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For Immediate Release: 7/24/2012
County Implements Stronger Regs to Protect Construction Workers on County Projects; Initiative of County Commission on Worker Safety & Health
Montgomery County today released its new contract terms and conditions governing safety and health for County construction projects – requirements which strengthen protections for construction workers.

The contract requirements, issued by the County’s Department of General Services, resulted from the work of the Worker Safety & Health Commission, established by County Executive Ike Leggett in 2009. The Commission, made up of individuals who live and work in Montgomery County with interest and expertise in safety issues, is charged with assisting Maryland Occupational Safety and Health in protecting worker health and safety.

“Every job in our community ought to be a safe job,” said Leggett. “Despite our budget challenges, there are ways we can use existing resources to help reduce workplace injuries and illnesses in the County. We can’t do MOSH’s job for it, but we can be an extra pair of eyes and ears. We can require companies bidding for County contracts to factor in their workplace safety record and workplace safety programs. We can educate people about their rights to a safe workplace.”

“And we can start with the buildings we build,” added Leggett. “The first major project these stronger regulations would apply to is the new Silver Spring Library, where we are, right now, in the process of choosing a contractor to build.”

Members of the Commission on Worker Safety and Health are DC Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary- Treasurer Vance Ayres, Scott Schneider, Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America, Chris Trahan, deputy director of the Silver Spring-based Center for Construction Research and Training, and Amy Millar a senior official of the Montgomery County Government Employees Organization. The commission is chaired by writer and public health advocate Jim Grossfeld, a past member of the Montgomery Co. Commission on Health.

“Montgomery County is a great place to live and these regulations will make it a safer place to work,” said Commission Chair Grossfeld. “There’s no question that this effort can be a model for other counties and local government, not only in Maryland, but nationally,” he added.

Using the most current data available, the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation reports that 5,900 Maryland construction workers suffered occupational injury and illness in 2009. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics adds that, despite the impact of the economic downturn on building projects, in 2010 the “construction accounted for more fatal work injuries than any other industry.”

“While Montgomery County uses safety as a prequalification for bidding County-funded construction work, the actual work is often subcontracted out to multiple tiers of contractors,” said workplace safety advocate Schneider. “Their safety program is as important, if not more, than that of the general contractor.

“Under the revised requirements, the safety records of subcontractors are also reviewed and considered, as well as oversight of the safety programs they implement on the job.”

“Superintendents and supervisors have control of the worksite,” said Trahan from the Center for Workplace Safety. “They need to have the ‘tools’ necessary to create and maintain a safe jobsite and be held accountable for their safety performance. And effective worker participation is critical to recognizing hazards before someone gets hurt. And safety has to be communicated effectively in whatever multiple languages workers speak and understand on a job site.”

“Safety on the job doesn’t just happen,” said Construction Trades leader Ayres. “You have to embed safety in the planning process from the start and make sure workers have the tools they need when they need them. These revised requirements strengthen the need for this kind of planning.”

“I appreciate the valuable advice the Commission has given the County to strengthen our existing safety and health requirements for construction contracts,” said David Dise, Director of the Montgomery County Department of General Services, which oversees County construction projects. “These enhanced safety requirements help emphasize the importance of jobsite safety, stress responsibility throughout the contractor chain, and create a single point of responsibility on the jobsite resulting in streamlined enforcement of safety rules and practices.”

“I must congratulate the Worker Safety and Health Committee and County Executive Ike Leggett for implementing specific language provisions in each Montgomery County construction contract highlighting the specific safety and health requirements required by each contractor,” said Ron DeJuliis, Maryland State Commissioner for the Division of Labor and industry. “This action will assist in our statewide efforts of ensuring that every employer provides a safe and healthful workplace for their employees.”

To see the full text of the new requirements, click here.

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Release ID: 12-216
Media Contact: Patrick Lacefield 240-777-6507

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