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August 3, 2001

Construction fatalities up in 2001

State, feds get more alert to roadwork zone safety

Iron Workers 25 celebrates climb to the century mark

Davison: Nation's first freeway was built right the first time

Topping-out held for Ren Cen's Winter Garden

Electrical work on the Madeline is ship-shape, thanks to 498'er



Construction fatalities up in 2001

In terms of construction fatalities in Michigan, we don't like where the year 2001 is headed…

The MIOSHA News reports that through the first six months of this year, construction deaths in Michigan totaled 14 - which was the same number at the halfway mark of 1997. That was the deadliest year in recent memory for Michigan Hardhats when a total of 34 were killed during the entire 12 months.

The second highest death tolls came in 1986 and again in 1999, when 31 workers were killed. Overall, there has been a slight trend downward in fatalities over the last few years.

"Construction employers and employees must view their daily tasks with a heightened awareness that an accident could happen on their project and could affect them personally," MIOSHA wrote. "The single most important thing construction employers can do to protect their employees is to have a comprehensive and implemented accident prevention program that includes adequate employee training."


State, feds get more alert to roadwork zone safety

How to improve on saving workers' lives and limbs inside of highway construction work zones is getting some welcome, increased attention.

On July 10, a summit meeting of 125 construction, government and business organizations met in Washington D.C. and assembled a framework for a plan to improve the health and safety of road workers. In 1999, the latest year for which information is available, there were 868 deaths in construction work zones, a jump from 772 in 1998 and 693 in 1997.

"The general indifference to this kind of annual carnage has some people hopping mad," reports the Engineering News Record.

On July 24, the U.S. House highway and transit subcommittee heard testimony on how construction workers have died when motorists crashed through work zones. The intent was to measure the problem and get input from state and federal officials and labor groups.

Said Vincent Schimmoller, acting head of the Federal Highway Administration: "What if 868 teachers were killed? What if two 747s went down? There would be unbelievable outrage. But we just seem to blink" when the deaths are in work zones, he added.

Organized by the Associated General Contractors, the summit event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Department of Labor, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the ENR.

Participants formed work groups to discuss issues related to designing and improving safety within work zones, improving public awareness, enforcing speed limits in work zones, traffic management and expediting construction.

Some of the concerns and comments, according to the ENR:

  • "You often see signs that you are entering a work zone and then go seven miles without seeing anyone. Do we need standards?" asked Bill Armstrong, CEO of Armstrong Construction Co., Roswell, N.M.
  • "During design, consider a balance between construction and safety issues," said David E. Fosbroke, who authored a publication on building safer work zones. He noted that many workers are hit when they are placing concrete traffic zone barriers - which are supposed to protect them in the first place. "I used to be a big proponent of (concrete) barriers until I saw how long it took to put them up," he said.
  • "Utility workers and electrical guys, they need help too," said Camille Villanova, a safety specialist at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The work groups selected about 30 items on which to focus, including worker and driver training, model contract specifications for work zone safety, coordination with law enforcement, traffic control devices and personal protective equipment. The next step will be to categorize and consolidate the priorities, and then bring the items into action.

The Michigan House and Senate last month adopted a bill that would make it a felony for motorists to injure or kill construction workers because of drunk or reckless driving. The state has also made available up to $500,000 in additional funding for State Police enforcement, doubled traffic fines in work zones, gradually reduced posted speed limits as vehicles approach work zones, and have tried the use of rumble strips.

In Michigan from 1991-1996, there was an annual average of 5,510 crashes and 2,029 injuries in work zones. From 1997-1999, there was an annual average of 6,992 crashes and 2,371 injuries, representing a 27-percent increase in crashes and a 17-percent increase in injuries. The great majority of those killed and injured are the motorists themselves.


Iron Workers 25 celebrates climb to the century mark

Iron Workers Local 25 topped out its 100th birthday July 21 with a party to remember that included 1,800 members and well-wishers at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The party honored a century of iron workers with a song - "Those who dare," a slick video presentation, some dandy iron decorations, and accolades from those who have worked in the business, and those who wouldn't dare walk the iron.

