Construction Worker Injuries: A Question Of Productivity Over Safety?
Productivity versus safety. The two should work together. Yet, some companies value only immediate productivity. On many construction sites, immediate productivity trumps safety every single day. Who pays the price when safety is neglected? Workers and their families pay the ultimate price of serious injuries and deaths.
A survey of construction workers showed the majority believed safety took a back seat to immediate productivity. Yet, it should not. The majority of workers also believed their companies did the bare MINIMUM required amount for safety. That is, their companies met the minimum needed to avoid a citation but not the level needed to create a culture of safety. These working men and women understand first-hand the safety issues on construction sites.
Do some companies neglect real safety? Most serious injury and death cases I’ve investigated on construction sites happened because management failed to institute basic safety processes. This is why safety standards established by agencies like OSHA are so important. Without minimum standards, some companies would do nothing at all.
Who thinks it is safe to run overhead cranes in an area where two electrical workers are required to stand on an elevated scissors lift? Yet, that is exactly the choice one Decatur plant made that cost two of my clients their ability to work in the future. Who thinks it is safe to put a welder on a large tank without locking out the valve that could pump dangerous chemicals into the tank. Yet, that is exactly the choice made by another plant. Those chemicals reacted and gassed my client, ruining his lungs. I could tell you many more stories. Almost all these falls, fires, explosions, exposures, collapses, crashes or other events, could have easily been prevented. Easily prevented.
According to OSHA, over 21% of the workplace fatalities in the United States are on construction sites. Why are construction sites especially dangerous? Why is safety planning by management so important on these sites? Here are four reasons why construction sites can be especially dangerous workplaces:
Construction sites involve multiple trades and multiple contractors. A busy construction site involves different trades all working near each other at the same time. It’s not unusual for each group of tradesmen to work for different subcontractors. This can create overlapping schedules and work. The general contractor should prepare and manage a site specific safety plan for all workers.
Construction sites present key completion deadlines. On construction sites, time is of the essence. The completion schedule is key. Add a few lost days for weather or equipment issues and you have a real time crunch.
Construction sites expose workers to unfamiliar equipment and unfamiliar processes. Most of us perform regular work in a familiar office or factory setting. Not construction workers. When you finish one project, you start a new one at a different location with different challenges.
Construction sites utilize fewer long-term workers. Long-term employees build experience with their worksites, bosses, co-workers and processes. Many construction companies lack long-term skilled workers and laborers.
Productivity and safety can and should work together. Some companies choose to ignore safety for immediate short-term work. These companies choose to neglect the few extra minutes it may take to plan a safe day or safe process. Yet, that’s a terrible choice which ignores the long-term success of both the company and its workers. Safety planning increases long-term, consistent productivity.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we represent workers injured on construction and industrial jobs. These cases present many issues, including the negligence liability of different contractors, claims for workers’ compensation, and violations of safety regulations. We have experience investigating these claims and completing them at trial. If you have questions about these issues, give us a call. Consultations are always free and confidential.