Construction workers must not be sacrificed to the altar of economic growth: the church

The church’s Justice and Peace Commission dedicated its Workers’ Day message to construction workers on Sunday: Their safety “must never be sacrificed on the altar of economic growth and boundless greed. A worker can never be reduced to a disposable cog in the machinery of a soulless economy,” it said.

She wanted to once again draw attention to the tragic fate of construction workers who lost their lives trying to earn a living.

Although serious injuries and fatalities at work also occurred in other sectors of the economy, the highest number of accidents at work occurred on construction sites.

“As a country, we cannot afford to get to a point where these tragedies are normalized by presenting them as faceless statistical numbers,” it said.

“Every accident is one too many and a concerted effort by all parties involved must be made to ensure that negligence and lack of enforcement do not lead to such tragedies,” she added.

It found that 10 fatal accidents occurred in the construction industry between 2018 and 2021, according to the annual reports of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And in the first four months of 2022, two construction-workplace deaths have already been reported.

The Commission called for a “culture change” leading to “adequate enforcement and clearer accountability”.

“If the right to a safe and healthy work environment is to remain truly universal and not become a privilege of the few, all stakeholders must remain particularly vigilant not to reverse any form of right,” it says.

It asked the authorities:

  • Ensure that labor and building laws are fully enforced by providing appropriate resources to agencies such as OHSA, which deals with workplace health and safety issues.
  • Follow-up to the National Audit Office’s 2020 report, which focused on the construction industry, to identify recommendations that have not yet been implemented;
  • Carrying out an in-depth study involving all relevant stakeholders with the aim of analyzing the underlying reasons for these accidents, with a clear commitment to implement without delay the recommendations contained in such a report and to go beyond the knee-jerk reactions after the news of a fatality on a construction site;
  • Immediate and severe sanctions, including license suspension, for all employers who exploit workers or are negligently held responsible for serious injury or death of their workers;
  • Raising awareness among construction workers of their right to a safe and healthy work environment and the importance of using the safety equipment provided and following all other safety procedures.

The commission said the purpose of any economic activity – including the construction industry – is to serve people, foster healthy relationships with one another and with the natural environment, while promoting the common good.

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