Solis Announces Texas Construction Enforcement Blitz

SAN ANTONIO -- U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told attendees at Safety 2009 that OSHA will conduct a construction enforcement blitz in Texas in July, with extra inspectors brought in from other states to check sites for trenching, fall, scaffolding, and other potential violations. “The state of Texas has the dubious distinction of having the most worker fatalities in the nation. Not one that I think they’re proud of,” Solis said during a speech Monday morning at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ annual conference at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Addressing a nearly full ballroom of safety professionals, she said 67 workers died on the job in Texas in 2008, and so far in 2009, another 33 workers have died in the state. The rate of Latino worker fatalities in construction is particularly alarming, she said, because it increased by 125 percent between 1992 and 2007.

Acting OSHA Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab addressed the conference attendees in a Monday afternoon session and spoke Monday evening at a Safety Professionals and the Latino Workforce (SPALW, an ASSE Common Interest Group) meeting on “The Future of Accident Prevention & Your Spanish Speaking Workforce.”

During her speech, Solis reiterated that she wants OSHA to increase its enforcement, partly by adding 130 new inspectors if President Obama’s proposed FY2010 budget for her department is approved. The budget contains $1.7 billion for worker protection, up 10 percent from FY2009 spending, she said, but some of the increased enforcement personnel will work on workplace discrimination and wage and hour cases.

Asked by a reporter about concerns the added OSHA inspection personnel will not be enough, Solis essentially agreed but said the department can’t afford in this economic environment to do more. “I know that we’re not up to levels that we should be in terms of inflation (from FY2009 spending),” she said. She also said she and the administration have “a new approach” of respect for OSHA and its mission, saying that contrasts with the attitude taken during the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

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