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KNOXVILLE — Improving construction safety is the primary goal of a new research center at the University of Tennessee.

The Construction Industry Research and Policy Center in UT’s College of Business Administration will work with the U.S. Department of Labor to monitor construction sites, evaluate inspections and identify and remedy potential hazards.

Dr. William Schriver, center director, said more than 600 fatal accidents and thousands with injuries occur yearly from construction at roads, buildings and other sites.

Center research could help reduce that number, cut construction costs and speed up job completion, Schriver said.

“Increased construction has been a natural result of economic growth, especially during the record economic expansion in the 1990s,” Schriver said. “Unfortunately, falls, electrocutions, equipment accidents and other dangers are an inherent part of construction.

“We are tracking these events and seeking cost-effective ways to prevent them.”

The center also ensures that construction workers on federally funded projects are paid correctly and fairly under the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors to pay workers locally prevailing wages on Federal projects.

“We maintain a database of detailed construction activity in every county in the nation,” Greg Zigulis, center associate director, said. “We survey much of this activity to determine locally prevailing construction wages. We also use it to randomly select projects for unannounced safety inspections by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

The center expands the Construction Research Analysis Group established in 1981 by Dr. John Moore, former associate dean of the college.

Research projects include:
— Analyzing U.S. construction fatalities for OSHA and designing strategies to reduce their likelihood.
— Analyzing construction contract safety provisions for the Center to Protect Workers Rights.
— Designing national surveys to determine industry compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the 1938 law requiring payment of minimum wage and overtime pay and prohibiting illegal child labor.
— Developing compliance incentives other than monetary fines to promote regulatory compliance for OSHA and other regulatory agencies.

Schriver said construction research funding sources include the U.S. dpartments of labor and energy, the Air Force, Corps of Engineers, Edison Electric Institute, TVA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and private sponsors.