On July 26, the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2012 (S. 3443) was reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Although this bill’s main focus is the mine industry, it includes sweeping changes to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. The first part of this comprehensive workplace safety legislation would impose new recordkeeping and training requirements on mine operators, expand the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) authority, increase whistleblower protections in this industry, and raise maximum criminal and civil penalties and standards for violations. The remaining portions of this bill would significantly amend the OSH Act. Among other things, this bill would substantially increase employer civil and criminal penalties for violations of the OSH Act, strengthen whistleblower protections, and provide greater rights for victims of accidents and their family members to participate in proceedings under the OSH Act.
This measure has been introduced in various forms over the past few years. In January 2011, Senator Rockefeller introduced a previous version of the bill. According to a press release issued by Senator Rockefeller, “My new bill includes important pieces from my previous mine safety legislation, which I’ve been fighting to pass in Congress. It also includes new provisions that specifically address problems that the investigations into the tragedy at Upper Big Branch brought to light.”
The sections of the bill that apply more generally to workplace safety have also been introduced as standalone legislation. The Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA) – which includes the OSH provisions only – was last introduced in 2011.
As with its predecessors, the latest version of the mine and workplace safety bill is not expected to progress.