A new study from the National Safety Council highlights the conflict between productivity and safety that unfolds on worksites across the U.S. The organization surveyed 2,000 full-time and part-time employees from a variety of industries, including construction. Almost 60 percent of the builders who replied said employers sacrifice safety to meet budgetary and production goals. Additionally, more than half said that construction companies did the bare minimum required under federal and state laws to protect them as navigated dangerous working conditions.
The construction industry ranks among the least safest sectors, as builders must contend with a large number of hazards, including dangerous tools, electrical wiring and heights. The latter is an issue of grave concern within the industry, as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration emphasizes fall protection enforcement. According to the NSC, the agency issued almost 7,000 violations for inadequate fall protection last year – and for good reason. In 2015, 937 construction workers perished on the job, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found. Falls accounted for almost 40 percent of these deaths.
Unfortunately, it seems many construction companies are lagging behind when it comes to safety, opting for low-cost solutions or simply ignoring best practices in an effort to erect structures as quickly as possible.
The NSC survey highlighted another worrisome issue: hazard reporting. Nearly half of respondents in the construction sector said they were afraid to report safety issues. This state of affairs, combined with the lack of exhaustive workplace protections, does not reflect favorably upon the construction firms, indicating that many are content to ignore worker safety so long as productivity does not suffer.
“Sadly the results of our survey indicate that many workers still worry about whether they will make it home safely tonight,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, CEO and president of the NSC, summarized in a press release. “We call on all employers to renew their commitment to keep everyone safe, on every job, each and every day.”