Safety is fundamental to the success of construction projects and construction firms as a whole. What does it take to make a project safe? It requires regular training, relevant safety programs, and a cultural commitment to safety at both organizational and individual levels.
As jobsites grow more complex, risks only increase. At the same time, firms and employees are feeling the push to be more productive and efficient. There’s a widespread myth that safety and productivity are mutually exclusive. In reality, the firms with the greatest commitment to safety are also the ones with most sustainable success.
In light of that, we’re celebrating Construction Safety Week with 5 eye-opening stats about jobsite safety and insights to help you improve the effectiveness and quality of your safety programs.
1: Safety Training Can Increase Profitability
The first surprising statistic reveals a significant gap in the industry. On average, construction companies spend 3.6% of their budgets on injuries, but only 2.6% on safety training. Construction firms are paying more for poor safety practices than they are for training to prevent these costly practices.
Safety training makes sense not only for taking care of your employees but also for protecting your bottom line. In fact, investing in safety can increase your profitability by more than the costs of training. The Construction Safety Association of Ontario found that when firms invest just 2.5% of project costs into safety training and procedures, profits increase by 4 to 7% per project and accident rates decrease. Compare the cost of safety program accounts at 2.5% and workplace injuries at 6 to 9% of project costs and the numbers for safety training are much more favorable.
Poor training or lack thereof puts individual employees, teams, and the organization as a whole at risk. While the saying “accidents happen” is true, there is plenty that firms can do to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place. Employees need training during the on-boarding process and on a regular basis to protect themselves and others. Doing regular trainings also helps to maintain compliance while increasing jobsite safety as a whole.
2: Construction Employees Feel Safety Takes a Backseat to Productivity
On the whole, construction workers feel that companies prioritize productivity over safety. According to EHS Today, 67% believe standards for productivity are higher than those of safety. The National Safety Council (NSC) found that 51% also believe management only does the minimum to keep employees safe; another 47% are afraid to report safety issues.
These statistics are particularly interesting when compared with other industries. The NSC looked at 14 other industries; 36% of employees in these industries believe their employers prioritize productivity over safety.
Overall, construction employees feel like getting the job done is more important than their well-being. Productivity should never supersede safety. As NSC puts it, “Injury should never be a cost of doing business.” After all, employees are the firm’s greatest asset. Firms can efficiently prioritize safety programs to improve productivity without putting employees at risk.
But prioritizing employees’ physical safety is just one part of the story. Firms need to also strive to take care of employees psychological safety and mental health, especially as COVID-19 has added new pressures. “I’ve seen that COVID-19 has had an impact on mental health and the increase in complacency due to the added stress,” said Jarrod Tomassi, Safety Director for Mortenson. As more teams come back onsite, engagement programs and career development opportunities will be critical to supporting employees holistically. “My perception is, people want to get back to normal life. We need to help engage team members to return with a sense of focus and drive.”
3: Contractors Are Tracking Safety Performance but Not Across the Board
To prioritize safety while increasing productivity, many firms are turning to software. Analytics can help to uncover insights on how well practices are being implemented and highlight opportunities for improvement. Yet usage hasn’t been fully adopted; 69% of contractors report using software to track safety performance some of the time, but only 37% are using it on all their projects.
Standardization is key to improving safety performance and data. For instance, general contracting firm Chandos sought to increase quality and safety on their complex projects located everywhere from nuclear research facilities to geothermal energy systems. The Alberta, Canada-based company previously used paper-based systems to monitor quality and safety. However, they found that it created issues with data loss as well as general inefficiencies.
Chandos decided to take a comprehensive approach to project data management, tracking, and analysis, leveraging BIM 360 as its centralized platform. The platform served as a common data environment for reporting safety incidents, site issues, and non-conformance reports. The real-time nature of the data was critical for project stakeholders who needed quick and easy access to project status. Its intuitive interface and accessibility reduced overall reporting time by 30%.
The Chandos superintendent and safety team members created a standardized checklist to track site and safety issues. Through the checklist, the team was able to pinpoint the root causes of issues and create action plans to address them. The artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithm built into BIM 360 also allow the team to perform risk analysis of projects and apply those insights to future projects.
4: Trade Contractors Lag Behind on Software Adoption for Safety Management
Usage of software to manage safety and inspections is lower among trade contractors, with only 19% tracking this information on at least half of their projects. This stat reveals a real concern for the industry. By the nature of their role, trade contractors are among the most likely to get injured because they execute the work in the field.
Most general and trade contractors believe in the value of using safety and inspection software during construction to improve the process. Adoption trails behind due to the skilled labor shortage in the industry. Many contractors simply don’t have the resources to launch and manage related processes.
Instead of focusing on manual, time-consuming safety processes, firms should look to tools that prioritize efficiency, use automation, and deliver accessibility. Cloud-based software has grown in popularity for improving safety for contractors of all kinds. This tool captures information in real time, improves documentation, and prevents data loss as well as silos. The information captured provides a comprehensive look at the current state of the project and ways to improve on-site safety.
5: The Controlled Environments of Offsite Construction Increase Site Safety
Industrialized construction brings safety benefits, with 34% of firms that are currently using prefabrication and/or modularization seeing site safety improve as a result. Prefabrication allows firms to build in a controlled environment. This method is based on manufacturing processes, and components are later moved to the jobsite for assembly. Modularization is similar in that structures are built in a controlled factory setting and then assembled at the jobsite.
These innovative construction strategies present major opportunities to enhance safety standards. Unlike the often chaotic environments of jobsites, prefabrication and modularization settings are controlled with a better flow and less clutter. While jobsites are laid out in response to external conditions, these settings can be engineered to present a cleaner, more streamlined environment. There are also fewer individuals working in these environments at a time which minimizes the risk of safety incidents.
Prefabrication and modularization settings also address the worst of the Fatal Four Hazards: falls. Falls are the number one killer of construction workers and the most frequently cited OSHA standard violation. In prefabrication and modularization environments, more work is done on the ground level. This helps to reduce reliance on scaffolding and work done at heights, which also presents risk for being injured by falling objects and electrocution.
The controlled nature of these environments also extends to planning. With off-site construction, firms can implement safer installation practices and schedules to avoid trade stacking and crowded work environments.
Get More Insights into Enhancing Construction Safety
While they shed light on gaps and issues within the industry, these 5 statistics also highlight the potential to make construction sites safer and more efficient environments for everyone. We gathered even more insights about construction risks and opportunities for the near future in our 2021 Construction Outlook Report. Download it now to see what’s on the horizon for construction health and safety.