Alarming death rate for construction workers in Harris Co. forcing changes, new policies

Statistics show an alarming fatality rate for construction workers in the Houston area.

On Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners introduced a policy that would help keep some of them safe called the Harris County Contractor Safety Record Policy

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"They are the ones that are truly building this country," said Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia.

The local Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, reports that at least 100 construction workers die in Harris County on work sites every year. 

"When we are putting that type of responsibility on their shoulders, we ought to be taking care of those shoulders just the same," Garcia said.  

One of the new provisions in the policy requires workers on all County construction job sites to receive OSHA 10 safety training and supervisors to receive OSHA 30 training. 

The policy builds on a set of worker protection policies passed in 2019, but only applies to construction companies that receive government contracts. 

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Paul Puente with the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Council, which represents a large group of local construction worker unions, says many of the accidents we see are preventable. He also cites a lack of inspection staff, along with no clear standards or enforcement in the state of Texas, which makes it difficult for OSHA to enforce federal safety guidelines. 

"This state has been a very pro-employer state, which is a good thing. But sometimes we need to kind of look at the statistics," Puente said. 

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia acknowledges the many construction companies that this newly passed safety policy doesn't apply to, and he admits there's still a lot of work to be done to better regulate the industry. 

"We're going to get there. I'm committed to seeing that happen, but right now, this is at least a great start," Garcia said.