After two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic—and all the personal and business disruption that came as a result—and now the global tensions amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, safety is on the minds of most these days. For construction companies, this means safety on the jobsite and building safe structures—homes, buildings, and infrastructure—for those who occupy them.
First, let’s paint a picture of safety in workplace in the past to get a better idea of where we are now. Many of you might remember those infamous photos from construction on the Empire State Building, which started less than 100 years ago—on March 17, 1930. The photos depict a jobsite where workers don’t wear hard hats or any protective gear for that matter. Perhaps it won’t come as much of a surprise then that the amount of worker deaths was much larger in the past than they are today.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Admin.) says worker injuries and illnesses are down from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1970 to only 2.8 per 100 in 2019 across all industries. Worker deaths in America are down from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to only 15 a day in 2019. Still, that is 15 a day too many.
It seems many workers feel the same way. A study released earlier this month shows 40% of employees feel pressured to work unsafely to meet deadlines, 49% have witnessed unfair treatment of an injured worker, and 37% say their employer has concealed an incident from OSHA.
The State of Safety in High Hazard Environments by Foresight Group shows that as much as work has shifted toward remote or hybrid in the past two years—which is theoretically a safer working environment—core industries like construction, manufacturing, and agriculture still rely on work in the field. In these environments, even though employees often rate their employers’ and their own safety compliance as well, respondents indicated they would like better on-the-job safety training.
Perhaps there is an opportunity to also use technology to enhance safety programs more than before—74% of respondents indicated fewer safety-related incidents since their company’s safety program went digital and yet 62% of respondents still use paper to document safety activities.
There is, then, perhaps a largely untapped opportunity to use technology to create greater safety for all—on the jobsite and in our buildings and infrastructure. In the coming weeks, let’s explore some specific examples of how we might create a safer construction world, all with the help of technology.
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