Harkins transportation worker safety bill supported by unions

HARRISBURG, Sept. 14 – Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, participated in a news conference this afternoon rallying support for H.B. 1082, which Harkins introduced last year.

House Bill 1082, the Jake Schwab Worker's Safety Bill, was introduced in memory of Erie resident Jake Schwab, a mechanic with the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority, who lost his life due to a workplace incident in November 2014. As a public transit authority, EMTA is exempted from Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, so the details regarding the incident and any safety concerns that would have been raised through an OSHA review have been hard to track.

Harkins' bill would provide on-the-job safety protection to public employees by establishing OSHA-equivalent safety rules for public employers, including the commonwealth, all legal political subdivisions, public schools, transit systems and any nonprofit organizations currently exempt from OSHA standards.

"What cost do you put on life," Harkins asked. "Going forward, there will be many opportunities for others to weigh in and make this a perfect bill. But I don't want to forget Jake Schwab. He was the impetus for this bill."

The news conference followed a public hearing in Harrisburg of more than two hours, which was held by the House Labor and Industry Committee. The bill is currently under consideration in the committee.