Affirming her strong stand on behalf of working Americans, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis issued a memorandum last month to all Obama Administration cabinet secretaries urging them to consider OSHA’s responsibilities and services as they make plans to spend funds allocated in the President’s economic stimulus package.

In the May 7, 2009, memo, Solis writes, “Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), your department may be expanding its infrastructure or beginning new construction projects, and I encourage you to take steps to safeguard both federal workers and contractors involved in these efforts.” She goes on to warn her peers that OSHA has a responsibility to ensure safety and, therefore, may conduct inspections on these federal worksites. In addition, she reminds them that OSHA has the resources to support their compliance with safety and health requirements.

Solis notes specifically that OSHA will conduct a two-day training program for federal employees at OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers. The training will cover the major hazards encountered on construction sites as well as safety and health management systems that employers can use to eliminate or minimize workplace dangers. 

Solis also directs employers seeking help to OSHA’s local area offices. They provide onsite help in response to Agency Technical Assistance Requests. A variety of topical information is available at OSHA’s website.

Should OSHA arrive at a construction site for an unannounced inspection, Solis says, “You can help expedite these inspections by directing your staff to cooperate fully with OSHA officials.” She adds, “Perhaps more important, it would be beneficial for the department’s safety and health staff to conduct its own investigation of the department’s worksites to assure that all employees and contractors are working in safe and healthful conditions.”

“We agree with and appreciate the Secretary’s recommendations,” says LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider. “She is clearly committed to fulfilling her responsibility to protecting the nation’s working men and women, and she recognizes that the federal government must be the leader in this regard. We urge LIUNA local unions and signatory contractors to adopt a similar, proactive stance and ensure that the construction projects of the ARRA – indeed, all construction projects – are conducted in the safest possible manner.”

The LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division is also a resource for LIUNA signatory employers who are working on ARRA (and other) contracts. The Fund’s professional staff can conduct site audits to identify safety hazards and help develop effective abatement programs. In addition, the Fund provides a wide array of OSH brochures and health alerts. These can be ordered online.

[Steve Clark]