September Newsline: Stimulus impact on utility construction, 2009 infrastructure spending drop, and more

September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

Texas construction safety initiative unveiled
In June, the U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis addressed the annual gathering of the American Society of Safety Engineers. She announced that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will launch a major construction safety initiative in Texas to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.

“Beginning in July, OSHA will increase the number of inspectors in Texas for a concentrated effort to prevent injuries and fatalities at construction sites. When these inspectors observe unsafe scaffolds, fall risks, trenches or other hazards, they are empowered to launch an immediate investigation,” announced Secretary Solis. “As I have said since my first day on the job — the U.S. Department of Labor is back in the enforcement business.”

More workers die in Texas than in any other state. In 2008, there were 67 construction industry fatalities, and in 2009 there already have been 33. The rate of Hispanic fatalities in construction is especially alarming, having increased by 125 percent between 1992 and 2005. In 2007 and 2008, more than 3,000 inspections were conducted by OSHA in southeastern states. The agency cited a total of 4,390 violations.

APCA releases best practices fact sheets
Links to Fact Sheets on the best practices for the safe operation of excavators, sidebooms, and pressure testing are among the resources now available on the OSHA Web site. Through the OSHA and American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, APCA developed 10 fact sheets that address activities germane to the pipeline construction industry, such as best practices for using heavy duty equipment (backhoes, sidebooms, trenching machines) and pressure testing. APCA tailored the fact sheets for the employee or the supervisor and created Spanish versions.

The fact sheets address considerations before, during and after operating heavy equipment. In the fact sheet on Excavation and Trenching Best Practices for Operators, for example, the pre-operation section reminds the operator to wear appropriate personal protective equipment and to use a spotter if over-head power lines are present. The operation section states that the operator should maintain a two-foot lateral open area for all material, equipment and spoil. The post-operation section provides considerations that should be made prior to backfilling.