The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 28, 2000

Workplace inspectors, gun safety on House Dems' agenda

By The Building Tradesman



By Rep. Mike Hanley
House Democratic Leader

Following are two amendments in the state House that would make Michigan a safer place to work and live…

Workplace safety - Those of us who work in an office environment usually don't have any particular reason to wonder if our workplace is safe. When we send our children to school, we usually don't have to worry about whether we are putting them in the danger of violence.

Unfortunately, recent incidents of workplace deaths and school violence have shown that our assumptions of safety are often incorrect.

According to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), 87 people died in Michigan in 1999 because of unsafe working conditions in programs that fall under the jurisdiction of MIOSHA. In 1998, the number of fatalities was 68. Each year, almost 300,000 workers are injured on the job in Michigan; across the country, that number is about 6.3 million.

Clearly, something is wrong. And while companies may be diligent in their efforts to create a safe environment, the numbers tell a different story. Obviously, not all of them are succeeding in those efforts. Currently, Michigan has about 73 MIOSHA inspectors.

There is state legislation in the works that would provide funding for the hiring of five additional general industry safety inspectors, five construction industry safety inspectors and five industrial hygienists within MIOSHA. Since its beginnings in 1975, the purpose of MIOSHA has been to ensure safe and healthful work environments free from recognized hazards to all Michigan employees. In order to realize this objective, MIOSHA requires that employers keep records of work?related fatalities, all occupational illnesses, and work?related injuries which result in loss of time, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, transfer to another job, or medical treatment other than first aid.

School violence - With a classroom tragedy in our backyard, my House colleagues and I supported $500,000 in the state budget for the development of a curriculum that could be presented by police to students upon the request of a school district. This program will teach gun safety and will instruct students on what do if they see another child with a gun or find an unattended weapon.

The whole issue of guns is always a difficult one for the Legislature. However, guns are already present in our schools and around our kids. This language was a bipartisan effort to deal with that reality and take some proactive steps to address the problem.

My colleagues and I also supported language to add $100,000 to the state budget for the funding of an anti-violence hotline. The hotline would provide an anonymous mechanism by which youngsters could report imminent or suspected suspicious or other criminal conduct without fear of retaliation by their classmates. My caucus has been working on this effort since the Littleton, Colorado, incident. I'm glad it has finally come to fruition.

This is a busy time of year in the Legislature as both the House and the Senate are working on budgets and facing issues like the ones described above. My colleagues and I are always interested in your feedback, so if you have concerns or questions about the budget process or any other issue, call or E-mail us directly. If you are interested in what's been happening on various issues, be sure to check the House Democratic web site at www.housedems.com.