In the construction industry, safety is not just a buzzword, and it’s not just a box to check to pass an inspection. At IEC, safety is a topic we take seriously.
And with good reason. OSHA reports that out of the 4,386 worker fatalities in 2014, 20 percent were in the construction industry. And more than half of these were as a result of what OSHA calls the “Fatal Four”: falls, electrocution, being struck, and being caught in or between a machine or object. While workplace injuries are never fun to think about, hundreds of lives could be saved every year if we all placed a little more focus on these main risk areas.
But a focus on safety is not just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business.
Ripple Effect of Workplace Accidents
The good news is that workplace injuries are slowly declining. Since 1970, OSHA reports that deaths on the work site are down from 38 per day to 13 in 2014, and injuries and illnesses have dropped from 10.9 for every 100 workers in 1972 to just 3.3 in 2014. Great progress, but we still have a lot of work to do.
While we rightfully focus on those accidents that result in a fatality, we shouldn’t neglect or minimize the impact of those that cause only minor injuries (or even no injury at all). One of the pioneers of workplace safety, H.W. Heinrich, developed a theory that these smaller accidents are warning signs of a larger accident yet to occur––that, in fact, for every 300 injury-free accidents, a total of 29 minor-injury accidents and one major-injury accident will also happen. And while some accidents are completely random, Heinrich believes these smaller incidents can expose the root cause of those that result in injuries.
As an employer, the safety of your people is paramount. But even minor accidents can add up to hefty costs to your bottom line. First, you have the expense of worker’s comp claims for the medical costs as well as payments while the employee can’t work. And don’t forget about those often overlooked expenses, like administrative time, a hike in insurance and worker’s comp rates, the extra money you’ll spend training another employee, potential fines, etc. The Independent Electrical Contractors recently weighed in on this topic:
“With each accident having associated loss of productivity and project profit, the impact of this formula on the construction industry is considerable … That alone can startle contractors into reviewing hazard awareness and existing safety procedures on their work sites.”
Depending on the severity of the accident and claim, you might also be looking at a hit to your reputation in the industry and your relationships with other contractors—which of course could limit the amount of future work you receive.
Approach Work with Safety in Mind
As dire as all of that may sound, you still have some control over workplace safety. One technique we rely on with every new job is a job hazard analysis—basically our way of identifying potential dangers with every task associated with a new project.
You can find some great step-by-step instructions online, but basically it involves breaking down each job task into steps, identifying every potential hazard for each step, reviewing those hazards with the employees actually performing the work, and then together coming up with ways to either reduce or eliminate the risk.
These JHAs are so valuable at identifying, communicating and eliminating hazards before we even begin a project. Travis Miller, IEC’s safety manager, develops a site-specific safety plan for each job and then reviews the hazards with our team. We also conduct a safety briefing so everyone’s on the same page and aware of potential hazards. We not only conduct these briefings at the beginning but also throughout the project.
While some may claim these types of exercises are not worth the time and paperwork, I would argue that they absolutely prevent accidents, increase productivity, and lower costs. Safety+Health encourages employers to include the whole team when conducting a JHA:
“Make sure to involve workers in the process because they perform the work and will often better understand the task’s hazards … The workers also can learn more about the hazards and appreciate why precautions are taken.”
IEC is Safety First
This constant and vigilant focus on reducing accidents and improving safety is always at the top of our list with any project. Not only do I want to protect my workers but I know safety also helps me keep the business strong—which allows us to keep delivering higher performance and higher standards, not only for our commercial clients around the Kansas City area but also our government and military clients across the country.
I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to keep workplace accidents below the national average, and we’re always on the lookout for ways we can continue to put safety first. After all, the future of our company depends on it!
A passionate advocate for workplace safety, Nilson Goes serves as the chief operations officer and general manager at IEC. How do you ensure safety on the job site? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or tweet them @IEC_KC.