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Massachusetts extends OSHA protections to state workers: It’s about ‘creating an infrastructure that supports health and safety’

Back in 1970 when the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established, local policymakers could choose whether or not to extend OSHA protections to state employees. Unfortunately, Massachusetts took a pass. But decades later — and after years of advocacy, organizing and research on the part of worker advocates — employees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can now look forward to safer and healthier workplaces.

In June 2014, then-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation that expanded OSHA protections to executive branch employees — that’s more than 150,000 workers. The law, which went into effect in March, requires that the new executive branch safety and health measures be at least as protective as OSHA standards. Advocates estimate that the new protections will not only save lives and avert preventable injury, illness and disability, it could save the state significant costs in medical care and workers’ compensation. While current Gov. Charlie Baker proposed $500,000 in funding to support the state Department of Labor Standards in implementing the new law and establishing safety standards, community advocates will continue to play a central role in making the law an on-the-ground reality.