Texas construction workers could have mandatory rest breaks coming their way, if lawmakers approve a bill in the Texas Legislature.
A Senate panel took up the bill last week that would require construction companies to give workers a break to prevent illness and death from Texas heat.
Senator Jose Rodriguez said Senate Bill 473 would prevent employers from taking retaliatory action against any employee that files a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission about being denied rest periods because of high temperatures.
“There’s nobody making you do it,” said Jared Golden, owner of AAA Guardian Foundation Repair.
And by it he means requiring construction workers to have breaks in hot weather.
Senate Bill 473 would require 15-minute rest breaks for every four hours of work on construction sites across Texas, where heat is linked to workplace deaths each year.
Something Golden said he is glad to see.
“The construction industry lacks a lot of oversight,” Golden said.
Senator Rodriguez of El Paso said he introduced Senate Bill 473 because he said some companies have been insensitive to the well being of workers in the construction industry.
“It made me feel terrible, particularly hearing a 13-year-old girl testify about the death of her brother,” said Rodriguez. “This was somebody that she said she looked up to, that taught her how to play basketball, she testified, and do all kind of other things. And then to not have him come home, that particular day because of a heat stroke. It was just heartbreaking.”
Golden said he already makes sure all his workers are equipped with water and ice when they are out on the job site, something he says many companies don’t do.
“The big deal is heat exhaustion, heat stroke, anybody that’s having to work out in the sun all day is of course going to be susceptible to that,” Golden said. “Making sure they stay hydrated. Making sure that every truck that goes out has ice and bottled water on it.”
A 2013 study by workers defense project, collaborating with the University of Texas, found that 41 percent of construction workers surveyed do not receive regular rest breaks.
“It does have an affect an impact on all of us, as taxpayers, when workers don’t get treated fairly,” said Rodriguez.
Some recent heat-related construction deaths in Texas include:
-In July 2016, masonry worker Thomas Ayala died of heat stress on a construction site in Yoakum, and in April 2016, Eduardo Garcia died from heat exposure while framing a roof in San Antonio
-In July 2015, 25-year-old flooring worker Roendy Granillo died of heat stroke in Melissa while working 14-16 hour days without breaks.
-In July 2011, a bricklayer in Beaumont collapsed and died of cardiac arrest caused by heat exhaustion.