A big win for workers in Maryland

In rare and welcome show of bipartisanship, a bill inspired by Public Citizen’s 2012 report on the state of worker safety in the state of Maryland is headed to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk to be signed.

The bill, HR 951, will establish a working group to make recommendations to Maryland’s General Assembly about the effects of requiring all state contractors to adhere to a variety of measures designed to keep workers safe.

If all goes according to plan, the new rules could be in place as early as 2015.

Among the measures being studied will be a requirement that construction firms demonstrate that they have adequate safety training and no serious safety violations before being granted state contracts. The measure is supported both labor and industry groups, and is expected to be signed by Gov. O’Malley in short order.

The bill was inspired by a report by Public Citizen’s worker safety advocate Keith Wrightson which showed that safety shortfalls in the state led to more than 55 worker deaths and cost taxpayers more than $712.8 million dollars between 2008 and 2010.

“The economic picture we came up with is quite staggering,” said Wrightson. “We now know that construction accidents impose huge economic costs in addition to tremendous pain.”

More than 630 Public Citizen supporters in Maryland signed a petition in support of the legislation. During a hearing on the bill, Wrightson submitted the petition for the public record.

The legislation will be a huge victory for workers by creating real protections and empowering them to identify potential job hazards in their work sites.

Kelly Ngo is the online advocacy organizer for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.