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Labor secretary pressed on safety standard for health workers

health care

Lawmakers with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor at a hearing on Wednesday pressed Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s delayed development of a standard to protect health workers.

Secretary Acosta acknowledged at the hearing — his first before this Congress — that OSHA had set a deadline for January to begin the process for creating a standard, but that it is now working on forming the advisory committee needed to write the standard.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in recent rulings drew attention to the need for a safety standard to better protect frontline workers from violence and other dangers faced in hospitals and clinics nationwide.

“It is moving forward,” he said, in response to a statement by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapa, D-Washington, accusing OSHA of moving at a “snail’s pace” in its creation of the standard.

Secretary Acosta promised to update lawmakers on the process, which he testified is in line with OSHA’s creation of other safety standards. 

The hearing, which went into recess after four hours of questions and answers, aimed to examine the policies and priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor, according to a press release.

In addition to discussing such issues as minimum wage, union rights and health care for workers, many lawmakers criticized department cuts in the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget.

“Unfortunately, the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the Department of Labor cuts programs and policies that are designed to serve this mission,” said Committee Chairman and Congressman Bobby Scott, D-Virginia.

“The President’s budget proposal, which slashes the Department of Labor’s funding by 10 percent, or $1.2 billion, reflects the Administration’s lack of support for hardworking people who are struggling to get ahead,” he said.







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