- This fall Keene State College in Keene, NH, is scheduled to offer a construction safety sciences degree program, which Keene State officials say will be the first of its kind in the United States.
- Students will be able to major or minor in construction safety sciences. Keene State officials said the program will focus on skills like critical thinking, identifying hazards, solving problems and regulatory compliance, and that those completing the undergraduate degree will be prepared for jobs in the public and private sectors.
- The college will also begin offering a minor in sustainability, which can be useful to those pursuing careers in construction or design. Keene State officials said the two new programs will build on the academic tradition of the school, but will also ready students for careers by providing them with more hands-on experiences.
Keene's new program likely indicates the demand for safety professionals in an industry where keeping workers injury-free not only helps workers feel motivated and secure, but also is a way for construction companies to reduce costs.
Additional costs from injuries surface in a few ways. First, depending on the severity of the injury, there could be a loss of productivity if an employee is not able to work for some period of time. According to the OSHA, lost productivity due to injuries and illnesses costs companies across all industries $60 billion annually. The agency also says that companies spend a total of $170 billion each year on costs related to injuries and illnesses, but, with comprehensive safety programs, they can whittle that down by 20% to 40%.
Companies also pay for injuries through increased workers' compensation insurance premiums. A business's workers' comp premiums are based on an experience modification rate (EMR); the lower the rate, the lower the premium. But that rate can increase as injuries rise, driving up the cost of providing workers' compensation coverage, which contractors are almost always required to carry.
Another way a high EMR can cost construction companies is through lost work. Equipment World reported that construction companies working on some large private projects or for government agencies are required to have an EMR no higher than 1.0. This requirement is based on the sometimes-incorrect belief that a higher EMR indicates a poor safety culture.