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Powerhouse Construction Recognized For Workplace Safety

July 13, 2009

Charleston, W. Va. – More workers die on construction job sites than at any other location, according to the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and it's taking a joint effort - by unions, construction contractors and company owners - to bring the accident rates down.

The Longview power plant project near Morgantown is being honored by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for its safety record. Natalie Stone, executive secretary of the North Central West Virginia Building Trades Council, says the Longview project has passed two million man-hours with a lost-time accident rate that is less than half the national average. Stone cites the attitude of Longview's worksite contractors as the key.

"They go through several hours of orientation and training before the men ever get to the job site, and the company has an open door policy where any of our members can go up to them instantly."

The Council represents most of the Longview workers. There are about 1300 people on-site, a number that Stone predicts will nearly double before the project is done. With a job this big, she says, injuries are inevitable - although it's much safer than it would have been in the past.

"Thirty years ago, it was accepted that people were going to lose their lives building a project like this. Today, we don't accept that, and we try everything in our power to make it better."

Running a safe construction site costs more, and Stone admits not every contractor is as safety-conscious as those at Longview.

"That's always a red flag for us, a contractor that doesn't put the value on human life as these contractors have in our area."

In 2007, NIOSH reported nearly 200 construction job injuries per 100,000 workers. While some feel there are so many workplace safety regulations nowadays that they can slow production and economic growth, Stone says cooperation between the union, the contractors and owners on those rules has proven to be a plus for all three groups.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV