Labor crisis aggravates workplace safety fears

Dive Brief:

  • A nationwide survey of 1,358 contractors — conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America during July and August — found that 86% are struggling to fill hourly craft jobs or salaried professional positions.
  • The AGC reported Thursday that the ongoing labor shortage has created intense competition for skilled workers, as 36% of responding firms said they lost craft workers to local construction competitors, and 21% lost them to other local industries. As a result of this competition, 56% of firms are bumping up pay for hourly workers, according to the AGC survey. Another 43% said they have needed to rely more heavily on subcontractors during the labor shortage.
  • One of the most notable survey results, however, is the fact that 15% of responding firms reported seeing a rise in injuries and illnesses due to a lack of available workers. The AGC said the labor shortage is "forcing firms to change how they operate and [posing] risks to workplace safety."

Dive Insight:

Reports of the problems associated with the ongoing labor shortage are nothing new, but its impact on worker safety hasn't garnered as much attention.

Given the fact that construction is already the 10th most dangerous industry in the U.S. and officials have been cracking down on managers who cut corners and put workers in danger, possible new factors contributing to job site risks should be a major concern for the industry.

Along with the survey results, the AGC issued another call for an influx of technical school and career programs to boost the number of young people entering the construction industry. "The sad fact is too few students are being exposed to construction careers or provided with the basic skills needed to prepare for such a career path," AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a release.

Survey respondents said craft workers were the most difficult to find, especially carpenters (with 73% of respondents struggling to fill the position), sheet metal installers (65%), and concrete workers (63%). On the salaried side, project managers/supervisors (listed by 55% of firms that employ the position) were the most elusive, followed by estimators (43%), and engineers (34%).

The AGC has also updated its Workforce Development Plan to outline methods to improve the labor situation. It calls for an increase in funding for vocational schools, more hiring of veterans, and significant immigration reform.

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Filed Under: Economy
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