The Mechanical Insulators Labor Management and Cooperative Trust (LMCT) Executive Director Pete Ielmini compared the safety of construction work throughout time and how a dangerous industry, like construction, has become safer over time on the Sept. 23 episode of America’s Work Force Union Podcast.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act
At the beginning of the segment, Ielmini said the construction industry is inherently dangerous, but thanks to unions, the entire industry has become a safer place.
While people typically talk about the benefits of unions in terms of improved wages and quality benefits, Ielmini said unions have raised the bar on safety standards. By heavily lobbying the federal government throughout the 1960’s unions helped bring about the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was signed into law in 1970.
He said the Occupational Safety and Health Act is a multifaceted piece of legislation.
The law established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and provided workers with the legal right to a safe workplace provided by the employer. This includes providing personal protective equipment and instituting safety policies.
How are employers held responsible?
Ielmini then talked about the consequences employers face if their workplace is found to be in violation of any OSHA guidelines.
He said the fines levied by OSHA could be larger. However, employers fear their insurance provider more. When an incident occurs at a workplace, the employer’s insurance goes up. Ielmini said this is the real deterrent to OSHA violations.
The safety of current Insulators
Being the Executive Director of the Mechanical Insulators LMCT, Ielmini talked about the current safety issues faced by insulators.
He said the largest safety concern for insulators continues to be the materials they work with. Although they only work with asbestos when safely removing and disposing of the material, the worry of inhaling materials such as fiberglass and mineral wall still exists.