Feb. 25, 2014
Public Citizen, Labor Groups and Construction Industry Express Support for Safety and Health Legislation
Bill to be Considered in Maryland House Committee Today
The Maryland House Economic Matters Committee is meeting today at 1 p.m. to hear testimony regarding House Bill 951; the Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 774 on Thursday. Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate at Public Citizen, will give the following testimony at the hearing:
It is unfortunately far too infrequent when public advocates, labor unions and industry join together in support of proposed legislation. Yet, that is the case today where the three sectors are united in support for legislation that would help protect construction workers from hazardous situations, allow industry to flourish and ensure safety for the general public.
House Bill 951 (with 22 sponsors) and Senate Bill 774 (with 13 sponsors) were introduced by Maryland Delegate Brian McHale (D-46) and Senator Karen Montgomery (D-14), respectively. The bills were inspired by a 2012 Public Citizen report that showed safety shortfalls cost the state $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010. During that time, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents in the state, of which 11,000 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in those years.
Under the proposal, before being granted state contracts, construction firms would have to demonstrate that they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors and that they do not have serious safety violations. Maryland does not yet consider a company’s safety record before awarding contracts.
The legislation would require all companies that bid for public works contracts to provide information about the frequency with which their employees suffer injuries, whether the companies have violated any safety and health laws, and what citations and penalties they have been subject to from occupational safety and health agencies.
When government agencies fail to properly assess construction companies’ health and safety performance, the results can be both deadly and expensive. The introduction of House Bill 951 and Senate Bill 774 is the first step toward changing the safety and health conditions for Maryland’s construction workers. It will empower workers to identify potential job hazards and will ensure that the construction industry operates safely.
The Maryland lawmakers who have introduced this bill recognize the need to reduce dangers in the construction industry and the many benefits of a policy that requires safe and productive construction sites. Now, the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters Committee must similarly act to reduce worker injuries by voting to require safety standards for companies funded by the public’s dime. We hope other members follow the lead of Delegate McHale and Senator Montgomery and vote to support this legislation in committee and assure its passage in the General Assembly.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.