Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced at the annual gathering of the American Society of Safety Engineers, held in late June in San Antonio, 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 â€” 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.
While in San Antonio, Solis also met today with local business, higher education and union leaders at a breakfast event hosted by the University of Texas San Antonio, where she emphasized her commitment to jobs that are good, safe, secure and green. Afterward, Secretary Solis toured H.E.B Inc., a print/mail manufacturing plant that has received OSHA's highest level of recognition for sustained excellence in employee health and safety.
In the afternoon, at an informal luncheon with local veteran service organizations and members of the American G.I. Forum (AGIF), Secretary Solis announced grants totaling $600,000 in federal support for AGIF's Veterans Outreach Program. The latter helps homeless veterans succeed in civilian careers. The grants were awarded under the Labor Department's Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program.
The labor secretary finished her day in San Antonio with a visit to the Brooke Army Medical Center, where she met with a group of wounded warriors and their families and toured the Center for the Intrepid. The Labor Department's "REALifelines" program at Brooke assists wounded veterans and their family members with employment services.
"I would not dream of coming to Texas without visiting our veterans, service members and their families," said Solis. "These men and women have sacrificed enormously for our nation, and they deserve our support."