Program. National Conference on Ergonomics, Safety, and Health in Construction. Setting the agenda and creating a coalition.
This conference is a watershed for construction safety and health. It brings together unions, employers, government, public health advocates, construction owners, and insurance experts. Never before has such a broad range of interests assembled to address this subject. This diverse gathering is as it should be. Safety and health should not be a source of dispute for the interests in the construction industry. We have a moral obligation that should be our primary motivation. If this fails, there is a legal framework the Occupational Safety and Health Act - to fall back on. There is also an economic reason: Safety and health pays in reduced injuries and in lower construction costs. There is an epidemic in the United States, and it has to be stopped. It has been around for so long that no one seems to take notice. This epidemic is in the form of deaths, injuries, diseases, and disabilities among construction workers. This week, some 40 construction workers will die on the job, some 4,000 will suffer serious injuries, and countless others will be exposed to hazards that will harm their health. We should remember this terrible toll as we meet. The charge to this conference is clear. Our task is to define ways to control this epidemic, and this should be accomplished through consensus. In the United States, we are in the unenviable position where we can learn from others who have advanced while we have stood still. We are grateful to the leaders of construction safety and health organizations in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Ontario, Canada. They have helped us define the needs and opportunities for change. They have brought their expertise to this conference. This is a working conference. We want your involvement and input in shaping the national agenda to end the epidemic. That's what the workshops are for. We also hope you will stay with us as we follow up on your recommendations. Developing an agenda is one thing; implementing it is more difficult. For this we need a coalition, and we hope we are beginning here to build the coalition.