Groups urge commitment to workplace safety in congressional jobs bill
The group -- which consists of the American Society of Safety Engineers, the International Safety Equipment Association, and the American Industrial Hygiene Association -- recently sent a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., offering its input on H.R. 2847, the appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and related agencies. The Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010 -- a multibillion dollar measure aimed at creating jobs through funding for infrastructure, transit systems and other initiatives -- was narrowly approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in December. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the coming weeks.
The organizations urged Durbin to ensure that the jobs to be created through legislation are safe jobs and offer protection from potential work-related injuries and illnesses. Officials also noted recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on work-related fatalities involving stimulus package jobs and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' call to cabinet secretaries to consider worker safety and health in planning for future stimulus projects.
Specifically, the organizations asked Durbin to include language in the conference report for the bill that stated that conferees believe "health and safety of those working to lift the economy out of the recession is critical." The report noted that those who may find work through opportunities created in the bill can ill afford to lose their jobs to a workplace injury. Therefore, the report recommended requiring certain workplaces that receive federal funds to have a management commitment to safety and that contractors receiving funding have exemplary safety records.
The report also recommended that each contract awarded to create jobs from the bill include the hiring of a qualified occupational safety and health professional.
"This is particularly important given the $27 billion the bill provides for transportation construction," wrote C. Christopher Patton, president of the ASSE. "Based on the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85 people were killed and 17,200 injured working on transportation construction jobs in 2008."
Patton argued that other industries also should be included."In this bill, the U.S. Forest Service would receive $40 million under the House-approved version," he noted. "In October 2008, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the USFS for 51 alleged serious safety violations, 77 repeat violations, and 16 other-than-serious violations at 10 locations." OSHA's inspection found serious violations involving fall hazards, emergency egress design and maintenance, machine guarding, storage of compressed gas cylinders.
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March 22, 2010
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