Construction Association Unveils Steps to Improve Worker Safety as 239 Out of 358 Metro Areas Add Construction Jobs During Pas 12 Months

Tue April 04, 2017 - National Edition
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The Associated General Contractors of America unveiled a new study designed to improve the safety of construction workers as it announced that two-thirds of metro areas added construction jobs during the past 12 months. Association officials said the new safety study is designed to help construction firms prevent workplace fatalities and injuries.

"We all share a common goal: getting to zero construction fatalities," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "This report offers the kind of data and recommendations needed to help construction firms achieve that goal."

The association unveiled the safety report at a time when construction employment is expanding in many metro areas. A new analysis of construction employment data shows that 239 out of 358 metro areas added construction jobs between February 2016 and February 2017. He noted that Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (9,000 jobs, 10 percent) added the most jobs while Grand Forks, N.D.-Minn. (37 percent, 1,000 jobs) added the highest percent of new jobs.

Sandherr noted that the association worked with the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech University to undertake the comprehensive study of every construction fatality that took place over a three-year period. He noted that the best way to help construction firms put in place the most effective safety measures is to understand why, when and how construction fatalities occur.

Some of the findings in the report reinforce existing safety practices and many of the association's long-standing safety programs, Sandherr noted. For example, falls from ladders and other structures account for one-third of U.S. construction fatalities. This confirms the association's and industry's longstanding focus on offering training and safety stand-downs addressing fall protection. Sandherr added that the association is now also looking to establish new training programs designed to improve ladder safety.

Some of the other findings, however, are contrary to a number of long-held industry safety assumptions, the construction official noted. For example, while prior research indicated most construction fatalities occur in the morning, in fact noon is the deadliest hour in construction. As a result, Sandherr said the association is now advising construction firms to look at holding safety talks and stretching sessions when workers return from the 11 a.m. to noon lunch breaks common on most job sites.

The study also found that Hispanic construction workers are not disproportionately the victims of construction fatalities. As a group they account for 24 percent of the national construction workforce and 25 percent of all construction fatalities. Sandherr said this was important because it indicates that construction firms need to craft safety programs targeting their entire workforce, instead of specific segments.

Sandherr added that the association was sending the new safety report to each of its members, as well as to other construction associations and also making it available online. "No wisdom or insight should be proprietary when it comes to the safety of construction workers," Sandherr said.

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