The new year is well underway and we are pleased to report that the construction industry continues to be in the midst of an upswing. The latest figures show that the gains made in 2015 continued into 2016, with construction spending up four percent year over year. With a comprehensive infrastructure plan expected from the new administration later this year, there is every reason to be optimistic that this trend will continue.
However, there can be concerns with a booming construction market. The number of fatalities in construction jumped sharply in 2015 to their highest level since 2008. Fatalities caused by roadway incidents went up nine percent in a single year. Although some of this increase can be attributed to more construction laborers being put to work across the U.S., there are many factors that contribute to workers being seriously injured or killed on the job. When projects fall behind schedule and workers feel pressured to work more quickly, the result can sometimes be cutting corners on safety.
Employers can help prevent these types of incidents by training employees to always work safely, regardless of the project’s schedule. Companies that empower their employees in this way reduce the risk for injuries, create a positive safety culture on their jobsites and also lower their injury costs. Liberty Mutual’s annual Workplace Safety Index recently reported that $1 billion is spent on serious but nonfatal injuries in the U.S. each week.
While some issues in construction are cyclical, one constant in the building trades seems to be OSHA’s annual list of the ten most frequently cited safety violations. Year after year it remains virtually unchanged, with fall protection at the top of the list and respiratory protection, hazard communication and electrical hazards also making regular appearances. Falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities, killing more than 200 construction workers in the U.S. every year and seriously injuring more than 10,000.
LIUNA and the LHSFNA encourage all signatory employers to thoroughly review these frequently cited standards violations and ensure they are addressed by your safety and health policies. Making the necessary changes now and training workers to follow all safety procedures on site could prevent tragedy later. The Fund’s Occupational Safety & Health Division can provide guidance in this important area and is available to help LIUNA signatory contractors with site visits if needed. This personalized assistance can be invaluable, as every jobsite is unique and site safety is not one size fits all.
As you read this month’s collection of safety and health articles, take some time to think about how you can make positive changes on your site. Improving worker safety and health takes the effort of everyone involved on a project. From LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions and health and welfare funds to owners, signatory employers and LIUNA members, everyone has a role to play in improving safety and health for workers and their families.