Massachusetts establishes health, safety agency for public workers

Dive Brief:

  • Massachusetts recently became the 29th state or territory in the U.S. to have its own employee and health agency. The Department of Labor gave initial approval to the plan, which will be responsible for protecting state and local government workers, OSHA announced.
  • The program applies to more than 430,000 employees of the state and government municipalities such as counties, townships and school districts. The plan took effect Aug. 18.
  • Massachusetts joins Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and the Virgin Islands where programs must be at least as effective as federal OSHA in protecting state and local government workers.

Dive Insight: 

The other 22 states and territories with their own plans also cover government workers in addition to private employees. Currently, 23 states have no federally approved workplace safety and health protections for public employees, according to OSHA.

The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards will administer the new plan, while private sector and federal government employees in the state will remain under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

“Massachusetts’ new state plan is a milestone for its public employees and the state’s development of its occupational safety and health program,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary for OSHA, said in the release. “We commend them for their ongoing commitment to the well-being of government workers who provide vital services to make the state of Massachusetts livable and enjoyable.”

MassCOSH, a worker advocacy group, also applauded the passing of the program.

“We at MassCOSH are very happy to see additional protections for public sector workers here in our state,” Al Vega, MassCOSH director of policy and programs, said in a statement shared with Construction Dive. “ By joining other states who already have these laws in place, we know Massachusetts workers will be 100% safer when working for state and municipal agencies now that OSHA and the commonwealth have extended safety protections that private sector employees already have.”

The OSH Act of 1970 allows states or territories to establish plans covering just state and local government employees, who are excluded from federal coverage. Once federal OSHA approves a state plan it funds 50% of the program’s cost.

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