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On Ninth Anniversary of Kleen Energy Explosion, Congressman Courtney Reintroduces the Protecting American Workers Act

February 7, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, reintroduced the Protecting America’s Workers Act. Courtney was joined by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would strengthen and modernize the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 by giving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHAct) tools to ensure that employers promptly correct hazardous working conditions, protect workers from retaliation when they blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions, and hold employers accountable for violations that cause illness, death or serious injury to workers. The OSHAct has not been meaningfully updated since it was passed in 1970.

“Nine years ago, there was a devastating explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant, which was under construction in Middletown, Connecticut,” said Congressman Courtney. “The explosion took the lives of 6 workers – including that of my friend, Ronald Crabb of Colchester, Connecticut – and injured dozens more. Today, on the ninth anniversary of the accident, it’s appropriate that my colleagues and I reintroduce this legislation to make critical, decades-overdue updates to OSHA. Every day, 14 employees go to work and never come home to their families due to fatal on-the-job injuries. The OSHAct made great strides in protecting American workers, but since it was enacted the American workplace has modernized and diversified. The law should keep up with the realities that workers face on the job today. Our bill is focused on updates and compliance, not on petty, punitive measures against employers, and will ensure that today’s workforce is empowered and protected by our nation’s chief worker safety law.”

“The Protecting America’s Workers Act makes long overdue improvements to  Occupational Safety and Health Act, by providing coverage to millions of workers who have been excluded from the law’s protections. The legislation bolsters remedies for workers who face retaliation for reporting unsafe work, and ensures that there are adequate deterrents for employers who may be tempted to cut corners and put profits ahead of safety,” said Chairman Scott, “Strengthening our nation’s workplace safety laws helps ensure that every worker can return home safe and healthy at the end of every shift.”

“I’m in full support of this important effort to modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and provide true safety protections to American workers,” said Congresswoman Adams. “For too long, employers in some of our most dangerous occupations have been able to cut corners and not face true accountability for keeping safe and healthy workspaces. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would change this dynamic, improving crucial recordkeeping, increasing monetary penalties for unscrupulous employers, and putting American workers first.”

The Protecting America’s Workers Act will:

·         Protect millions of workers by expanding OSHA coverage to state and local government employees in 25 states, and broadening OSHA coverage to include federal employees.   

·         Ensure worker safety is protected in a timely manner by mandating that employers correct hazardous conditions while a citation for a serious, willful or repeat violation is being contested.  Currently, the requirement to abate violations is stayed while a violation is litigated, leaving workers in harm’s way.   

·         Reinstate an employer’s ongoing obligation to maintain accurate records of work-related illness and injuries, and reverses a Congressional Review Act resolution that undermined OSHA’s ability to enforce against employers who violate requirements to record workplace injuries and illnesses.   

·         Improve whistleblower protections for workers who call attention to unsafe working conditions.   

·         Update obsolete consensus standards that were incorporated by reference when OSHA was first enacted in 1970.   

·         Deter high gravity violations  by providing authority for increased civil monetary penalties for willful and serious violations that cause death or serious bodily injury.   

·         Require employers to report injury and illness records to OSHA to provide the agency with data to effectively target unsafe workplaces.   

·         Authorize felony penalties against employers who knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death or serious bodily injury and extend such penalties to corporate officers and directors. Criminal penalties are misdemeanors under current law.   

·         Require OSHA to investigate all cases of death and serious injuries that occur within a place of employment.   

·         Establish rights for families of workers who were killed on the job by giving families the right to meet with OSHA investigators, receive copies of citations, and to have an opportunity to make a statement before any settlement negotiations.   

·         Improve protections for workers in state plans by allowing the Secretary of Labor to assert concurrent enforcement authority in those states where the plan is fails to meeting minimum requirements needed to protect workers’ safety and health, as recommended by a Government Accountability Office report.

Congressman Courtney offered further remarks on social media regarding the 9th anniversary of the Kleen Energy explosion and today’s reintroduction of the Protecting America’s Workers Act, view those remarks here