The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 03, 2003


By The Building Tradesman

Falls remain No. 1 killer 
An analysis of 2001 U.S. construction fatalities released in July revealed what most studies about construction fatalities discover: falls from heights was the No. 1 killer.

Falls "from/through roofs" (#1) or falls "from/through structures" (#2) accounted for 163 deaths or about 23 percent of the total number of deaths on U.S. construction sites that were investigated by state or federal OSHA. The pattern of worker deaths is similar to the trend found in previous studies from 1991-2000.

Falls are such a hazard because nearly every construction project - and every craft - works around heights at one time or other. "Everyone is exposed," said William Schriver, director of the Construction Industry Research and Policy Center at the University of Tennessee, as related by the Construction Labor Report.

The rest of the list of the most common causes of construction industry death included "electric shock by equipment contacting power source (#3, 6.1 percent), being crushed, run over or trapped by operating construction equipment (#4, 5.8 percent), trench collapse (#5, 5.7 percent), followed by electric shock from equipment installation/tool use (#6, 5.5 percent).

State sends more jobless paperwork
The state of Michigan has begun mailing applications for the Extended Benefit Unemployment Program to some of the state's long-term jobless.

The program provides up to 13 weeks of combined state and federally funded benefits to workers who have exhausted state and federal benefits. Workers may be eligible for extended benefits if they:

  • Have a benefit year for regular state jobless benefits that ends after May 24, 2003; and
  • Have exhausted their federal temporary extended unemployment compensation with the week ending May 24, 2003 or earlier.

A period of extended benefits for jobless workers began in Michigan on May 25, 2003. The period could end sooner, but it will end no later than the week ending Jan 17, 2004.

David Plawecki, who heads the state's Bureau of Workers and Unemployment Compensation, said the state has already searched its database and sent extended benefit applications to eligible jobless candidates.

Now it's prison first
Rarely does a U.S. contractor get prison time for worker safety violations. But it happened in a particularly flagrant case in San Francisco, after a roofer died in 2000 while working on a residential project without mandated fall protection.

According to the Construction Labor Report, the owner of the company, Christie Chung, had been previously cited by Cal-OSHA for fall protection violations. In a conversation with state safety inspectors before this incident, Chung was told to put safety first on his work sites.

"No," Chung reportedly told the inspector. "Money first, safety second."

Legal proceedings taken after the death of the roofer were finalized in August, resulting in a three-year sentence for Chung for 52 felony violations, including involuntary manslaughter and violating a safety standard that resulted in the death of an employee.