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Workplace Safety Still Elusive Despite Improvements on Construction Sites

Despite the best efforts of businesses and labor unions, construction work is still a very dangerous occupation. There are, on average, two fatalities each day on construction sites across the United States. The cost to the economy of construction accidents is staggering.

In 2011, there were more than 119,000 injuries and more than 700 deaths on construction sites. The average cost of an injury is around $27,000; the cost of a fatality averages around $4.4 million. And these numbers do not reflect the cost of an injury or death to the families, friends and co-workers of the victims.

There have been improvements over the years in safety equipment used by construction workers. However, most safety equipment is passive - keeping workers safer by making them more visible to others. The real change will only come when the stakeholders no longer accept construction accidents as one more cost of doing business.

The good news is that attitudes are beginning to shift. Large jobs, including many in New York City, require highly credentialed worksite safety officers for a bidder to win a contract. New technology is being developed that provides warnings about collapses, falls, and design weaknesses.

The bad news is this is not being implemented fast enough, especially on smaller, non-union jobs. Workers continue to die and suffer catastrophic injuries because of inadequate safety provisions that violate state and federal regulations.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "Is passive passé?" Mar. 1, 2014.

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