NCOSH, APHA Urge New Agenda for Protecting Workers

An agenda of seven priorities has been issued today by National COSH -- the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health, which is a federation of 21 local and state Committees/Coalitions on Occupational Safety and Health (www.coshnetwork.org) and a national association of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health -- and the American Public Health Association. The 111th Congress begins today, and Friday's nomination hearing for Labor secretary-designate Hilda Solis also makes this the right time to release the seven-item platform, they say.

The "Protecting Workers on the Job: Seven Priorities for Federal action in 2009" agenda's seven goals are:

1. Put worker health and safety first as a top priority for President Obama and the new Congress.
2. Ensure health and safety protection of all workers by enforcing existing regulations, enacting new standards, and expanding research and public health workforce development.
3. Count all occupational injuries and illnesses, ending the exemption for federal and state workers and farms with fewer than 11 workers. Have OSHA and MSHA conduct "robust" enforcement audits of employers' injury and illness records to ensure the annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses is accurate.
4. Increase worker participation in identifying and correcting hazards, including enactment of an OSHA standard requiring safety and health committees and annual training in all workplaces, with paid time for worker participation.
5. Eliminate disparities, with vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and Hispanic workers helped by targeted OSHA programs.
6. Reform workers' compensation programs, with the reform driven by Congress so all injured workers receive fair benefits and access to health care.
7. Reduce or eliminate widespread use of toxic chemicals.

"Over the past eight years, federal job safety agencies have failed to fulfill their promise to protect workers' health and safety on the job. Workers continue to be killed and injured on the job at appallingly high rates, yet federal OSHA refuses to issue new protective standards or adequately enforce existing safety and health rules," said Tolle Graham, president of National COSH and a MassCOSH health and safety specialist. "Acts of gross negligence or criminal behavior leading to workplace deaths result in minor fines. And millions of public safety employees -- the very workers that protect us all from natural or deliberate disasters -- are outside the jurisdiction of federal OSHA entirely."

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