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Debunking the Myths Concerning Construction Safety Program Costs


Hana Dickman

In April 2015, a worker was killed during a trench collapse in Manhattan, despite safety warnings from inspectors that the trench was unsafe for workers. After a lengthy probe conducted by the New York City Department of Investigation, this unfortunate death led to the indictment of two construction companies in August 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. The incident also caused the spotlight to be shined once again on the construction industry and its need for effective safety programs.

Safety programs take into account several factors, including the proper ways to use construction tools, the use of protective equipment, safety checks of construction sites, safety training for employees, the identification of unsafe conditions, and protocols for reporting these unsafe conditions to the appropriate supervisors. In addition, it is a requirement by OSHA for these companies to have some type of safety program in place.

Unfortunately, in New York City alone, there have been 231 recorded construction accidents in 2014, and 72 accidents in the first quarter of 2015. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 856 construction-related fatalities in the United States in 2013.

Why Are Construction Companies Reluctant To Create Safety Programs?

It all boils down to costs. When cutting down operational expenses, the first thing construction companies do away with are the safety programs. Operating a construction safety program costs money, and many business owners believe there is little return on investment for these programs if their workers are never in an accident. Other companies cite that it increases their operational costs, forcing them to struggle during the lean times.

While some companies are under the impression that their insurance will cover injuries when they occur, stopping the injuries and fatalities from occurring in the first place should be the top priority for every business in the construction industry. Workers should not simply be expected to accept the risks of being involved in a job that can create incidents and fatalities. Such a mindset by business owners needs to be changed for the future of their companies and the continued health of their workers.

Myths Concerning Construction Safety Programs

In 2013, McGraw Hill Construction conducted a report regarding the benefits of construction safety programs. Polling contractor data regarding business operations, McGraw Hill Construction was able to show actual figures that debunked some of the common misconceptions about the high costs related to developing and implementing these programs.

Myth: Safety programs drastically affect a construction company’s bottom line.

In reality, about 39% of contractors said that safety programs led to lower construction project budgets. Only 15% of contractors said that the costs of these safety programs negatively affected their bottom line.

Myth: There is no return on investment for safety programs.

Around 51% of contractor respondents reported that they had an increase of ROI for their projects, and 43% reported that they saw faster schedules to their projects.

Myth: There are no immediate benefits to safety programs.

Actually, there are many benefits to a construction company’s reputation and branding. Construction safety programs led to an increase in project quality (66% of contractors), an improvement to their reputation (82% of contractors), and an increase in the ability to find new work (66% of contractors).

When evaluating construction safety projects, it could not be denied that they lowered the amount of injuries at construction sites. 71% of contractors witnessed fewer injuries after implementing a safety program, which led to fewer worker’s compensation claims and less of a chance that OSHA would hit the company with a $70,000 fine for every reported incident.

Initiatives For Safety

There are several different methods to increase safety at construction sites that should be evaluated and implemented in safety programs. Perhaps the top initiative involves onsite and online training programs, and educational resources for workers. These programs build awareness for all workers — from supervisors to laborers — to ensure that all equipment is used properly as well as to help workers recognize unsafe conditions and engage in proper reporting techniques.

Several construction companies are engaging in building information remodeling (BMI). BMI consists of a digital representation of the worksite and building operations. By using BMI to evaluate construction processes and equipment operations, construction companies can determine safety hazards to workers and engage in the appropriate measures before accidents can occur.

As the construction industry enters a housing market boom this year, it has become imperative for companies to think about worker safety. No longer can they accept the myths that these programs increase their operational costs. Instead, they have to recognize the obvious benefits that are available and evolve accordingly.