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Washington State News

Washington Legislation Could Improve Workplace Safety

Eric Tegethoff | Public News Service Producer

Photo by: Masaccio/https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_State_Capitol.jpg

(Public News Service) – Legislation aimed at making the workplace safer got the go-ahead from Washington state lawmakers this session.  Senate Bill 5217 will allow the state Department of Labor and Industries to adopt ergonomic regulations that prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

Sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Manka Dhingra – D-Redmond – said these injuries are typically seen in custodial staff, warehouse workers, and nurses. She said a similar effort was pursued in last year’s session but faced resistance from businesses, so the bill was tweaked this year.

“It goes back to that shared value,” said Dhingra, “that they want a safe workplace, we want workers to be safe, and then making sure businesses are given ample opportunity to make changes and the resources to make those changes on their own.”

The department will only be allowed to adopt one set of rules in a 12-month period.

The new law also requires L & I to publish annually a list of employers that have twice the state average of injuries over a five-year period. Dhingra said this list could be influential.

“My hope, frankly,” said Dhingra, “is that when these lists are published and people see themselves on that list that businesses on their own will start taking actions in making sure that they’re providing a safer workplace.”

The legislation requires the state to provide up to three ergonomists to consult with businesses that end up on this list. The new law goes into effect on July 23.