"One hundred years ago the iron workers were engaged in a struggle for better working conditions and a safer workplace," said Local 25 Business Manager Frank Kavanaugh. "At the time, the average life expectancy for an iron worker working the trade was one year. One year. Over the years the iron workers have fought for safety laws and good wages, and tonight we're here to celebrate the spirit of those workers who have died, and to honor those who have fought for the standard of living we have today."

Chartered on July 18, 1901, Iron Workers Local 25 took in Reinforced Iron Workers Local 426 and Riggers Local 575 several years ago, which helped make the local the largest in the International Union. There are currently about 2,500 active members.

"One hundred years ago, we had no pension, no health and welfare program, and no safety rules," said International General President Joseph Hunt. "Basically we were working for money to bury our dead. We've come a long way. Congratulations, Local 25, for all you've done, and I am sure you will go on to greater things."

Working under the motto, "What we have built we will fight to defend," Local 25 has long been aggressive about maintaining its wage, health and welfare and safety standards, and fighting for its turf through organizing.

"When Local 25 was established, they made a commitment to become strong and remain strong forever," said local President/BA Shorty Gleason. "I have confidence that we will never give up the fight to protect this great union."

The union has also been active in the world of political action, knowing that the ties between union interests and local, state and federal laws have a major impact on the quality of life of members.

"Thank you Local 25," said Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm. "Every monument in Michigan stands as a monument to you, from the Mackinac Bridge, to Comerica Park, to Ford Field, to the Midfield Terminal. "To the men and women of iron, here's to another 100 years of fighting to defend what you have built."

Also on hand at the celebration was Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanaugh, who said he has a special appreciation for iron workers, in watching the new Michigan Hall of Justice's framework take shape in Lansing. "I have watched in awe as the building has gone up," he said. "I know the sweat and the blood that it takes."

Michigan Congressman David Bonior said he is "proud to honor your solidarity and strength, and the courage and special spirit you bring to these jobs. You have fought for fair wages and benefits. We thank you and salute you, the proud members of Iron Workers Local 25."

IRON WORKERS International General President Joseph Hunt, right. presents an engraved beam to Local 25 Business Manager Frank Kavanaugh. Looking on during the 100th anniversary celebration is Local 25 President Shorty Gleason.

Greg Hicks, of Local 25 and the I.U. said he was "extremely proud to be part of this great labor union."

Harold Cooper of Local 25 and the I.U. recalled workers in the 50s and 60s didn't want to put even 5 cents of their pay check toward a pension program.


Davison: Nation's first freeway was built right the first time

By Marty Mulcahy

Detroit has a lot of firsts associated with the automobile. The first production line. The first paved road. The first traffic light.

One of the firsts to come along well after the turn of the century was the Davison Expressway, the nation's "first urban depressed freeway," a 2.85 mile stretch of road built in 1944 by the Wayne County Road Commission without traffic lights and cross streets. It was originally built to provide better access for workers at the automobile plants in the area.

By the early 1990s, the Davison in Highland Park was nearly 50 years old. It was well past its prime, but not necessarily because of the surface of the road.

"The pavement held up incredibly well," said Wayne County Roads Commission spokesman John Roach. "In all its years, it was never resurfaced. There were some rough patches, but potholes were really not a problem. The Davison's problem was that it had become functionally obsolete and unsafe."

The Davison wasn't built for such high traffic volumes and its lack of shoulders and the inadequate grassy median made it just a question of time before it would be replaced.

Instead of renovating the freeway, the Michigan Department of Transportation reportedly was discussing "filling in" the freeway ditch, and making it a surface street. A hue and cry from the City of Detroit blocked any such talk, an agreement was reached with the state, and $45 million in renovations were completed in 1997.

