legislation becomes law, it will provide a more comprehensive framework for the feds to step in when state OSHAs (not just ours) are not properly addressing workplace safety violations. This will add more protection to the workers who need it without unnecessarily overloading the federal OSHA with all the states' case work.

Now let's hope Congress gets moving on this.

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