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Beware of Hiring Construction Workers

January 8, 2014

I had a Safety director of a medium sized manufacturing plant tell me he was having a difficult time hiring new quality employees.  He mentioned that he requested that his HR department “screen out” construction workers as possible candidates.  His experience was that people that work in construction were more prone to short cuts, leading to injury. 186428091

I decided to do a little research to find out if there was any merit to his hypothesis.  I checked with the 2012 BLS stat sheets that are available on the website (www.bls.gov).  The first thing I looked for was incidence rates between all manufacturing and all construction.  It was a bit surprising to note that manufacturing came in at 4.3, while construction was at 3.7?  Was my client’s theory dead in the water?  Well I went one step further and checked out the fatality rates for the same two industries.  Manufacturing was at 2.1, and construction was at 9.5. 

With this information a claim could be made that you are less likely to get injured during construction work, but when you do, it is more likely to kill you.  Does this then prove or disprove my client’s notion? I will let you ponder that while I pose another scenario using the same types of statistical data.

A different client of mine mentioned, “Industries would be a lot safer if OSHA had more of a presence”.  In fact OSHA has a blog entry on their home page by Dr. David Michaels indicating that random inspections improve workplace safety (click here for the article). I will let you read the article and ponder the findings.

After reading the article I wondered if the same numbers I looked up earlier comparing manufacturing and construction could be compared against an Industry where federal inspectors are present each year.  I chose to look at the mining industry (excluding coal).  After all, the activities and equipment would be similar to both industries.  Note that MSHA inspectors are to inspect each surface location two times a year and each underground location four times a year.  Compare that to the many companies that have never even seen an OSHA inspector.  Remember the incident rates for manufacturing (4.3) and construction (3.7) mentioned above?  Mining came in at 2.1.  There you have it, clear cut evidence that with constant inspections and enforcement, we will achieve the safest environments.  Whoops, I almost forgot to mention the fatality rates for mining. With such a low incident rate they must be rather low. Or could it be like the construction numbers, where the injuries are low, but when they happen, they are more likely to be fatal.  Well unfortunately for our “more enforcement” theory, the fatality rate for mining in 2012 came in at 15.1. 

I personally believe that the individual is the deciding factor.  Each person’s SafetyDNA will dictate whether they are prone to shortcuts, lack awareness, loss of control, or are less likely to exhibit caution.  I do believe that there are less documented processes and procedures in the construction and mining fields in general, as well as a higher level of potentially dangerous situations because of the nature of the work being performed. But I also believe that if you have the right people in place, that your company will be one of the many companies that will fall well below their industries average rates. Of course this is my personal opinion.  Feel free you share yours below.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Terry Weston, CSP, CMSP who is a workplace safety consultant for South Central College.  He has developed and delivered countless training sessions in the areas of OSHA and MSHA.  He also presents at national conferences across the nation in the areas of training materials, delivery, and retention.

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