Earlier this month, the House of Representatives failed to pass the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2010, a workplace safety bill that proposed changes to industrial safety regulations.
The workplace safety bill was introduced earlier this year, following the tragic industrial mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 workers. Had the bill passed, it would have increased penalties for employers who violate safety policies and made it difficult for industrial and mining employers to fire employees for "whistleblowing" or reporting unsafe conditions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the legislation would have allowed the Mine Safety and Health Administration to close mines with a history of problems. Currently, the administration's efforts are often frustrated as large companies challenge federal regulations and draw out appeals, delaying penalties and making it difficult for close scrutiny of multiple-time offenders.
The bill was brought up under a special procedure which limited debates, did not allow for amendments and required a two-thirds majority to pass. The end vote fell short. Opponents were concerned that the bill had been introduced too early, since the investigation of Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine is still underway. One legislator noted that this was a new version of the bill and it did "little to address mine safety but rather imposes severe penalties on businesses, introduces dramatic regulatory changes and promotes unnecessary litigation which will hurt those mines and miners operating in good faith." Many of the tougher safety laws originally proposed had been stripped from the bill.
It is unknown at this time whether a similar bill will be proposed later next year, after the Upper Big Branch investigation is completed and lawmakers have a better picture of what such large industrial accidents have on workplace injuries.