Legislation to Improve Workplace Safety Passes State Legislature, Heads to Governor Kotek’s Desk
SALEM, OR - Senate Bill 592A to improve the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) enforcement and investigation tools passed the Oregon State House today in a bipartisan 35 to 23 vote and now moves on to the Governor to be signed into law.
“SB 592A means that our state’s OSHA penalties will finally be as effective as Federal OSHA’s – a longstanding directive that Oregon has been out of compliance with – and brings Oregon into alignment with over 28 other states. We know that meaningful penalties coupled with comprehensive inspections save workers’ lives and stop preventable injuries from ever happening. SB 592A sends a clear signal to Oregon workers that their labor is valued, their lives are important, and that preventable injuries and deaths will have consequences,” said Graham Trainor, President of the Oregon AFL-CIO.
After SB 592A passed with bipartisan support in the State Senate in March, Oregon House members debated the bill today, with Republican Representatives filing a minority report to remove the penalty increases entirely from the bill.
As passed, SB 592A:
Puts in place floors and ceilings for serious violations, non-serious and willful violations in alignment with Federal OSHA penalties. Serious safety violations are those where Oregon OSHA determines there is substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could occur. Adjusts these penalties yearly to inflation.
Adds minimum and maximum penalties for a worker death that resulted from a serious violation or willful violation. Adjusts these penalties yearly to inflation
Triggers a comprehensive, full workplace investigation in the event of three or more willful or repeat violations within a year or in the event of a work related fatality in connection to a violation
Requires at least annual reporting to the Legislature on inspections, penalties & appeals
Representative Dacia Grayber (HD 28) carried the bill on the floor and said, “No worker should have to fear going to work and not returning to their family. I know we all agree on this, so I am asking that we use every tool in our toolbox to prevent those deaths and injuries: comprehensive inspections, penalties that are high enough to meaningfully change behavior and tip cost curves towards prevention, and ongoing reporting of data so that as Legislators we can continue to use agency dollars more effectively and efficiently to fulfill the mission of Oregon OSHA: to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities long before they occur.”
During the course of debate, Republican legislators also raised concerns about committee testimony that was given by Oregon AFSCME about a union member in Benton County who was killed at work. Their death resulted in a thorough OSHA investigation and penalty in 2019. This testimony prompted Republican legislators to walk-out of the committee public hearing.
“We understand that hearing about workplace deaths and injuries is hard for legislators, but hearing from advocates on all sides of an issue is a critical part of the legislative and democratic process. We are bolstered that the passage of SB 592A will mean that there are far fewer of these stories that will have to be shared going forward,” said Trainor.
SB 592A now goes on to the Governor to sign into law where it will take effect immediately.
Statement from Oregon AFSCME on the Passage of SB 592A
SB 592A’s passage in the Oregon House of Representatives with a 35 to 23 vote will help make Oregon OSHA more effective and workplaces safer. When a worker is killed on the job due to negligence, it is vital that a proper investigation occurs, and penalties applied if deemed appropriate by OSHA.
It’s incredibly disappointing that Republican House Representatives continue to dismiss our public testimony on the 2019 death of one of our members. As elected leaders, we believe that it is legislators' duty to hear all public testimony, particularly when it is about a preventable death of an Oregon worker.
Our union strives to empower workers to create change in their workplace in order to make their working environments places where they feel safe and heard, SB 592A is a prime example of this.
SB 592A passed the Senate Chamber with bipartisan support and while members of the House of Representatives held a debate over worker safety, we applaud the advocacy of Representative Grayber, Representative Sosa, and Representative Ruiz, who did not lose sight of the nexus of this bill.