Construction safety in Austin had come under the scanner after the deaths of three construction workers in a scaffolding collapse accident at a building under construction in June 2009.  This week, the Austin City Council told construction companies  that they must provide workers 10 minutes of rest for every four hours of work.  The Council unanimously passed an ordinance that also includes a requirement that no construction worker go more than three and half hours without a break.  Employers who violate these rules may face a fine of up to $500 for every day the violation occurs.

This seems to be the first such ordinance requiring rest breaks for construction workers anywhere in the country.  The national AFL-CIO last month said that it was not aware of any such ordinance anywhere else in the country.

The City Council has been scrutinizing construction worker safety since the deaths of the three workers at a high-rise construction site last year.  Several weeks after the accident, a study by the Workers Defense Project found that four out of every 10 construction workers admitted that their employer did not give them rest breaks.  27% of the construction workers in the survey said that their employers did not provide them with drinking water.  Not surprisingly, that report was criticized as false by the construction industry.

Construction workers toil under the most strenuous conditions and the toughest physical environment.  Work may be completed out in the sweltering sun, with little heat protection. Workers involved in scaffolding construction or trench excavations may be at serious risk of heat exhaustion or fatigue (heat stroke) if they continue working for long without a break.  As Texas construction accident lawyers, we believe that mandating a 10-minute break after every 3 ½ hours is the minimum that employers can do to make sure that workers are recharged and rejuvenated.