Letter to the Editor: Flaws in construction safety standards could be fatal

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Saturday, March 15, 2008

The recent deaths of two construction workers in Millstadt occurred at a work site that had previously been cited for violating critically safety standards, "OSHA found previous safety lapses at site" (March 12).
The accident has not been linked to any new violations yet, but this tragic event still points out many flaws in Illinois construction safety standards. Construction is a hazardous job, but it was made more dangerous after the repeal of the Structural Work Act in 1995. The repeal of the act removed critical safety standards, stripped injured workers of legal protections, and reduced the incentive for owners, operators and contractors to maintain a safe worksite.
In Illinois in 2006, 35 construction workers died from a workplace accident. That is nearly four times the number of people who died from police work and firefighting combined.
The act was aimed to prevent these types of deaths. It placed responsibility for safety measures at a construction site not only on the owner, but also on anyone with authority over construction activities, from contractors and subcontractors to architects and foremen. This meant workers had more eyes watching out for their safety.
While OSHA is responsible for inspecting worksite safety, their fines are too lenient to deter violators and the department is grossly understaffed. Based on recent inspection levels, it would take OSHA 121 years to inspect every Illinois worksite.
This system is clearly not working.
We need to bring back the Structural Work Act to protect Illinois construction workers and pedestrians and hold people accountable for their actions.
Eric Bell
Center for Justice & Democracy, Illinois

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us