- The pervasive construction industry labor shortage could also be compromising worker safety, reveled the Q3 2018 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index report released this week.
- Of the contractors surveyed for the report, 80% responded they were either highly concerned (26%) or moderately concerned about the safety risks created by too few skilled workers on their jobsites, most likely because construction jobs require skills that contribute to a safe workplace. When asked to rank current and future top safety concerns, 58% of contractors pointed to a lack of skilled workers right now, while 62% said it would be a problem in the next three years. Labor shortages as a safety issue was followed by shorter construction schedules, aging workers, more complex projects, substance abuse and language barriers. Almost 70% of general contractors were concerned about safety-related staffing issues versus 45% of trade contractors. Meanwhile, contractors in the western U.S. (67%) were the most likely to be worried about how the labor shortage would impact jobsite safety.
- When asked what strategies contractors should use to reduce the safety risks of worker shortages, 63% suggested an improved climate of safety on jobsites; followed by a better corporate safety culture (58%); supervisor leadership training (48%); tracking and assessment of safety records (34%); and implementation of safety-enhancing technology. Respondents also said that the most impactful actions contractors could take to increase their cultures of safety were more safety training for all levels of employees (67%); increased accountability (53%); employee involvement (48%); increased communication about safety (46%); demonstrations of management commitment (46%); improving the quality of supervisor leadership (43%); treating safety as a value (42%); and encouraging client engagement (24%).
As a practical matter, a safe jobsite translates to lower costs of doing business. Even just a few injuries can force a contractor's workers' compensation premiums sky high, and, depending on the incident and the state in which it took place, could also leave companies open to third-party claims. These could affect a company's general liability rates, result in loss of business assets and most definitely could leave a contractor with a mountain of legal bills.
But the results of the survey indicate that contractors are interested in implementing plans that are inclusive and forward-thinking rather than just covering their bases in order to save money. Fortunately, there are a multitude of safety training options for all employees, regardless of position.
Available offerings include OSHA-approved 10-hour and 30-hour courses, both online and in the classroom, instructors that will travel to jobsites to teach trade-related safety procedures and schools that will set up training programs tailored to a company's needs. Industry associations and insurance companies are also valuable resources and sometimes offer free or low-cost consultations and training programs for their members/customers.