TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) and Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen) that would better protect employees of New Jersey’s interstate authorities by requiring those entities to comply with the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Act was approved today by the Senate.
“The vast majority of public employees are protected by occupational and safety standards that New Jersey’s public entities are required to follow. Unfortunately, the bi-state and multi-state agencies are not covered, leaving our residents at risk of working under potentially dangerous conditions,” said Senator Norcross. “Extending OSHA regulations to our authorities that operate ports and bridges will better ensure that all employees are protected from health and safety hazards. It will also make sure that if a safety violation occurs in the workplace, employees have an opportunity to report it and have it addressed without worrying about reprisal by a superior.”
The “New Jersey Public Employees’ Occupational Safety and Health Act” was approved in 2001 and has been interpreted as excluding bi-state authorities whose jurisdiction encompassed New Jersey. Current labor law definitions have also been interpreted to exclude police and firefighters working under the auspices of bi-state authorities.
Specifically, the bill (S-2389) would amend the “New Jersey Public Employees’ Occupational Safety and Health Act” to provide that the definition of “employer” includes any interstate authority that utilizes its own police officers or firefighters. The bill also adds a definition of “interstate authority” for the purposes of the New Jersey Public Employees’ Occupations Safety and Health Act, defining interstate authority as a public bi-state or multi-state authority, commission, or corporation, created by compact or agreement between the state of New Jersey and another state.
The measure also authorizes the Governor to enter into supplemental compacts or agreements on behalf of New Jersey with the states of New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania as necessary to amend the compacts formed with those states which govern interstate authorities to provide that they shall be subject to occupational safety and health regulations. The authorities include:
- Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;
- Delaware River Port Authority;
- Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission;
- Delaware River and Bay Authority; and
- the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
The bill also amends the compact which formed the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to provide that those employees serving the New Jersey portion of the Palisades Interstate Park are subject to the provisions of the “New Jersey Public Employees’ Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
“Although New Jersey adopted state health and safety standards more than a decade ago for its public employees, the protections do not extend to bi-state authorities,” said Senator Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill will close a loophole to ensure that all employees, including police officers and firefighters in bi-state agencies, are in a safe and healthful work environment.”
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 37-0. It must be voted on by the full Assembly before heading to the governor’s desk.