According to the US Department of Labor (US DOL), the construction industry has the highest rate of current drug users (15.6%) as compared to any other industry in the United States. As the city of New York grapples with trying to reduce their alarming rate of injuries and fatalities on construction sites, the New York chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has proposed that lawmakers add mandatory drug and alcohol testing for construction workers to the law books, according to the New York Daily News.
It should come as no surprise that ABC would be against drug and alcohol use on job sites, as the organization is a founding member of the Construction Coalition for a Drug-and Alcohol- Free Workplace (CCDAFW). In a letter to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and chair of the buildings committee, Jumaane Williams, ABC New York President Brian Sampson wrote, “The reality is that drugs and alcohol are likely among the leading causes of injury to construction workers. It would be strange to pass worksite safety legislation while ignoring such a major negative factor in the industry.”
ABC NY, an advocate group for merit shop contractors, is battling against primarily union groups on this and several other issues. Gary LaBarbera, president of the NYC Building and Construction Trades Council sees the drug testing proposal as a way to punish the workers, telling the NY Daily News that, “This letter is nothing more than a diversionary attempt by irresponsible developers and nonunion contractors to scapegoat workers, shift the blame to victims, and cover up for their own poor safety record which puts profits over worker safety.”
Unfriendly words have also been exchanged through the media about the union’s recent push to require new workers to first pass apprenticeship and training programs, before they could work on buildings over 9 stories tall. A scathing NY Post article called that proposal a “phony push for construction site safety” and ABC NY was happy to post that article on their blog.
While both sides are actively working to increase construction site safety, a clearly noble cause, it seems as though the battle between union and non-union is getting in the way. As construction workers are dying on the job site, now is probably a good time to quit playing politics and start working together for a common good.
In January of this year, tragedy struck a Florida construction company when 3 construction workers died while working underground below a newly paved road. After the first worker entered the hole and collapsed after entering the confined space through a manhole, the second went in to rescue him and also collapsed, followed by the third. After a post-incident investigation, OSHA has released their findings, as well as several fines.
In late June, OSHA pushed the enforcement of their 2016 rule which will require employers to electronically submit injury and illness reports from July 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017. At that time it was unknown when the administration would launch the platform to submit the data online, but that has now been decided.
In January of 2017, OSHA released a final rule which greatly reduced the allowable exposure to beryllium, a mineral that can cause deadly lung disease. While not as commonly encountered in the construction industry as other substances that cause terrible lung diseases, like crystalline silica and asbestos, beryllium is linked to a disease called chronic beryllium disease, which kills around 100 people each year. It’s commonly found in coal slag, which is used for sandblasting. According to the New York Times, OSHA estimates that 11,500 construction workers would be affected by OSHA’s reduced exposure limit.
As recently highlighted by several multi-story building fires, contractors should always be prepared in the event a fire starts on a job site. There have been dozens multi-story building fires in the past few years and many were started when the building was topped out. In most cases, the project was completely destroyed, leaving developers and owners to deal with years of delays from insurance claims. A massive five-alarm fire at an Oakland construction site is one of the more recent examples.
In a year that OSHA can’t seem to enforce any new rules, it appears to have found a way to remove a rule from its books. As announced last week, OSHA has removed monorail hoists from Subpart CC – Cranes and Derricks in Construction. Employers are still required to follow other OSHA regulations regarding the hoists, but this rule should help clear up some inconsistencies.
For many construction superintendents and project managers across the world, tablets are becoming one of the most important tools on the job site. They’re great for looking at plans, taking pictures, making notes, and running your favorite construction apps. Carrying a tablet does take up at least one of your hands, however, so it can be a hindrance if you need to help a co-worker lift material or climb a ladder.
High demand battery packs have allowed many construction workers ditch the cords on jobsites throughout the country, by providing more power and longer runtime. As with any battery packs, it’s important to follow safety warnings, but with a higher capacity can sometimes mean greater consequences when those warnings are not followed.
Since the beginning of the year, OSHA has had a pretty hard time enforcing any of its new rules due to delays. The silica dust exposure rule was delayed 90 to September 23, the crane certification rule is facing yet another possible delay, and now the electronic injury reporting rule is facing another delay.
Just before 11 am on Monday morning, 6/26, firefighters were called to an under-construction residential building in Queens, New York after concrete scaffolding and formwork collapsed during a pour.
Two construction workers in Sarasota, Florida were recently trapped 15 stories in the air after one of the lines on their suspended scaffolding snapped. One of the two men was able to be pulled to safety by some co-workers on site, but the second was stuck on the scaffold for an hour before the fire department could rescue him.