In April, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America published a study performed on fatality reports between 2010 and 2012. The study’s purpose is to help create and improve strategies and methods that would more efficiently prevent worker fatalities and injuries on construction sites. With thousands of construction jobs being added yearly to the U.S. economy, yet construction-related fatalities constituting about 17 percent of all work-related fatalities, the importance of such studies cannot be underscored enough.
On the one hand, the report’s findings confirm some well-established safety practices, and areas of risks which have for years been a major focus of safety programs. On the other hand, the report also challenges long-held beliefs and ideas in other areas and provides an updated understanding, based on the larger and more detailed amount of data that was analyzed.
For an overview of the new findings, as well as specific safety recommendations to construction contractors, read on.
CONSTRUCTION SAFETY RISKS REPORT KEY FINDINGS
The “Preventing Fatalities in the Construction Industry” AGC report is structured around the various elements of the construction work system. The five general areas or systems defined in the report are:
- Context in which work is performed
- Project: when and where it is performed
- Means and methods: what kind of work is being performed and how
- Management of the system: establishment size, etc.
- Workers: age and ethnicity, for example
Each of these five areas includes several sub-areas which have been studied with regards to patterns or prevalence in injuries and fatalities. What follows are some of the main findings in each of these areas.
Context of construction: Southern states account for a total of 46 percent of all fatalities (and even with other factors included, such as employment, the South still had the highest rate of fatalities). Specialty trades account for over half (56 percent) of all construction-related fatalities, followed by the heavy and civil sector, and the building sector. Fatalities and injuries tend to increase in the spring, peak in the summer, and decrease and reach their low in the autumn and winter, respectively—mostly due to an increase in work over the summer.
With regards to the Project: Most fatalities occurred between Monday and Thursday (75 percent), which is consistent with previous findings. Most fatalities occurred around noon, and slightly more than half (52 percent) of all fatalities occurred between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., which slightly differs from previous findings. The location of 35 percent of fatalities was “Industrial”, which includes industrial places such as dockyards, warehouses, factories, and others; this is followed by 29 percent in Heavy (includes highways, freeways, interstate, mines, and others) and 25 percent in Residential; together these three make up about 90 percent of all construction-related fatalities, with the remaining 10 percent being in Commercial and Other locations.
The Means and methods during which incidents occurred: 49 percent of instances were during construction (repairing, building, assembling, etc.). 27 percent in operation of vehicles, which includes non-construction operation of vehicles, too, but out of the total numbers in this category, 78 percent were in connection to construction-related operation of vehicles. 9 percent occurred in operating of tools and machinery. Among all of those, falls remain the most common cause of death, which is consistent with other findings, followed by contact and collision with vehicles as the second-most. Accordingly, the two biggest sources (58 percent) of construction fatalities were structures and surfaces, and vehicles.
When it comes to Management: Small establishments (with less than 10 employees) constitute the majority (80 percent) of construction companies. Though small establishments employ only about 25 percent of all construction workers, they have the highest fatality rate in the construction industry (47 percent). The employee status of the majority of victims (79 percent) was “payroll” and “wage-and-salary,” “self-employed” for 19 percent, and “family” or “volunteer” for the remaining 2 percent.
Regarding Workers within the construction industry: Those aged between 35-54 constitute half of the victims of construction-related incidents, and for those above 65 years, the prevalence of fatalities was the highest among all groups; this is consistent with previous findings. In terms of ethnicity, non-Hispanics make up for the majority (75 percent) of fatalities, contrary to what is typically thought.
Based on the above numbers, the AGC has also provided plenty of suggestions for businesses to implement.
In each of the areas examined by the AGC report, there are a number of suggested “potential actions.” These often overlap, such as is the case of specialty trades which constitute the majority of fatalities by sector. Most specialty trades, however, are also small establishments—which, on the other hand, account for the most fatalities per type of establishment. In this case, the AGC’s suggestion is that general contractors who hire specialty subcontractors should transfer “controls and safety culture” to their subcontractors and help them avoid incidents.
Other important recommendations given by the AGC with regards to tackling the sources of safety risks include:
- Further investigation into the causes for more incidents in the South, and training programs that specifically draw attention to those facts and seek to combat the reasons. Including more information regarding the greater occurrence of fatalities in the summer during training courses, as well as implementing OSHA’s “Water. Rest. Shade” guidelines, specifically designed for the purpose; adding a seasonal component to safety procedures such as an established amount of cups of water or a buddy system on certain tasks.
- Communicate to workers the importance of being attentive every day, given that during most workdays there is a fairly equal number of incidents, excluding Fridays, which may simply be due to fewer workers on the job (the AGC suggests that company monitor and analyze findings concerning this statistic).
- Draw workers’ attention to the fact that a majority of incidents tend to happen around “lunch hour”, and schedule more safety meetings around that time.
- Devote more attention in trainings to the risk of fatalities related to vehicles, in particular in heavy construction zones, and implement more controls such as particular buffer spaces, cones and barrels spacing, automated flaggers, and more.
About the Author:
Todd Bryant is the president and founder of Bryant Surety Bonds. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping contractors get bonded and start their business. You can contact him at www.bryantsuretybonds.com, or follow him on Twitter.
Modern Contractor Solutions, December 2017
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