The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 08, 2001

Trades' issues grow cold on the back burner

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

The U.S. construction industry was supposed to get its own standard for dealing with noise on job sites in 1983 - and today, we're still waiting.

The extensive ergonomics standard for general industry that was released last year - and killed early on during the Bush Administration - would have covered 27 million workers at 1.9 million workers places. But the construction industry would not have been covered.

An OSHA spokesman said at the time that one of the reasons construction was excluded is because OSHA wanted to limit the initial scope of the new rule, so the agency wouldn't be overwhelmed. Second, he said much of the research they've done on ergonomics doesn't apply to construction.

In addition, this publication has complained for years about the lack of a simple, humane rule that would require toilet and hand-washing facilities on all construction job sites - and today, we're still waiting.

"There's no question, the construction industry has lagged behind general industry when it comes to safety standards, and you can see it in the higher injury and fatality rates," said Suzy Carter, executive director of the Michigan Construction Trades Safety Institute. "Construction does have some catching up to do when it comes to improving standards, but there are existing standards that aren't being enforced. I don't think you can put the entire blame on the government, I think the whole industry can make a better effort at providing a safer workplace."

The two related articles below explain how the federal government can help construction workers - and how construction workers can help themselves.