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Senator Fred Madden at the first meeting of the Senate Task Force on Health Insurance Exchange Implementation

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden, Jr. and Senator Joseph F. Vitale that would create a Task Force on Construction Industry Workplace Safety and Health in an effort to improve safety within the industry was approved today by the Senate Labor Committee.

“Making a living shouldn’t have such a high price to pay, but time and again in the construction industry, we’ve seen workplace injuries and deaths,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Improving safety standards and policies, and preventing injuries and fatalities within the industry is a priority and this task force will give the issue the attention it deserves.”

Under the bill, S-3002, the task force would be directed to study and assess the impact of the workplace safety and health policies and practices in the construction industry, and make recommendations for improving safety and health with particular attention to the option of establishing safety and health prequalification requirements for contractors bidding on public works contracts. The task force would be expected to submit a written report of its findings to the Governor and legislature within 12 months of the effective date of the bill, at which time the task force would expire.

“Working in the construction industry carries a high level of risk and danger, and workers are knowingly exposed to countless hazards on the job. Still, accidents do happen,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “If we can avoid another tragedy by looking more closely at and improving our safety and health policies in New Jersey’s construction industry to preserve the lives of the very workers who are building and repairing our state daily, then the task force we seek to establish will be successful in its intended role. ”

The bill would establish the task force in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development comprised of the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development and 13 members appointed by the Governor, including one person nominated by each of 13 construction and trade associations in New Jersey.

The bill aims to address the high number of construction fatalities in the state. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data, New Jersey had 21 construction fatalities in 2014. According to a list compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there have been 26 fatalities and catastrophes in New Jersey to date in 2015.

The construction industry is among the top five industries with the highest rates of workplace fatalities with almost 10 deaths for every 100,000 full-time equivalent workers dying on the job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), out of 4,251 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2014, 874 or 20.5% were in construction; that is one in five worker deaths.

The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites, according to OSHA, were falls, followed by electrocution, workers struck by object, and caught-in or between machinery or equipment. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (58.1%) the construction worker deaths in 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. According to OSHA, eliminating the “Fatal Four” would save 508 workers’ lives in America every year.

The bill was approved by the Senate Labor Committee with a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.