Did you know that some public-sector employees – or people who perform public services and are employed by the city or state – are not protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)? First signed into law in 1970, the OSHA widely expanded the federal government’s role in keeping worker’s safe and implemented effective control measures to decrease preventable injury and death in the workplace.
For public sector workers in Pennsylvania, the federal law affords no such protections. Even worse, the state does not have comparable protections and safety guidelines in place, which means public employees face serious – and deadly – workplace hazards with little to no oversight. Pennsylvania legislator Patrick Harkins says: “enough is enough”, and is trying to get the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety Bill passed to stop tragic and senseless accidents from happening.
The worker safety bill that Rep. Harkins is trying to pass into legislation honors the memory of a 48-year-old mechanic who worked for the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority. Jake Schwab was killed in 2014 when equipment he was using malfunctioned. As a public sector employee, Jake’s workplace had not had any type of safety training in over 9 years. After the deadly accident, there was no federal investigation – instead, Jake’s widow was left to gather information from the insurance company handling the claim.
At least 28 states have adopted their own OSHA-approved safety and health plans in order to give public sector employees the same protections as private ones – but Pennsylvania is not one of them. Not having an OSHA-approved plan in place severely compromises the safety of public employees. Research shows that after the OSHA was signed into the law, the rate of serious workplace injuries and illnesses dropped from 11 per 100 workers in 1970 to 3.6 per 100 in 2009. State plans that are comparable to OSHA are known to afford similar protections.
Representative Harkins first introduced the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety Bill in 2015, just one year after Jake’s untimely death – but it stalled in committee. He reintroduced it in 2017, and again, the same thing happened. Now, Representative Harkins is once again bringing his bill before the legislature – and he says he will not stop until it is signed into law.
Too many workers are injured, become ill, or die because of preventable workplace hazards. Public sector employees in Pennsylvania face even higher risks for dangerous and deadly accidents. There is no excuse for failing to protect public sector employees, and the time for a change is now. One of the ways to help get the Jake Schwab Worker’s Safety Bill passed is voice support for it.
If you are a resident in the state of Pennsylvania and believe protecting public sector employees is a critical safety and health concern, you can speak with appointed representatives. We will continue to keep our reader’s updated as this story develops.
If you have questions about a workplace injury, illness, or death, someone at our firm can help. Contact us directly for more information.
If you were injured at work, please contact our Allentown workers’ compensation attorneys. Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.