The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 15, 2015

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Lots of bipartisan support for D-B Act     

WASHINGTON, DC - Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act is in dire straits in Lansing, with state Republican leaders set to take up repeal of the law this week.

But its parent law, the federal Davis Bacon Act, continues to be safe from repeal.

Late last month a U.S. House amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016 would have denied enforcement of the Davis Bacon Act prevailing wage statute on military construction projects. The amendment was defeated, with Republican help.

"With the support of 52 Republican members, an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in the United States House of Representatives has once again rejected an attempt to eradicate the Davis-Bacon Act, which ensures the protection of local community wage and benefit standards on federally-funded construction projects," said Sean McGarvey, president of America's Building Trades Unions. "The significance of this vote lies in the fact that, on a consistent basis, a large bipartisan majority of House members intuitively recognize that the Davis-Bacon Act provides value by ensuring efficient work that is performed safely, while preserving pathways to the middle class for America's construction workforce."

The amendment to remove Davis-Bacon wage protection, was sponsored by Representative Steve King (R-IA) wand as defeated by a vote of 186-235.

New confined space rule should save lives

Rare agreement by labor and management has buoyed a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration final rule for working in confined spaces in construction sites.

OSHA released the rule May 1, and it establishes new requirements for working in confined spaces, such as pits, sewers, crawl spaces, and tanks.

Last year, two workers in Idaho were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole, the second when he went down to save the first – which is not uncommon in cases of asphyxiation in confined spaces.

“In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don’t have to happen,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year.”

The rule will provide construction workers with protections similar to those manufacturing and general industry workers have had for more than two decades, with some differences tailored to the construction industry. These include requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards – a safety option made possible by technological advances after the manufacturing and general industry standards were created.

An OSHA confined space proposal issued in 2007 was widely disliked by labor and management, but not so this version.

Chris Trahan, speaking on behalf of the North American Building Trades Unions, told the Engineering News Record that the labor group "has worked hard to get a good standard in place for construction workers during the rulemaking, and we are pleased OSHA has published the final rule."