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Murray, Senate Democrats Call on Labor Secretary to Protect Workers with Crane and Worker Fall Standards

With crane and worker deaths on the rise, Senators call on Labor Secretary to immediately issue a safety standard for cranes and to fully enforce existing standards for falls

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, led a group of Senate Democrats in calling on Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to take measures to protect America’s construction workers. In a letter to Secretary Chao, the Senators called for her to ensure that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) immediately issues a long awaited safety standard for cranes and derricks and enforces safety standards that protect workers from deadly falls. The Senators’ letter comes after a rash of crane and construction deaths across the country in recent months.

“Our nation’s construction workers and their families should be confident that when they go to work, they will return home safely,” the Senators write. “Thus, OSHA should ensure that the cranes and derricks standard that has languished for four years before being sent to the OMB for final review is issued immediately, and that it and all fall protections are fully and vigorously enforced.”

Recent crane disasters in New York City and Houston have pointed to the overwhelming need for a new crane safety standard. The current crane safety standard is over 37 years old and was designed for cranes and derricks far different from today’s models. In July 2004, a 23-member industry and union advisory committee that OSHA established issued its recommendations and a proposed standard on crane safety. Since that time, OSHA has yet to implement their recommendations by issuing a new standard.

Falls are the leading cause of worker deaths in the construction industry, accounting for about 36 percent of all fatalities. However, as the Senators point out in their letter, “OSHA encourages employers to ignore OSHA’s own long-standing regulation that requires employers to place planking, decking or netting no more than 30 feet below where workers work – regardless of whether safety harnesses are in use.”

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