If you’re on social media in Tompkins County, you may have seen a Facebook post with a LOT of community commentary on the dangerous situation of a worker laying scaffolding some 5-6 stories up at the Hilton Canopy Hotel construction site without a guardrail, harness, or firm decking in place. Since the post, the Ithaca Voice and 14850.com have done important stories on the situation. [See picture to immediate right from Friday, August 17th, as provided by a TCWC Member.] The hotel is being built on the 300 block of E. State Street in Ithaca, on the same side of the street of Viva Taqueria.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center shared the above information with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office in Syracuse on Monday, and then again on Tuesday when a TCWC Member shared video, which can be seen by clicking the picture immediately to the right, or at the bottom of this post.
At this point, the general contractor, William H. Lane (WHL) Inc. of Binghamton, and the subcontractor, CFI Sales and Service in Brackney, PA, both state that the worksite practices are fully compliant. OSHA has up to six months to render a decision on whether the situation viewed in the above picture is compliant with OSH regulations or not. OSH regulations, of course, are a bare minimum: we can always find ways to go above and beyond to make work as safe as we can.
The developers of this Hotel got a very generous tax break from the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) in Tompkins County. The IDA does not require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for a project to be deemed worthy of an IDA tax break. NOR is a ‘prevailing rate of wage and supplements‘ required.
Such unsafe working conditions found at the Hilton Canopy are less likely to happen when the developer and general contractor enter into a PLA and partner with unions, who know a lot about Safety & Health practices. [This, of course, indicates an overall RESPECT for workers, which every employer should champion.]
All too often, workers and employers in any work sector do not prioritize Health and Safety. Many think it is not relevant to them until they get hurt or sick, sometimes with lethal or lifelong crippling effects. TCWC has plenty of horror stories to share:
- an administrative worker who fell off a ladder and is permanently disabled, able to work only a few hours per week;
- a big box store employee exposed to chemicals that damaged his lungs so badly that years later he needs treatment just to get enough oxygen to his brain;
- a farmworker pulled into an auger and fatally mangled;
- a metalworker who had liquid iron spill into his boot;
- a grocery butchershop worker who had the fat of his hands and forearms melted by a cleaning solution actually intended to reduce the slip and fall hazards of the layers of animal fat on the floors in the workspace – he wasn’t trained in its proper use or provided protective equipment;
- a fast food worker who tripped into the hot deep fat fryer vat while a manager was preparing to clean it in a way that obstructed footpaths, nearly died, and needed skin grafts across much of their body;
- teachers assaulted by students;
- restaurant workers stabbed by syringe needles while taking out bathroom trash where heroin using customers unsafely disposed their sharps;
- are some of the many situations we’ve heard from workers.
We provide training and support so that people can becomes their own experts in their rights and also how to identify, think about, and control workplace hazards.
Would you like to learn about more about your rights and your employer’s obligations to provide a Safe and Healthy workplace? Are you interested in learning how to identify hazards at work, how to create strategies to eliminate or control them, and organize to make change? The Tompkins County Workers’ Center does workplace Safety and Health training for groups of workers — from the same, or different workplaces — for exactly that. They are free. Contact Carlos Gutierrez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-269-0409.