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Facing Rise in Construction Fatalities, Anti-Union Contractor Lobbies Simply Repeat Themselves


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According to a new report from the Department of Labor (DOL), construction workplace fatalities reached a seven-year peak in 2015. The report, released last week by the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), says private construction industry fatalities increased by 4%, from 899 to 937, between 2014 and 2015. They also note the fatality rate climbed to 10.1 per 100,000 full-time-equivalent workers, up from 9.8 in 2014:

The bureau said that a main factor behind the upturn in construction deaths is an increase in fatalities among specialty trade contractor firms. It notes that fatal injuries to workers in foundation, structure and building-exterior contractors were up 27% last year, to 231.

[…] Brian Turmail an Associated General Contractors of America spokesman, says his group has been concerned about the safety impact of construction’s current labor shortage. As experienced workers leave the industry and less-experienced ones come on board, he says,“that poses a challenge” to safety, particularly when construction volume is up.

The simple fact of the matter is quality work is done by quality workers. Quality workers are well-paid and safety concerns are mitigated when contractors and developers use Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and other methods of driving training, standards, and high wages that building trades unions espouse. So it is laughable to see the Associated Builders & Contractors quoted in the above cited article from Engineering News-Record, suggesting that, “The endgame is zero fatalities a year” and that they will “redouble our efforts to make sure our members and other construction firms, have the resources they need to provide robust safety programs targeting new workers.” This from an organization whose core stated mission is to prevent PLAs and drive down construction wages by repealing the Davis-Bacon act.

Union apprenticeship programs graduate workers at a much higher rate than their non-union counterparts, that much is for certain. But hiring well-trained, well represented workers is only step one. Stiffer consequences for safety violations are essential to ensure the protection of workers on the job. OSHA has been holding their own on that front in 2016:

Earlier this year, OSHA implemented a 78% fine increase for safety violations, in compliance with a federally mandated rate increase to bring its penalty amounts in line with the Consumer Price Index — the first increase since 1990. The agency raised its maximum penalty for serious violations from $7,000 to $12,471 and increased the fine for willful and repeated violations from $70,000 to $124,709.

[…] OSHA is also cracking down on businesses that continue to defy safety regulations is through its Severe Violators program, to which the agency added 520 companies between 2010 and mid-April 2016. Of those companies, OSHA said 60% were construction industry businesses.

For the full BLS report, click here.


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