Roach said the contractor tearing out the original Davison roadbed had to use dynamite in some areas to get the job done. He said one of the reasons for its great strength may have been that the concrete was cured by flooding the surface - 100 percent humidity apparently strengthens the concrete during the curing process.

The renovated freeway now has a total of eight lanes (instead of six), as well as ample shoulders on the left and right sides. There is now an interchange at M-1/Woodward Ave, where there used to be none.

Originally, the expressway's western terminus was at the corner of Davison Ave. and what is now Rosa Parks Blvd. Today it connects with the John C. Lodge Freeway. The eastern terminus was at the corner of Davison Ave. and Gallagher Street, four block west of Conant. Today the eastern end connects to the I-75/Chrysler Freeway.

The Davison was the forerunner of the nation's first great freeway, the Edsel Ford Freeway, later I-94, which moved workers to and from Detroit and the Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti.

THE WORLD'S "first urban depressed freeway," the Davison in Highland Park, is shown above shortly after it opened in 1944. The original pavement lasted for more than 50 years. Below is a photo that we're pretty certain is from the same view, taken from Woodward as construction was beginning.



Topping-out held for Ren Cen's Winter Garden

The steel framework of the G.M. Renaissance Center's Winter Garden is now complete, thanks to the work of Iron Workers Local 25 members and Contour Erection.

Some 600 tons of steel went into the cable-supported trusswork, which will support the glass for an atrium that will look out onto the Detroit River.

The Winter Garden is the most significant architectural change during the renovation of the Renaissance Center, which is undergoing $800 million in construction work that will make the center more user-friendly as the new corporate headquarters for General Motors Corp. It will include flowers, trees, stores and restaurants - and a great view of the Detroit River.

"For us, this has been a great job," said Contour's Project Supt. Joe Garvin. "There's only one like it in the world."

YELLOW STEEL will support the atrium of the Renaissance Center's Winter Garden, which faces the Deroit River. Iron Workers from Contour Erection recently topped out the structure, and are shown here gathering 'round the final section.



Electrical work on the Madeline is ship-shape, thanks to 498'er

By Marty Mulcahy

"What am I doing here? Oh, I guess I'm an electrician by trade and a sailor at heart."

So said Bob Dost, 75, a retiree who helped build the Madeline, a modern replica of a schooner of the same name that sailed the Great Lakes after it was built in 1845.

Dost, a 52-year charter member of Traverse City IBEW Local 498, worked as a crewman aboard the schooner during the ship's most recent Great Lakes tour last month, when it participated in the tall ships flotilla during the Detroit 300 celebration. During that visit, we found Bob sitting atop the ship's forward cabin, greeting guests and telling them what he knows about life aboard the ship.

"This ship sails wonderfully," Dost said. "We've been through waves on the Great Lakes as high as 10 feet and it rides well. It's a very tight ship."

The new Madeline was built between 1985 and 1990, when 165 volunteers performed 40,000 hours of work to create the 92-foot, two-masted, vessel in Traverse City. Owned by the Maritime Heritage Alliance of Northern Michigan, the replica ship was built to educate and serve as a goodwill ambassador for the Grand Traverse Region.

When it isn't touring Great Lakes ports, the Madeline is berthed at Clinch Marina in downtown Traverse City, and open to all visitors.

Its volunteer builders learned the craft of traditional shipbuilding, and its crew of nine volunteer sailors continue to learn about the work that's necessary to sail a 160-year-old schooner.

The ship is a combination of the old and the new, and it's evident that there's a lot to be said for modern building techniques, materials and technology.

Like the original, the keel, frames, masts and spars were built of white oak - it's native to northern Michigan, and the wood is strong and naturally rot resistant. Unlike the original ship, the replica vessel's planking and deck are pressure-treated, two-inch native pine. The original lines would have been made of hemp, today her rigging uses steel cable and nylon rope.

Traditionally, sails were made of tanbark-treated cotton canvas - today's Madeline has lighter and more durable Dacron sheets.

