According to the Boston Globe, officials in the city will soon be able to revoke a construction permit for any worksite deemed unsafe for workers. Under the latest safety measure, city officials will be able to revoke an existing permit, deny a permit entirely or even suspend a permit until conditions are improved. Any contractor creating unsafe working conditions or with a poor record of safety could be impacted by the latest ruling.
Worker Deaths Prompt Stringent Safety Measures
The ability to revoke existing permits or to deny a permit entirely comes in part after an October incident, which left two construction workers dead on a South End worksite. The men were working for the Atlantic Drain Service Company, which has a long history of worker safety issues and OSHA violations reaching back to 2012.
The tragedy occurred when the workers were making repairs in a deep trench; a water line burst and swiftly flooded the street and trench and preventing rescue. While two people working in the trench were able to escape, the remaining workers did not, despite efforts by the Boston Fire Department to perform a rescue. The Boston Water and Sewer Commission was able to turn the water off, but not until after the men had perished. Unsafe conditions and a lack of attention to worker safety contributed to the deaths; the latest regulations would allow the revocation of permits in dangerous settings and prevent incidents like this one from happening.
Updated Safety Measures Protect Workers
The new city ordinance aims to protect construction site workers in several ways. Businesses and individuals applying for work permits in Boston need to include their safety record with their application. Any current or unresolved complaints need to be included, along with any history of OSHA violations will need to be included as well.
Incorporating safety history into the application process should help officials make better permitting decisions. Before this initiative, the city had no way of checking history and was not made aware of any past OSHA violatons, allowing businesses with appalling safety records to receive work permits in the city. IN addition to the detailed history required, the applicants would need to provide details about any and all open permits and work zones in the city to further ensure worker safety.
Immigrant Workers Most at Risk
Exploitation continues to be a problem for undocumented workers in the construction industry. Unscrupulous businesses seeking to boost profits hire undocumented workers – to perform dangerous tasks they may lack the training for. Workers are paid in cash, muddying the waters and making it more difficult to hold businesses responsible for incidents or worker safety. With no work records or insurance, undocumented workers are left with no recourse if they are injured on the job.
Even more troubling than the increased risk of injury and lack of resources is the attitude of businesses when immigrant workers are injured on the job. Workers may be threatened with deportation and other sanctions if they report unsafe conditions or injuries related to the job. Since these exploited workers are under pressure not to report incidents or unsafe conditions, it is far more likely that they will be injured or that the unsafe conditions will continue.
The recent deaths were not the only construction site incidents in Boston this year; the new initiative for safety should help ensure both citizen and undocumented workers are safe on job sites in the city.
Unsafe conditions and negligence by an employer can make a construction site a dangerous place for workers. If you’ve been injured on a construction site, we can help to talk about your case and to learn more about your options; we’re here to help when you need us most.