Letters-dec-10_1

Letters-dec-10_1

Blowing the Whistle
In “Danger in School Labs” [News Scan], Beryl Lieff Benderly lists four fatalities from lab accidents. She notes that the Protecting America’s Workers Act would expand the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to include state employees, in particular those of state colleges and universities. Whistleblower protections would also improve. Sadly, 5,000 Americans die every year from workplace hazards. Sadder still, although dead bodies usually get Congress to pass better protections, opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has mired the bill in committees.
Under the 1970 act, whistleblowers can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but if OSHA decides not to take any further action in the case, the whistleblower has no further rights to any hearing or appeal. This dependence on OSHA has been devastating for the vast majority of workers who face retaliation after raising safety concerns.

In certain facilities, such as nuclear power plants, strong whistleblower protections already give workers in environmentally sensitive jobs meaningful legal remedies when they face retaliation for raising safety and compliance concerns. The new act would establish similar protections for all the employees OSHA covers in both the public and private sectors. When whistleblowers speak truth to power, they could finally hold employers accountable when they choose to retaliate. Our legislators need to know that lives are more important than Chamber of Commerce opposition.
Richard R. Renner
Legal director
National Whistleblowers Center
Washington, D.C.

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