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This Year, Maryland Legislature Should Boost Construction Worker Safety

Feb. 11, 2016

This Year, Maryland Legislature Should Boost Construction Worker Safety

Maryland Bill, Influenced by Facts Found in Public Citizen Report, Would Prevent Tax Dollars From Going to Companies That Violate Safety Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill influenced by Public Citizen research and introduced in the Maryland Legislature yesterday is critical to protecting construction workers from life-threatening injuries, Public Citizen said.

The legislation (HB 977), introduced by Maryland Delegate Cheryl D. Graham (D-45), was influenced by facts in a 2012 Public Citizen report showing that construction safety shortfalls cost the state $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010. During that time, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents, of which 11,000 required days away from work or a job transfer, and 55 construction-related fatalities.

“Maryland should not award state contracts to employers who disregard safety standards,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “This legislation is a commonsense measure to ensure that all construction companies doing business with the state properly plan for the safety of their employees.”

Maryland screens construction companies to ensure that they meet standards on past performance, bonding capacity and legal proceedings. But the state does not consider a company’s safety record, training programs or site safety plan when awarding contracts.

After Public Citizen released its report in 2012, legislation was introduced in 2013 and again in 2014. In 2014, the state created a task force, called the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation Workgroup on Public Works Contractor Occupational Safety and Health Prequalification Requirements (DLLR Workgroup), to study the matter. The task force was composed of labor representatives, industry stakeholders, public interest advocates and governmental officials. Public Citizen participated.

The DLLR Workgroup recommended in 2014 that the General Assembly move forward with legislation to protect construction workers on public projects valued above $100,000. The task force produced the bill introduced yesterday.

Under the legislation, when bidding on state contracts, construction firms would have to provide a sworn statement of their commitment to safety on the project and their plans for preventing and controlling occupational safety and health hazards.

For contracts greater than $100,000, the winning company and its subcontractors also would complete a safety questionnaire designed to evaluate the company’s safety and health performance and implement additional safety and health measures based on the results.

While lawmakers have dragged their feet, more workers were injured and killed. In 2014, 16 construction workers were killed in Maryland (representing more than 21 percent of workplace deaths that year) and 4,000 were injured on the job. In 2013, 18 construction workers were killed in Maryland (representing 22 percent of workplace deaths) and 5,000 were injured on the job.

“Maryland’s construction workers cannot wait any longer for change,” said Emily Gardner, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “This bill will help keep workers safe on the job and reduce the burden that reckless employers place on Maryland’s economy.”

The bill is supported by the Maryland chapter of the AFL-CIO and Community Hub for Opportunities in Construction Employment, an office of North America’s Building Trades Unions that works with the 28 local unions in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.