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Texas construction suffers from lax safety culture, OSHA says

Back in February, we got something of a hint of a problem in Texas. That's when a Houston Fire Department district chief observed that construction accidents in the city are nearly a daily occurrence. And last week, we recorded here how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking to fine a Katy company for denying a worker a safety harness he had asked for. He fell 12 feet through a building roof and suffered a broken limb and contusions.

Now, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is making it abundantly clear. He suggests there is a general lax culture in Texas when it comes to worker safety in the Texas construction industry.

According to Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, companies in the state are regularly putting workers in serious danger. He noted recently that, "More construction workers in Texas die on the job than in any other state." And the reason it's happening, he says, is because they aren't being provided proper protection.

His comments came as he announced the proposed fines against that Katy company, another company for whom the injured man worked and Hassell Construction Company.

OSHA is looking to penalize Hassell more than $420,000 in connection with a trench collapse in February that left a worker seriously injured. He became buried and fellow workers barely managed to dig him out with their bare hands before a second collapse. Of 16 safety violations for which Hassell was cited, six were labeled as being "egregious willful."

In his comments, Michaels noted, "We've known for 2,500 years how to prevent trench collapses."

One other bit of information offered up in this Texas Tribune story might be of interest to readers. It notes that Texas is the only state in which businesses don't have to have worker's compensation insurance. And it's estimated that 40 percent of construction companies don't carry any.

What that can mean for worker seriously hurt on the job is a significant challenge when it comes to obtaining the compensation needed to make up for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering.

The right protection in such cases is to be working with an attorney with proven skills.

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