Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a package of bills that will increase worker safety protections, expand support for frontline workers during a public health emergency and grant overtime protections for farmworkers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new focus on the challenges faced by frontline workers,” Inslee said in Yakima Tuesday. “They have kept our state moving through one of our most challenging times, working through personal hardship and challenges. The bills I am signing today represent an acknowledgement of the lessons we’ve learned and offer hope for a stronger path forward.”
Among bills signed was governor-request legislation HB 1097, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sells, to protect workers who come forward about workplace hazards.
Workers are some of the first to notice and be affected when health and safety guidelines aren’t being followed on the job. When those hazards are reported quickly, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is able to step in to protect workers. But when workers face retaliation for raising concerns — or are pressured to not report at all — they’re at a higher risk of preventable workplace injuries.
These dangerous working conditions are more likely to impact Black and Latinx workers, who are often assigned more physically demanding and hazardous work.
The legislation also establishes a grant program for small employers during a public health emergency. The costs of additional safety and health measures during already tough economic conditions proved to be a significant challenge for employers. This program can be operationalized swiftly during any future emergencies.
Read the rest of the story on the governor's Medium page.