Two separate Austin construction companies have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for exposing workers to workplace accidents. The first construction occurred in downtown Austin when a trench collapsed and a worker fell approximately 20 feet and sustained serious injuries. The second occurred just south of Austin where another trench collapsed, killing one worker and injuring one other. The penalties include a $7,857 fine for Muniz Concrete and Contacting Inc and a $113,486 fine for Austin Constructors LLC.
There are approximately 54 construction accidents that result in death that are associated with trenching and excavations each year, according to OSHA. Worse, more construction workers are injured or die on the job in Texas than in every other state.
What is Austin Doing to Protect Workers from Construction Accidents?
Austin is a rapidly growing city, and as such, residents watch new apartments, offices and restaurants seemingly go up overnight. However, many Austinites don’t put much thought into the construction workers who make this growth possible and often face a world of problems, including low wages, lack of training and no workers’ compensation insurance for their injuries.
The Austin City Council has been working to change this and improve conditions for Austin construction workers. Last month, the City Council created a faster permit review process for builders. While expediting construction permits and speeding up the process may seem like a step backwards from construction workplace safety, the council offered this process to companies on several conditions, including:
- Requiring companies that participate in the expedited permit process to provide a higher living wage
- Requiring companies to provide the “OSHA 10” safety training courses
- Requiring companies to hire local Austin workers
- Requiring companies that participate to have independent on-site monitors to ensure companies comply with safety regulations
- Requiring participating companies to provide workers’ compensation insurance
While these changes were controversial, we think that requiring companies to provide workers’ compensation insurance, increasing mandatory training and offering more pay to workers is a great step towards decreasing the number of construction accidents in Austin.
Aaron Allison is an Austin workers’ compensation attorney who fights for those injured in workplace accidents.