Texas Ends Mandated Water Breaks for Construction Workers

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot recently signed a bill into law that ends local rules mandating water breaks for construction workers. The new law takes effect September 2023, and targets mandated water breaks ordered by the city of Austin in 2010 and Dallas in 2015. The various local laws required construction workers to take 10-minute breaks every four hours to drink water and protect themselves from the sun.

The law ends those measures and prevents other Texas cities from passing similar laws. The bill’s passage comes despite Texas reporting the highest number of worker deaths due to heat exposure in a 10-year span, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau states that at least 42 workers died in Texas between 2011 and 2021 from environmental heat exposure. Furthermore, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports that at least 279 heat-related deaths were recorded in the state in 2022, the highest annual toll since 1999.

Geoffrey Tahuahua, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas, told the Texas Tribune that mandated water breaks were not a one-size-fits-all answer. He believes local rules are too rigid and do not allow the flexibility to tailor breaks to individual jobsite conditions.

“These ordinances just add confusion and encourage people to do the minimum instead of doing the right thing,” says Tahuahua.

David Michaels, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from 2009 to 2017, says HB 2127 proponents are misguided. He told the Texas Tribune that while OSHA law ensures employers are responsible for worker safety, OSHA has “compelling evidence that [employers] are doing a very poor job because many workers are injured on the job, especially in Texas.”

Contract Glazier Reaction

According to Momentum Glass CEO Omar Maalouf, Abbot’s decision to end mandated water breaks has no impact on the Spring, Texas-based contract glazier. He says the company always provides water, Gatorade and even electrolyte freezer pops. The company also encourages multiple daily breaks to ensure employees remain refreshed. Haley-Greer’s executive vice president Jason Wroblewski concurs, saying the law does not impact the Dallas-based contract glazier. He adds the company supplies water to all
field crews, and water breaks are frequent to keep teams safe from the heat. “It is a top priority, especially during Texas summers, that our field crews remain hydrated throughout the workday,” he says.

Rhode Island Law Mandates Certified Companies on Some Projects

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee has signed a bill into law that requires certain public works renovation and new construction projects to be completed by North American Contractor Certified (NACC) companies. The companies must also employ at least one Architectural Glass and Metal Technician (AGMT) certified worker.

Rhode Island House Bill 5074 states that public works renovation projects exceeding $1 million and new public works construction projects exceeding $5 million that require glazing work must have a portion completed by NACC companies that employ at least one AGMT crew member. These rules take effect on July 1, 2024. After Jan. 1, 2025, each crew performing work must include an AGMT-certified worker on site.

The new law requires that after Jan. 1, 2026, 25% of crews must be AGMT certified, and after Jan. 1, 2027, 50% of crews must be comprised of AGMT-certified individuals. The bill defines glazing as replacing and installing windows, skylights, storefronts and the general installation of architectural glass.

“We are pleased that Rhode Island has included the NACC and AGMT programs for their project requirements,” says NACC and AGMT program development director Jeff Dalaba. “The House and Senate committees reviewing the proposed language performed thorough reviews of program requirements and allowed us to provide detailed comments and clarifications for committee review.

“The end result of this legislation is that future building envelopes for Rhode Island public buildings will be installed by qualified glaziers and glazing contractors that meet the rigorous personnel testing and contractor quality, safety, process control and quality verification requirements of these glazing industry established programs. This will help ensure that taxpayers in the state get the building performance they are paying for.”

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