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Schatz Introduces New Legislation To Keep Workers Safe, Hold Companies Accountable For Workplace Violations

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representative Andy Levin (D-Mich.) introduced new legislation to keep workers safe by requiring the publication of workplace violations. The Keeping Workers Safe Act directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to announce major violations by companies and distribute them to local media and related labor and trade organizations, a practice which has been shown to boost workplace safety.

“We need to do all that we can to protect American workers on the job,” said Senator Schatz. “Publicizing workplace violations holds companies accountable and leads to a safer work environment for everyone. Our bill will help standardize this practice, keep workers safe and healthy, and strengthen our economy.”

A recent Duke University study found that one OSHA press release on a major violation resulted in the equivalent compliance measures of 210 inspections. Based on the number of serious violations found each year, the effectiveness of OSHA inspections could be doubled by mandating these notices. The study, which appeared in the American Economic Review, examined OHSA releases sent to local newspapers, finding a direct association between their being issued and improved workplace compliance. It has been estimated that workplace injuries cost $2.5 billion annually.

“As our country continues to tackle this once in a lifetime public health crisis, the Keeping Workers Safe Act will ensure workers aren’t forced to risk their lives for paychecks and hold employers accountable for dangerous working conditions,” said Representative Levin. “After years as a union organizer and a workforce policy administrator, I know how important it is to empower OSHA and workers across the country, and this commonsense bill does exactly that.”

The Keeping Workers Safe Act would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to require the OSHA Administrator to publicly disclose civil penalties greater than $60,000 or multiple serious or repeated violations within seven days of a citation being issued. It would require these disclosures to be submitted to relevant regional and local newspapers, trade or industry organizations, labor organizations, and state and local government entities in the region where the employer is located.

“As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, corporations that break federal health and safety laws endanger workers’ lives and risk the wellbeing of local communities. Yet, from meatpacking and manufacturing to construction and healthcare, serious violations of workplace laws are far too frequent in many sectors and communities. By publicizing government actions against the worst violators of workplace health and safety protections, the Keeping Workers Safe Act promises to improve overall compliance with these laws; encourage workers to come forward to report violations; and put employers on notice that our government does not tolerate lawbreaking,” said Karla Walter, Senior Director of Employment Policy at the Center for American Progress.

In the Senate, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The Keeping Workers Safe Act is supported by the National Employment Law Project, the Center for American Progress, UNITE HERE, and Teamsters.

The full text of the bill is available here.