During today’s confirmation hearing for M. Patricia Smith as Solicitor of Labor, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) referred back to last week’s Senate hearing on “Meaningful Roles for Victims and Their Families.”  The dialogue went as follows: 

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Senator Murray:  “This committee has had a number of hearings about workplace accidents and the aftermath.  One of the things that has become apparent is families of victims have very little say in OSHA and MSHA’s compliance decsions, and I wanted to ask you if you believe that  OSHA and Regional Solicitors should consult more closely with the victims’ familes or injured workers  when they are assessing penalties?”

SOL-nominee Smith: “Yes, I do believe they should consult more closely with the victim’s families.  I also believe in the wage and hour [area], that victims—those underpaid workers—should be consulted when there are enforcement actions taken. ”  

“I believe in a much more open and inclusive process of investigation; not that the victims’ families or the victims themselves can dictate the decision, but I definitely believe that their wishes and perspective have to taken into consideration to make it more meaningful enforcement.”

Senator Murray:  “I appreciate that.  One of the  things we’ve learned is victims’ families know information [about the workplace] that they’re never asked about, and I would think that [obtaining such information] is very important to reaching conclusions.  So I appreciate that response.

Thank you Senator Murray for recognizing the valuable role and contribution that family-member victims can play in OSHA and MSHA investigations.  I truly appreciate that you asked the SOL-nominee’s views on this issue, knowing all the many other issues deserving DOL’s attention. 

Senator Murray recognizes clearly that no one has a greater desire to learn the circumstances of a worker fatality than the deceased individual’s loved ones.  It is because family members are making their voices’ heard that Members of Congress and Administration officials are paying attention.   Families: you’re lost loves are proud of your courage in grief and your determination to shield other family members from the pain you’ve felt.  Hugs to you all.

Celeste Monforton, MPH, DrPH is an assistant research professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health.  She is honored to volunteer time each month to United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities and its founder Tammy Miser.

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