The modern Madeline also has electricity - thanks to the work of Dost. He made the electrical panels, and wired the ship's two 12-volt marine batteries to power lights, sonar, the depth-finder and the marine radio while the vessel is under sail. Dost also wired the ship's alternator to carry the load when the engine is running, as well as the hook-up for shore power while they're docked.

"I never kept track of the time it took to do it all," he said. "They just kept adding things, and I had to find places to hide the wire as best I could. Now that it's done, there's always maintenance on a boat."

The ship's master on this voyage was Bruce Lehman, a former Coast Guard sailor and a former medical technician, who said he's reached a point in his life where "I figured I'd sail schooners."

"Bob's the first guy we call when we have a problem," the Madeline's skipper said. "We always run into problems with wiring up to the different ports, and Bob always knows how to fix it. He fixes that and just about everything else."

The original Madeline was a freight-carrying vessel built in Fairport, Ohio for her owners on Mackinac Island, which was the home port for the first 17 years of her existence. She sailed all the Great Lakes, carrying barrels of fish, salt and other commodities to and from ports.

In the summer of 1847, the Madeline served as a temporary replacement for the schooner Ocean, a government lightship stationed in the Straits of Mackinac that needed to undergo repairs. In the winter of 1851-52, the Madeline's hold served as the first schoolhouse in the Traverse City region, and later the ship carried settlers to Beaver Island.

The Madeline was sold to new owners in Milwaukee in 1862, and several years later she was abandoned and probably ended her days settling quietly in the mud of one of the Milwaukee rivers.

"One of the reasons they built this ship was to make sure the skills and knowledge of shipbuilding are passed on," Lehman said. "We're also passing on the history of these schooners. They really opened up coastal Michigan to trade and development, and because of the good water transportation, those communities were settled long before the inland cities. These schooners played an important role in that development."

THE REPLICA SCHOONER Madeline was one of the tall ships that visited Detroit last month, and one of her crew members was Bob Dost, an IBEW Local 498 retiree. Unfortunately, our digital photo of Bob aboard the ship sailed away on our hard drive, never to be seen again.



AFL-CIO, Carpenters are still talking
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Carpenters International Union President Doug McCarron plan to continue their "frank, friendly and useful" discussions about the Carpenters' decision to leave the federation.

"We are committed to attempt to resolve the matters under discussion in an expeditious manner and achieve the unity that is our shared goal," Sweeney and McCarron said in a joint statement.

The Carpenters became the first union to drop out of the AFL-CIO since 1968, mainly because they have disagreements with the direction of the federation and how dues money is spent on organizing.

Former Labor Secretary John Dunlop and AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department President Edward Sullivan have been consulted during the talks.

Okies to test right-to-work
Oklahoma is the latest state to have a go-round with adopting a right-to-work law.

The state's voters will decide in a special election on Sept. 25.

Under a right-to-work law, collective bargaining agreements are prohibited from requiring employees in a bargaining unit from paying dues. The result: workers can benefit from the provisions of a contract without helping to pay for it. In labor terms, those workers are known as "free riders" who enjoy the protections and pay raises of a contract but "ride" on the backs of their co-workers who pay union dues.

The AFL-CIO is mounting a grassroots campaign to defeat the measure, but fewer than 9 percent of the state is unionized. There are currently 20 right-to-work states.

A spokesman for the national Right-to-Work Committee said an election victory would boost similar efforts in Colorado, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Montana.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, 18 of the top 20 states in personal income do not have right-to-work laws, while six of the bottom ten states in personal income do.

Chao says Bush will listen to labor
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, addressing her first international union convention since taking office, told the Teamsters that the Bush Administration "won't always agree with you, but we'll always listen to what you have to say."

The Construction Labor Report said Chao cited several legislative measures where the Bush Administration has worked to address labor's concerns. Among them: Bush decided not to include ongoing construction projects in his ban on federally funded project labor agreements, and he agreed to repeal Section 415 of the tax code, which limited the benefits of early retirees and hit unionized construction industry retirees especially hard.


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