The health and safety of construction workers in the St. Louis, Mo. area is expected to improve because of a landmark partnership by Productivity and Responsibility Increase Development and Employment (PRIDE) of St. Louis, a voluntary labor-management organization, and OSHA.
The three-year agreement, made earlier this week, provides incentives for participating construction contractors to voluntarily improve their safety and health performance under strict guidelines set by the partnership.
In return, OSHA will recognize contractors who have demonstrated exemplary safety programs. OSHA also expects that the partnership will reduce the need for inspections of participating contractors.
"This program will create private sector incentives to improve safety in a industry that has traditionally had a high number of accidents and injuries," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "It is a model for public-private cooperation that can benefit an entire industry."
Establishing partnerships with the private sector to improve safety and health is one of OSHA's major goals. Although OSHA has developed other partnership programs, this is the first with an organization that represents the entire construction industry within a geographic area.
"The partnership tightens the safety net by encouraging and rewarding voluntary compliance efforts, thus freeing OSHA to better pinpoint problem sites for inspection," said Ed Abbett, executive Director of PRIDE.
PRIDE will administer non-policy administrative matters through a Stakeholder Steering Committee. The committee will consists of representatives from contractor association member and AFL-CIO union representatives. OSHA will provide assistance and oversight.
PRIDE contractors who have established partnership-approved safety and health programs are eligible for entry into the partnership.
Applicants also must have an injury/illness incident rate that is less than the rate for their Standard Industry Classification (SIC) for the state of Missouri as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In addition to meeting OSHA standards for health and safety programs, the partnership will look for management safety training, employee participation in programs and annual safety and health program reviews, according to Bill Ahal, chairman of the PRIDE/OSHA partnership task force.
The PRIDE Stakeholder Steering Committee, with OSHA participation, will establish criteria for evaluating applications that will include meeting with the contractor and inspecting at least one job site.
Once accepted into the partnership, the committee will periodically conduct on-site quality-control visits to ensure the contractor's continued compliance with safety and health criteria.
According to the BLS, a total of 1,171 workers were killed on private sector construction jobs nationwide in 1998 -- the most for any industry.