San Diego Transcript: Safety first in the construction industry is good business

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Originally published in the San Diego Transcript

           

You’ve watched videos online showing people who fall into water fountains or smack into walls while glued to their phones. Everyone had a good laugh over this since the worst injury is to the victim’s pride.  

 

But falls in the construction industry are no laughing matter. Every year, more than 80,000 workers suffer an injury on construction job sites across the United States, including falls. San Diego County is not immune.

 

Accordinig to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 2018 report on most frequently cited safety violations, fall protetion is at the top of the list. Eight of the top ten were also on 2017’s list. 

 

Because of the nature of what they do on the job daily, construction workers are involved in workplace activities that expose them to potentially serious accidents if appropriate safety measures are not implemented.

 

When you run a contruction business like me and my fellow members of Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego, these statistics are not just numbers on a page. When someone is hurt or killed, these are people we know. No one takes safety more seriously than we do.

 

The question we all need to ask ourselves is this: What more can I do personally to ensure safe working conditions on our construction jobsites? How can I lower our safety statistics to the bare minumum, with a goal of zero lost work hours and zero injuries?

 

Based on my decades of experience, safety takes a commitment to continuous training. The majority of construction accidents are preventable with training, but consistent training is a must. Safety training is an approach, not a one-time solution.

 

Safety is integrated into training from the first day an apprentice shows up in class at our ABC Apprenticeship Training Academy in Poway. First-year apprentices and trainees spend a majority of their first semester of study learning a wide array of safety measures. This includes the safe use of tools, fall protection, proper rigging, the correct use of lifts and scaffolding and OSHA 10 certification.

 

Once apprentices become journeymen and women, their safety education continues through our Continuing Education program. https://www.abcsd.org/continuing-ed  It’s a benefit for members, but it is also available to non-members in the communiity including businesses outside the construction industry.

 

In addition to craft-oriented safety measures, ABC educates merit shop workers about hazards such as distracted driving, which can put individuals and their employers at huge risk of accidents. ABC San Diego has worked with the California Highway Patrol to present ongoing seminars to remind all of our members to stay alert and focused on their driving which should not include searching for a good place to stop and have lunch.

 

It takes a tremendous amount of work to put these programs together. ABC San Diego’s Safety Committee supports the ABC strategic goal to establish ABC’s members as the world-class standard for health, safety and working environment in the construction industry.

 

Currently led by chairman Patrick Sullivan of California Comfort Systems and vice chairman Eric Simmons of Helix Electric, the mission of the Safety Committee is to provide leadership and direction to ABC members on these vital issues. The Committee's goals are to save, protect and enhance the lives of workers and the community; to bring about a renewed commitment to safety and health in the construction industry; and to increase the productivity and competitiveness of our member companies. 

 

We encourage our members to get involved in this vital mission by joining the Safety Committee. Improving our safety record is good business and a completive advantage, in addition to being the right thing to do. When a company can reduce incidence rates and days away, it protects workers while saving personnel costs. By lowering the experience modification rate (EMR or “mod factor”), contractors can reduce their annual workers’ compensation insurance rates and share savings with clients.

 

The hard work and attention to safety is paying off. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent since 1970. At the same time, U.S. employment has doubled. 

 

We want everyone to go home safe from the worksite, every day. When someone is hurt or killed, the impact goes far beyond statistics. These people are not only our co-workers and employees, but family members and friends.

 

Les DenHerder is President and CEO of HPS Mechanical, Inc, and chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego board of directors. For more information visit www.abcsd.org

 

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Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA: 619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

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