Senate votes to help sick Hanford workers get compensation

OLYMPIA— The state Senate voted late today to expand workers compensation protections to Hanford workers exposed to toxic chemicals while on the job.

“Rep. Larry Haler and I have been working on this bill for quite some time and its passage is great news for the Hanford community, “ said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, chair of the  Senate Labor and Commerce committee. “We saw gut-wrenching testimony in committee last year. Exposure to heavy metal and radiation has ruined people’s lives.

“I cannot think of a more suitable assertion for this Senate to make than putting our partisan differences aside to put people first. We are seeing people dying from dementia, cancer and lung disease who were systematically left out of workers compensation.

“People went bankrupt paying for cancer treatments. This ordeal has been going on since the 1990s; we have seen a whole generation impacted by this tragedy. That is not right. Our Washington community cares about protecting all workers. ”

Haler, a Richland Republican, sponsored House Bill 1723 in conjunction with Keiser’s Senate Bill 5940. Both bills were moved to the Senate floor to expedite getting the legislation to the governor’s desk as soon as possible.

“It’s important that we take care of workers who have suffered due to being exposed to harmful chemicals and processes at Hanford,” said Rep. Haler. “Despite all the safety precautions taken, families and individuals have been devastated by illness and disease.  They need help.  This bill will help make that easier.  I thank Sen. Keiser for her assistance in getting this important legislation passed for the citizens in my district.”

Currently, Hanford workers compensation claims are rejected at a rate 52 percent higher than the state average, even though Hanford is the most dangerous and toxic worksite in the country. House Bill 1723 establishes a presumption for Hanford nuclear site workers to expand eligibility for workers compensation claims.

House Bill 1723 passed on a 35 to 14 vote and now heads back to the House for concurrence. It will then go to the Governor’s desk for signing.




For information: Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326