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Over the past four years, there has been a shocking 31% increase of construction related deaths in the state of Texas, particularly among Hispanic workers.

2007 data (the most recent available) from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 144 Texas construction workers died on the job. Out of this 144, 78 were Hispanic.

The feds are now investigating, and extra Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors are being sent to Texas to figure out what’s going on, and work to reduce injuries and deaths at construction sites. Surprise inspections of construction sites will be part of the package.

The new initiative is a big step forward, said Michael Cunningham, executive director of the Texas Building & Construction Trades Council for the AFL-CIO in Austin, who said that many times companies know in advance OSHA inspectors are coming. That gives construction companies time to send their workers home so regulators can’t interview them or see them without the proper safety gear, he said.

The Workers Defense Project in Austin took some of the credit for the new initiative. The nonprofit group, which gets much of its financial support from foundations, has been advocating for more OSHA oversight.

Director Cristina Tzintzú n said the group has been overwhelmed with complaints from construction workers who get injured but don’t receive proper medical care, aren’t given the proper safety equipment or aren’t paid for the work they do. –L.M. SIXEL, Houston Chronicle

Construction companies who cut corners and don’t adequately reinforce safety regulations and safety equipment need to be held responsible for the injuries and deaths that occur on their sites. Surprise inspections should become a regular part of the job, rather than be limited to times of crisis. It’s good to see the feds taking an interest; let’s hope it becomes a permanent one.

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