Strengthening Occupational Health & Safety Protections for NH Public Employees

In New Hampshire, all private sector and federal employees are covered by occupational health and safety regulations administered by the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA regulations set clear compliance standards for employers and protect the rights of employees who report unsafe working conditions. OSHA regulations also establish timely reporting guidelines when an employee is seriously injured or killed on the job; OSHA has the authority to investigate worksite conditions that may have resulted in job injuries and fatalities and to impose fines and require employers to correct health and safety violations that contributed to serious workplace accidents. However, federal OSHA protections do not automatically cover public workers employed by states, counties or municipalities.

To date, 27 states including every New England state except New Hampshire, have adopted state occupational safety & health laws to cover public employees that have been reviewed and approved by OSHA. In New Hampshire, public employees are protected by health and safety regulations administered by the New Hampshire Department of Labor, which are significantly less rigorous than federal standards. For example, when a public employee is killed on the job there is no automatic requirement for the NHDOL to perform a complete and timely investigation into the cause of a serious workplace accident, or to require public employers to make changes at the worksite to prevent similar injuries from happening again.

Legislation was introduced in the NH House in 2018 to strengthen standards of reporting for serious injuries and fatalities in public sector job sites, and to strengthen the authority of the Labor Department to make timely investigations of public sector worksites where serious injuries and fatalities have occurred. The 2018 bill also sought to create a standard definition of workplace violence to enable the NH Labor Department to collect information about the number of injuries resulting from violent encounters while an employee is on duty, which is a common safety & health risk for for public employees in health care professions. This legislation did not pass, and NH public sector workers continue to have weaker health & safety protections on the job than their private sector counterparts.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
Workers’ Rights – 2016 (PDF)

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