Public sector workers across Pennsylvania spent part of Wednesday afternoon rallying support for a workplace safety protection Bill. House Bill 1082, also known as the Jake Schwab Worker Safety Bill, would give the state’s public employees the same safety protections in the workplace as private sector workers. It was introduced by Representative Pat Harkins (D-Erie).

“It is time to guarantee public workers and their families the same rights given to every other employee,” says David Gash, President of the Harrisburg Regional Central Labor Council.

This legislation would make sure Pennsylvania’s more than 570,000 public sector workers are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA. Right now, only private sector employees are covered. Public workers include first responders, utility and transit workers, educators, and healthcare workers, among others. Officials say these are the people people on the front lines making sure everyone else is safe, but they’re not afforded the same workplace protection as everyone else.

“Take a moment, take a little bit of courage to protect the workers who everyday are going to work to protect you, your children, and make sure they’re safe,” says President of the SEIU Local 668 Steve Catanese as he called on the public and Legislators to support the Bill.

The Jake Schwab Worker Safety Bill is named for an Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority Worker who died after an equipment malfunction. Representative Patrick Harkins, of Erie, has been fighting to pass this law for years. Rep. Harkins says the County Commissioners Association has been the biggest opponent of this Bill because of potential financial impact.

“They don’t want to have to pay for guards on cutting equipment that they used from the 60s and the 70s. My intent isn’t to financially hit anybody over the head with this, but it is to make it a more secure and safer work environment,” Rep. Harkins explains.

House Bill 1082 was referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee back in April, where Representative Harkins is the Democratic Chair.