By Alicia Neaves
According to the Workers Defense Project, between 2007 and 2011, 585 construction workers died on the job in Texas. That's almost double the state of California.
"Unfortunately, what we see is there are some unscrupulous employers who are trying to cut corners and reduce their costs. So an easy way to do that is not provide basic safety training for workers," Brigid Hall, Development Director of the Workers Defense Project, said.
Texas doesn't require construction workers to have safety training. Something local business owner, Alonso Meraz, made mandatory.
"It doesn't take too much to get your employees trained to wear the proper PPE, to operate the machinery. It saves lives at the end of the day," Alonso Meraz, General Manager of Meraz Concrete, said.
Research shows that the most common causes of deaths in construction called the 'fatal four' are falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object or being caught in or between something.
Texas also has one of the lowest rates of OSHA investigators to workers in the country.
"Workers will report unsafe conditions on job sites but then because there are no investigators, sites never get investigated. A lot of developers are repeat offenders where multiple times workers have gotten injured on the job and they never face any consequences," Hall said.
The City of Austin just passed an ordinance to help protect construction workers. An ordinance requiring more rest breaks could be next.
According to the Workers Defense Project, 39% of construction workers report no breaks other than lunch, that includes the summertime during the peak of the Texas heat.
"West Texas is known for hot weather, so during the hot season, we usually have a cool down trailer for [the construction workers]," Meraz said.
Retaliation has also been reported if workers express safety concerns. Meraz says they implement what's called 'Stop Work Authority,' where the workers will stop if an employee is performing an unsafe action.