OSHA director on disaster plans for employees working amid Texas storms: 'It's the deadliest state'

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Friday, June 28, 2024
Safety plans needed to prevent Texas storm construction deaths: OSHA
Companies need to implement emergency plans for workers in the case of inclement weather, according to the OSHA.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When storms roll in and they're packing a punch, OSHA says it's important for companies to have emergency plans for their workers that include what to do during inclement weather.

Having a plan is important as decisions for safety sometimes need to happen quickly.

We've seen it firsthand. One example includes construction homes blowing in the wind by a Harley Davidson in The Heights back in May.

Just a few weeks ago, a 15-year-old boy in Magnolia was working a summer job on a construction site last month when a storm blew in, and he was killed under the rubble.

"You have a right to go home to your family every single day after work," Esmeralda Ledezma with the Workers Defense Project said.

In May 2023, 35-year-old Angel Huerta and 21-year-old Brayan Rubi Lopez died during a storm in Conroe while working on a new build. Seven construction workers were also hurt.

"It's the deadliest state for construction workers in the country," Ledezma said.

Ledezma works with the Workers Defense Project, advocating for immigrant workers, in particular construction workers.

"It's extremely critical that we protect the community that builds our communities," Ledezma said.

Ledezma says sometimes construction workers who are feeling unsafe in circumstances like storms don't say anything in fear of retaliation.

"The employer should be looking at having an actual plan, especially for inclement weather," OSHA area director Mhekeba Hager said. "Most companies will have an emergency action plan, but that doesn't necessarily mean they include plans for inclement weather."

Hager says companies are required to have emergency plans written for employees on what to do in case of an emergency, but he says the standard doesn't enforce a detailed plan for storms.

"We (OSHA) would consider a storm or inclement weather to be an emergency at that point," Hager said.

Hager said that employers can face consequences for not doing so. Ledezma believes this can be prevented.

"Ensuring that we have proper legislation that protects our workers at city, state, and federal levels," Ledezma said. "History is our greatest teacher. We would hope employers would look at not just their past, but just anyone else's who's in the industry and learn from it."

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