Healthy effort nets legislative victory for public worker safety

workers

The hard work of Massachusetts labor unions has paid off with a new law ensuring that all public workers are covered under the same safety standards as the state’s private sector ones.

The new law will make federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations the minimum safety standard for all municipal, public authority, higher education and state employees. It was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last month after passage by the Legislature.

“I was excited when I heard the news about OSHA protection for public employees,” said Brenda Rodrigues, president-elect of Local 888. “Working as a public employee, there were times I saw violations in the work site, but there was no reporting or protections for the employees.”

The new law is “a historic victory for workers in the state,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. “Over the coming years, untold number of lives will be saved because OSHA protections will now cover thousands more workers.”

The law will apply the enhanced safety standards for 428,510 public sector workers. Between 2005 and 2016, 52 municipal workers were fatally injured at work in Massachusetts, according to MassCOSH.

MassCOSH, a union-backed worker safety advocacy group, is a sponsor of the Workers’ Memorial Day planned for the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

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