Site safety management in construction is an area of crucial importance to the industry, across both Canada and the U.S. We truly believe this, which is why we’re pleased to see greater attention to safety inspections and audits, and the general health and safety of construction workers. We know that a surprise visit from a government inspector can be a stressful thing, but with recent news about safety violations in Alberta, it’s clear that there’s always a need for safety improvements.
Last month, government safety inspectors in Alberta wrapped up an inspection blitz targeting more than 600 construction sites. The results? They issued more than 394 orders, and in 83 of these cases, safety violations were serious enough to hand out stop work orders. Four out of five stop work orders tied back to problems involving fall protection safety – sites that neglected proper use of guardrails and safety harnesses. And one third of all orders issued had to do with fall protection failures. This wasn’t the first safety blitz in Alberta this year. Government safety inspectors there also ran a safety campaign targeting workplaces using forklifts, and another focusing on workplaces that employ young people.
Construction safety touches everyone on a jobsite, regardless of the size of a project or the number of workers involved. While fall protection is a huge consideration for every worksite, the risks related to improper safety practices can follow workers offsite as well. Last week, a new study from Dr. Xiuwen Sue Dong of the Center to Protect Workers Rights examined just how dangerous it is to be a construction worker. Here are a few highlights from the research:
– Construction workers have a one in 200 chance of dying on the job.
– They account for 20 per cent of deaths on the job.
– They have a 75 per cent chance of suffering a disabling injury and a 15 per cent chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
– Based on the stats, one in 10 construction workers who go for chest X-rays will show signs of inhaling large amounts of harmful dust.
It’s a little ironic, on the surface level, that the largest growth area for the construction industry is health care, given the workers building these facilities face larger health risks than those in many other industries. The Associated General Contractors of America reports that annual construction spending rate is at about $787.2 billion as of September 2011 – with the greatest growth in the construction of health care facilities.
But the good news is that safety solutions are improving all the time. We talk with safety management professionals and manufacturers of quality construction equipment and safety gear every day, and we know there are a lot of safety management professionals out there who are truly dedicated to keeping workers safe. Many of them are using more advanced technologies than anything that was available just a few years ago. So, despite the bad news, we hope safety blitzes continue. For those who are ready for a snap inspection, unscheduled visits are an opportunity to shine!