Letters; December 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s)
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.