Safety and Health Regulations for Public Employees in Massachusetts
On June 26th 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed into Law Chapter 144 “An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms.” In addition to increasing the state’s minimum wage, the law extends workplace safety and health standards equivalent to OSHA to employees of the Executive Branch. The law takes effect on March 24, 2015.
In the absence of any Massachusetts regulation, the OSHA workplace safety standards automatically become the standard for state employees. The law requires the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) to administer and enforce the regulations. DLS will have the right to enter workplaces maintained by the Commonwealth to inspect safety and health conditions, and to issue citations for any violation of workplace safety and health regulations. The agencies covered by this law include all Executive Branch agencies. Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by both OSHA regulation and existing Massachusetts state law (G.L. c. 149, § 185).
The law codifies the Massachusetts Employee Safety and Health Committee that was established under Executive Order 511, which will become the thirteen-member Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consists of the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, the Personnel Administrator/Chief Human Resources Officer, the Director of the Department of Labor Standards, the Secretary of Administration and Finance, the Director of the Office of Employee Relations, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, the Director of the Department of Industrial Accidents, four representatives from labor unions representing employees of the commonwealth, one representative from a community-based health and safety advocacy organization, and one member of the faculty of the Department of Work Environment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Significant work is underway to prepare to implement this new law:
- Selection criteria are being formulated which will guide inspection priorities;
- Processes for performing inspections and fielding complaints are being developed;
- Re-appointments of committee members to the advisory board are being pursued with the Governor’s Office;
- Regulations are being drafted.
Safety and health regulations for both public and private sector employees were written before 1970, when the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) went into effect for private sector workers. Accordingly, if you are a private employer conducting work on any public or private worksite, you are required to follow OSHA safety and health standards outlined in 29 CFR 1910 and 29 CFR 1926. Municipal workplaces in Massachusetts, excluded by federal OSHA coverage, are covered by Mass General Laws Chapter 149, section 6. Municipal employers who comply with US Department of Labor OSHA and other nationally recognized safety and health standards will be considered to be in compliance with Chapter 149, Section 6. Massachusetts Workplace Safety & Health Statutes and Regulations
To report an accident involving an EMS response, hospitalization or fatality of a public employee, call the Department of Labor Standards at 508-616-0461 ext. 9488. A public employee is an employee of a state, county, or municipal entity. Private employers are required to call OSHA. Referrals from police departments, fire and EMS departments are welcome. To file a complaint about safety and health conditions for public employees, for example: machine safety, electrical safety, or chemical safety, call the Department of Labor Standards at 508-616-0461 ext. 9488 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Department of Labor Standards will follow-up by sending a written Complaint Letter or by conducting a site inspection.
DLS's WSHP addresses public employee occupational safety and health in various ways. To learn more about what resources are available through this program, please click on the links below: