Construction Safety: Employer’s Responsibility Requires Adaptive Thinking

Construction Safety

Paul D. Ferreira, C.M., Construction Accident Expert

Construction has long been one of the most dangerous occupations. For the year 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded an average of over 21 deaths per week in the United States. The majority of these fatalities can be broken down into four categories that OSHA calls the “Construction Focus Four.” One such category, “Struck by” incidents, accounts for a significant percentage of all fatal injuries. Sadly, the vast majority of these deaths are avoidable.

Comprehensive worker training, both on and off the jobsite, is essential in preventing construction-related accidents. Although a greater, general awareness towards safety is increasing, the overall commitment to employee training varies dramatically from company to company. In our experience, larger, well-funded construction companies tend to lead with established, structured safety training programs. In contrast, many smaller contractors have limited to no safety training programs in place.

Notwithstanding training, it is an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace. A key component of the employer’s responsibility is to examine workplace conditions and to identify serious hazards. Construction sites are dynamic in nature, with ever-evolving risks that challenge conventional safety training.

Example: On a recent “Struck by” case, a worker was walking in front of and along with a moving piece of heavy equipment in order to attempt to control the movement of the elevated load that was being transported. At a point during the movement, one of the tires struck the worker from behind and ran over a portion of his body, resulting in a serious injury. In this case, we proposed that alternative approaches would have completely eliminated the risk and prevented the accident. The worker could have walked backwards facing the machine, and/or the machine could have been operated in reverse. Overall, we argue that an employer’s responsibility to examine workplace conditions is a continuous responsibility that cannot be satisfied solely by traditional safety training. Effective employer safety training requires constant vigilance and adaptive thinking in order for employers to properly mitigate hazards to the workers.

Construction Safety | Paul D. Ferreira

 

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