Is Austin’s Construction Boom Creating Unsafe Working Conditions?

Photo of construction workersMaybe you’ve seen the “Austin Sucks – Please Don’t Move Here” campaign locals promote to dissuade prospective outsiders who are considering moving to our already overly crowded city. The campaign exaggerates all of the downsides of living in Austin – the traffic, the heat, lack of public transportation and even the bats underneath the Congress Bridge. Well, the campaign is clearly not working.

Despite these efforts, more than 100 people move to this city daily and apartment buildings and offices are springing up with surprising speed. However, the pressure to keep up with the booming housing market is literally causing more harm than good.

More Construction Deaths Occur in Texas Than in Any Other State

Last year, a 28-year-old construction worker fell from a three-story balcony, landing head-first, while working on the siding of the Eastside Station Apartments. The contract worker used a makeshift scaffold on an incomplete balcony without any fall protection gear. This victim, along with 50 percent of construction workers in Texas, was an undocumented immigrant and classified as a contractor while working on this project. Most immigrant construction workers do not feel they are in a position to complain about the work they are given, the lack of safe work environment and the less-than-substantial pay. Most immigrant workers do not know their workers’ rights. Those who do come forward to submit complaints about safety violations can be faced with a slow and difficult process, regardless of immigration status.

In 2013, a study from the University of Texas showed more construction workers die in Texas than any other state. It is also the only state that does not require employers to carry workers’ comp insurance for injured employees. Unfortunately, Texas is a “right-to-work” state and is notoriously hostile to labor unions.

Workers Defense Project Moves to Crack Down on Safety Standards

Any resident will tell you Austin is the place to be. There are more jobs, more startups, great food, fun concerts and it is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. However, we often forget about the people who help it grow.

The Workers Defense Project is calling for a crackdown on safety standards and oversight for construction projects. The organization is also calling for higher wages, higher safety standards and more training. Hopefully, Austin will see some change that protect the construction workers who are helping to build Austin into something better.

Aaron Allison is a personal injury attorney in Austin who helps victims of construction accidents and other workplace injuries.



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