Originally published in the San Diego Transcript on April 25, 2019
Every day, men and women in San Diego County put on their hard hats and protective gear to build millions of dollars of construction projects. Every day, they face risks working with heavy equipment in dangerous circumstances.
Every year, a handful of San Diego County residents join the list of more than 80,000workers suffering an injury on construction job sites across the U.S. Any construction professional will tell you even one incident is one too many.
Members of the Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego understand job site safety crosses competitive boundaries. Our members have joined forces as part of the Construction Industry Safety (CISI) Group to recognize Construction Industry Safety Week, running this year from May 6 through 10.
Due to the nature of construction work, including operating powerful machinery, physical exertion, or working on building frames at extreme heights, construction workers are involved in workplace activities exposing them to potentially serious accidents including falls, mechanical accidents, being struck or crushed by heavy equipment, or electrocution. Hazards also include exposure to dangerous substances such as asbestos and caustic chemicals. Recommended safety measures are absolutely imperative at every step for every worker.
As a construction industry professional, I assure you we all take safety measures and training seriously. We want everyone to go home safe from the worksite, every day. When someone is hurt or killed, families are impacted and these people are not only co-workers, but friends.
While we wholeheartedly support and applaud calling attention to safety issues during Safety Week, it takes more than one week out of the year to keep our construction professionals safe. It must be integrated and ingrained in everything we do, day in and day out.
Safety involves an attentive mindset. Our beginning apprentices and trainees focus on safety from the minute they begin their training program. They 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.
ABC's instructors emphasize prevention of the "Fatal Four" types of incidents that make up the majority of workplace accidents: falls, being caught in or in between hazards, being struck by something such as machinery, and electrocution.
In addition to craft-oriented safety measures, we educate our workers about hazards such as distracted driving, which can put individuals and their employers at huge risk of accidents. We work with the California Highway Patrol to present ongoing seminars to remind all of our members, even if their only driving involves commuting to and from the worksite.
But safety training is never finished. ABC's commitment to training extends to our ongoing advanced education for professionals, reinforcing and upgrading safety training on a continuous basis.
All San Diego County construction industry professionals are invited to participate in ABCSD's Continuing Education courses in various aspects of construction safety training. Find more information and and the latest list of available courses here. If you are an ABCSD member or member contractor employee, you may be eligible for tuition coverage.
ABC members can put themselves to the ultimate test by participating in the Safety Training and Evaluation Process (STEP). STEP is a safety self-audit and awards program for contractors. The program evaluates applications based on safety performance and the applicant's score on the "20 Key Components." Participants can earn either a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum status.
In addition, by participating in the STEP program, ABC member companies become eligible to apply for Accredited Quality Contractor status. STEP Platinum recipients are eligible to apply for the prestigious National Safety Excellence Award, presented annually at the Excellence in Construction Awards ceremony in Washington, DC.
ABC member companies that participate in the Safety Training and Evaluation Process (STEP) receive 70 percent fewer citations per inspection and have an overall fatality rate that is 59 percent lower than the national Bureau of Labor Statistics average for the construction industry. STEP participants have an incidence rate that is 41 percent lower than the national average for construction.
What's the outcome of all these efforts? 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.
The majority of construction accidents are preventable with training, but consistent training is a must.
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