What many working people look forward to most during the week is the end of the day, where they finally get to go home to relax and spend time with family or work on passion projects. Unfortunately, not everyone has that same opportunity and often it’s due to factors that are entirely avoidable. The first week of May is dedicated to National Construction Safety Week in the United States, where companies hold special safety classes, organize and overview current safety precautions being instilled in their work sites, and addressing the safety concerns that haunt the entire industry. An area that we believe makes a large push for those lacking in making safety a #1 priority is the monetary cost of an incident occurring for both the victim and employer.
In 2020, there were 957 fatalities and over 250,000 medically consulted injuries in the construction industry. The construction industry is the second highest occupation with the most fatalities occurring while on the job at a rate of 12.3 with truck drivers leading the unfortunate statistic. One of four workers with a non-fatal injury required days off work due to sprains, strains, or tear injuries which are the leader of all cases. Once workers start needing to take time off, our already short-staffed industry begins to suffer further, especially with serious cases. What’s more frustrating is 2020 recorded the most injuries in a year that were fully preventable. These reoccurring incidents beg us to ask the question how true is the famous saying ‘Time is money’?
With work-related injuries, there are two types of costs involved – direct and indirect. Direct costs are those that are directly linked to the accident such as medical and workers compensation, equipment damage, and legal fines. Indirect costs are the domino effect costs, such as hiring extra workers, penalties from missing deadlines, or loss of profit due to the company reputation being damaged. The employer will pay the indirect costs but may be subject to the direct costs as well depending on their insurance policy. On the national level, construction companies pay over $1 billion a week in workers’ compensation for disabling and non-fatal injuries with an estimated annual total of $151 billion. With the vast number of trades and positions possible in the industry, this makes any type of injury a possibility, whether it’s preventable or not.
OSHA has a program called $afety Pays which provides a cost estimator for users to input various injuries, incidents, and other information to help estimate the potential cost of an accident. We pulled the most common injuries to occur in construction and provided the total costs for only 1 incident occurring. We also included the amount it would take for an employer to even out the costs of the injury and make a profit. On average, the cost for a work-related injury of one-lost time is around $35,000; However, for more serious injuries, such as amputations, the costs can increase very rapidly with legal fees and such included. In 2021, the National Safety Council ran a study that broke down the costs of work-related deaths and injuries per worker, and how it also affects the time lost on projects. On average, it costs just over $1,000 and $42,000 per worker injured, without and with medical consult respectively, and $1,340,000 per fatality. In total, construction companies paid $47.4 billion in wage and productivity losses, $36.6 billion in medical expenses, and $57.5 in administrative expenses. They also had to pay for uninsured costs, damage to motor vehicles, and any fire losses.
These costs then affect the company’s ability to complete projects. With only considering the time lost due to the sole person who was affected by the injury, construction companies lost a total of 103,000,000 days in 2021 of work. 70 million of these days includes needed time off work but not the extra time needed for required doctor visits, check-ups, and other necessary appointments. The leftover 33 million are from those who experienced a work-related accident in prior years and are still bearing the symptoms. Overall, that’s over 280,000 years of lost days that companies had either lost completely or fully lacked staffing due to an injury!
The reasons for some of these accidents were entirely an accident even if things were inspected and approved correctly. However, many job site accidents are entirely preventable. One of the leading causes for an injury on site is simply an unkept environment. The more of a mess a job site is, the more hazards workers will face such as messy extension cords, propped up ladders, and slick flooring due to not regularly sweeping. Another factor is having a project with tight deadlines or altered schedules. With time equating to money, sometimes workers rush certain aspects of jobs to ensure the project is finished on time; and unfortunately, safety precautions are sometimes the first thing to be taken off the priority list. By having regular check ins on job sites, companies can ensure their workers are not only being safe, but knowing where adjustments need to be made to projects to ensure that safety is always a top priority.
The hardest part of these numbers and costs is knowing many of these accidents could have been 100% prevented. While there are some uncontrollable factors that can play into causing injury, such as weather conditions, there are regulations in place for a reason. However, these regulations won’t be understood to their fullest extent if workers are not being trained properly and regularly. A potential incident to occur, that will certainly end poorly, is an employer asking an individual to perform the tasks needed, who isn’t trained to the same level or at all, as the main personnel who can no longer work. This alone is a terrible act, and should never occur on a job site, or in any job, as it is a certain recipe for disaster. Workers may also find that personal protection equipment (PPE) may be in the way or unnecessary and remove them to perform their tasks, which puts them directly into high risk of injury as actions on a job site are unpredictable. Having a loaded to-do list can also create room for accidents. If a worker is multi-tasking, their awareness of surroundings and other important figures is lowered, or they may skip an important step in their position which could affect many others later. Although Construction Safety Week is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean we should stop dedicating time and efforts to making safety our number one priority in this industry. When companies invest a mere 2-5% of project costs into safety training and procedures for their staff, accident rates decrease while profits increase by 4-7% per project! Huge changes aren’t required to make a big impact, especially when a few extra dollars mean all workers can go home after a hard day of working to build family homes, businesses, and children’s futures.
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