According to the most recent data from OSHA, construction continues its poor streak as the most dangerous industry in the United States, accounting for one in five workplace deaths. The top ten causes of workplace deaths contain three that are specific to construction: Ladders (#6), Scaffolding (#3), and Fall Protection (#1). Fatalities from construction falls have been in the number one place on the list for nine straight years. Additionally, construction fatalities increased by six percent in the last year.
Greg Sizemore, vice president of health, safety environment, and workforce development at Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), says that the industry needs to remember OSHA standards are "not to be considered as the highball in safety performance, but the bare minimum."
Sizemore says that maintaining OSHA guidelines is a responsibility that needs to come from top leadership. "[Employees] will see and recognize whether that leader is walking the walk and talking the talk. So, as a CEO, when you go out to a job site, are you wearing the same PPE that you require your employees to wear? Or are you still in your loafers and your khakis and your Ray-Bans, as opposed to steel-toed boots, a hard hat, and safety glasses?"
ABC also says that there needs to be testing and certification on OSHA standards, not just mandatory training. Often, training meetings are either not engaging enough to get through to workers or ineffective at teaching the skill. When discussing these aspects of training, Sizemore said, "The thought of someone simply being chained to a desk or staring at a monitor for 30 minutes on a particular topic, and that information being something that they will immediately take onto the job, is fairy dust."
Finally, he cited a report from 2019, the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation, which showed that wearables could make a big difference in the death rate. A random sampling of 251 cases reveals that wearable devices could have prevented 29 percent of fatalities.
ABC has been rolling out a program called: Total Human Health. The program intends to monitor all aspects of construction workers' health, including onsite activity, hazards, and mental health.
"Taking control of Total Human Health is a primary goal of ABC," Sizemore said. "We want every worker to return home safely at the end of the day."
Some call attention to existing OSHA standards as an effective way to reduce construction worksite injuries and fatalities. The standards exist; adherence to them can help send construction workers home safely after each working day.