Safety Groups Urge Commitment to Safety in Jobs Bill

Feb. 10, 2010
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recently joined together to stress that commitment to safe work be a focus in the Congressional Jobs Bill, HR 2847, which is now under consideration.

In a letter to Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., ASSE urged the senator to help ensure that the jobs to be created through HR 2847, the appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and related agencies, are safe jobs with protection from possible injuries and illnesses. In urging this action, the group also noted recent Bureau of Labor Statistics on worker fatalities involving stimulus package jobs and the call by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to cabinet secretaries to consider worker safety and health in planning for stimulus projects.

ISEA, AIHA and ASSE asked Durbin to include language in the conference report for the bill stating: “Conferees believe health and safety of those working to lift the economy out of the recession is critical. Those who may find work through opportunities created in this bill can ill afford to lose their jobs to a workplace injury. Therefore, federal and state agencies must make certain any jobs created from the funding provided in this bill, through direct employment, grants or contracting, are safe jobs. This includes making certain workplaces receiving federal funds have a management commitment to safety, contractors receiving federal funds have exemplary safety records and those working on stimulus-funded jobs have the appropriate workplace solutions, protective equipment and training to avoid injury, illness and fatalities. Furthermore, it is required that each contract awarded to create jobs from this funding include the hiring of a qualified occupational safety and health professional.”

In his letter to Durbin, ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, said, “Such language would reflect the attention Secretary Solis appropriately gave to safe jobs through her May 7, 2009, memorandum to Cabinet Secretaries urging them to consider worker safety and health as they made plans for stimulus projects.

“This is particularly important given the $27 billion the bill provides for transportation construction,” Patton wrote. “Based on the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85 people were killed and 17,200 injured working on transportation construction jobs in 2008. This language would also be consistent with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracting provisions (23 CFR 635.108) and elsewhere calling for health and safety in FHWA funded projects.”

Patton noted that the construction industry is not the only stimulus job growth area where attention to workplace safety and health is needed.

“All industries must be included,” Patton said. “In this bill, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) would receive $40 million under the House-approved version. In October 2008, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the USFS for 51 alleged serious safety violations, 77 repeat violations, and 16 other-than-serious violations at 10 locations. OSHA’s inspection found serious violations involving fall hazards, emergency egress design and maintenance, machine guarding, storage of compressed gas cylinders, liquefied petroleum gas, and flammable liquids and electrical hazards. OSHA had previously cited the USFS for similar violations.”

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