House, Senate pass municipal workplace safety bill

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The House and Senate both approved legislation last month that would codify the state’s practice of using federal Occupational Safety and Health Act standards as the basis for municipal worker safety programs administered by the Department of Labor Standards.
 
The bills would also add municipal members to an advisory board that reviews safety programs and consults with the Department of Labor Standards on proposed regulations.
 
There are differences between the two versions that will have to be resolved before a final bill can be enacted and sent to the governor.
 
The Department of Labor Standards says that it already uses OSHA standards under its general authority to make rules governing its programs, and the proposed legislation would bring clarity and consistency to the law and department practices but wouldn’t trigger any changes to inspection or enforcement activities.
 
State law was amended in 2014 to apply OSHA standards to state workplaces. Private workplaces in Massachusetts are subject to direct federal regulation.
 
If the legislation is passed and signed by the governor, the Department of Labor Standards is expected, after consultation with the Occupational Health and Safety Hazard Advisory Board, to amend the regulations in place for state employees to include local government employees. The proposed expanded 21-member advisory board would include a representative of the MMA and several other local government groups.
 
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act applies mainly to private employers and is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It was enacted by Congress in 1970 to ensure safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training and assistance.
 
There are 26 states that have delegated authority to use OSHA standards under “OSHA-approved state plans.” Twenty-two of these plans apply to both private and public employers (including Vermont), while six plans cover state and local workers only (including Connecticut, Maine and New York).