During the time of Richard Nixons presidency, he and congress passed the Occupation Safety and Health Act which promised workers a safe work environment. Unfortunately over the last few decades there has been a lack of preparation, equipment, and/or awareness in regards to safety, resulting in a higher risk for a life being lost on the jobsite. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSA) believes that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries for workers in the United States. 15.2 in 100,000 construction workers die every year in work related deaths and with over nine million individuals employed in the construction industry, they account for 6% of the workers only in the United States yet account for 20% of all work related deaths worldwide. Throughout the country, falls which could have been prevented are the number one cause of construction fatalities.
Because of these alarming figures, an employer or contractors own negligence will at times cost them up to millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements. Workers compensation premiums will be raised and the general or sub-contractor will get tied up in litigation with the possibility of OHSA monetary sanctions being issued. When placed in the hot seat, the employer or contractor will see fit to use excuses or divert the blame to those whom they had never concerned themselves with until the accident occurred. The reality is that they do not want to sacrifice future contracts and tarnish their companys name.
Does this not make you wonder why there exists such an attitude when there clearly was a lack in properly training those employees or advising them in regards to safety procedures? What about when there is a lack of personal fall protection/prevention systems? Is that the responsibility of the worker to purchase and ensure the usage of such equipment, or should the person who oversees the operation be held accountable? With so many potential hazards at the work site, one would question that if certain events are in fact inevitable and have been proven to reoccur, why is there not more being done to ensure that the number of casualties from fall related incidents will decrease, rather than rise exponentially over the next several years?
OSHA rules are designed to protect the worker, and the safety officers, supervisors, and foreman of the company in which they work for are supposed to watch out for their best interests. But what additional steps could OSHA take to ensure that there would be an alternative to the blame game where it would be a mandatory requirement that all workers are to wear safety equipment or have available to them safety materials while performing actions that could endanger their lives? For those of us who are deeply concerned about the safety and well being of others, can we not address congress regarding an update of OSHA policies? The Protecting Americas Workers Act of 2010 (HR 2067) suggests a potential solution of making safety in the workplace an absolute necessity by strengthening inspections, increasing the accountability factor, and increasing penalties against employers who violate the law. Criminal violations would become felonies under this act rather than misdemeanors, the company or contractor at fault would be heavily investigated, and the workers reporting the incidents or hazards would have more protection from retaliation and discrimination.
Workers should be able to safely return home to their families safely after a hard day of labor, and should not have to worry whether or not OSHA will be there when they need protection from unjust and unethical business practices. With the implementation of the HR 2067 Act, excuses generated by the employer will no longer be acceptable, and will cause for them to reconsider their position when it comes to safety in the workplace. It is fundamental to contact your local congress representative and share your concerns regarding this troubling issue, and urge them to do the right thing. Together we can make a difference.
Tell Your Congressman You Want Protecting Americas Workers Act of 2010 (HR 2067) to be a Victory for Safety