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For Immediate Release: 4/28/2009
Leggett, Leventhal and Ervin Join Worker Advocates to Unveil Health and Safety Initiative on National “Workers Memorial Day”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Councilmembers George Leventhal and Valerie Ervin today joined worker advocates to unveil a new County initiative that will help protect the health and safety of employees in Montgomery County. April 28 is National “Workers Memorial Day,” when unions and community groups across the country remember working men and women who have died on the job and highlight the need for workers’ safety and health.

“Every job in our community ought to be a safe job,” said Leggett. “Despite our serious budget challenges, there are ways we can use existing resources to help reduce the thousands of workplace injuries and illnesses that occur each year in the County. Our six-point Worker Health and Safety Initiative will be the first of its kind in Maryland to help create a safer work environment for all.

“Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) does a great job, but it has so few staff that it would take MOSH 110 years to inspect every Maryland workplace once. We can’t do MOSH’s job for them, but we can be the extra eyes and ears they need.”

The Initiative will provide additional training to building inspectors and other County staff to identify serious workplace dangers. In addition, the initiative will also promote greater awareness of successful approaches that reduce hazards on the job. The County would examine its private contracts and economic development tax credits to ensure adequate health and safety provisions. It also includes distribution of materials in English and Spanish to construction and landscaping firms doing business in the County and a website with useful health and safety information and links to state and federal agencies.

“There’s no question that the vast majority of employers in the County are committed to providing safe and healthy working conditions,” said Councilmember George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health & Human Services Committee. “However, those who don’t need to understand that we expect every business to live up to the responsibilities of corporate citizenship.”

“The Montgomery County Worker Health and Safety Initiative is a common sense approach focused on training and public education for workers and inspectors who face dangers on the job,” said Ervin, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee and represents Kensington, Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Wheaton. “Today, as we mourn those who have lost their lives to workplace injuries, the Montgomery County Worker Health and Safety Initiative reaffirms our commitment to create safe working environments for all those who work in the county.”

“With this effort, Montgomery County is setting the pace for Maryland and local governments nationally,” said Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Tom Perez who oversees Maryland Occupational Safety and Health. “We’re looking forward to helping to make this partnership a success.”

“We’re putting every employer on notice that workers should never have to trade their health for their paychecks,” said Jim Grossfeld of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO. “OSHA and MOSH can’t do their job alone. And today we are saying in Montgomery County that we are ready to do our part.”

The initial focus of the Initiative will be on construction and landscaping firms. In Montgomery County, both of these industries depend on a large, immigrant workforce that is often unaware of its right to safe and healthy working conditions.

“Montgomery County is a great place to live, and it shouldn't be a terrible place to work -- that's why this effort is so important,” said Bob Stewart of the Montgomery County Government Employees Organization.” There are many who look at Montgomery County and see it as an island of affluence. And in some respects it is. But there are women and men who work in the shadows of that affluence.
“They perform jobs most of us don't -- and labor in conditions and face dangers few of us would ever tolerate -- but because many of them are immigrants, and few of them have unions, they suffer in silence.

“This approach can demonstrate again how county government -- and the county employees who make it work -- can help win better lives for everyone who lives and works in Montgomery County.”

The Montgomery County Worker Health and Safety Initiative will:

• Provide more training for department inspectors and other County staff to recognize possible situations that should be referred to MOSH for action;

• Examine County contracts with private contractors to insure adequate health and safety training and/or certification;

• Examine County tax credit programs to insure adequate health and safety training and/or certification for those receiving the credits;
• Provide a community forums to bring together, business, labor and community groups to collaborate and highlight “best practices;”

• Disseminate materials in English and Spanish to construction and landscaping firms licensed to do business in Montgomery County; and

• Establish a County website with basic health and safety information that includes links to MOSH, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other interested parties.

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Contact: Patrick Lacefield, 240-777-6528

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Release ID: 09-193

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