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Speed Versus Safety In The Workplace

Craig McClellan

There are many areas of life where people choose to ignore proper safety precautions. In the workplace, however, what appears to be an unsafe choice that leads to an accident may actually be a complicated issue. One of the most common accidents that cause injury or death among construction workers is a fall from heights. Falls continue to be a major problem despite what the American Society of Safety Engineers calls, "many good options for conventional fall protection." Researchers from that group are attempting to identify why workers are not being protected by available safety systems.

The severity of the problem cannot be denied. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls caused 64 percent of the fatalities among residential construction workers and 100 percent of the deaths among framing contractors in 2011. When the ASSE performed safety audits at residential work sites, it found that only 59 percent of the sites were complying with the expected fall protection and/or prevention protocols. The availability of protection is not stopping workers from being injured or dying in falls.

The ASSE surveyed groups within the industry and found several explanations for why the safety practices were not being incorporated. The number one concern was the impact of the safety measures on worker productivity. The residential construction industry has experienced significant economic challenges in recent years. Workers and the companies who employ them are under tremendous pressure to complete work efficiently and quickly. Safety may become a secondary concern when you believe your employment is on the line.

More clearly needs to be done to protect construction workers from the risk of falls. Injuries and deaths are far too numerous, given the availability of protective devices that could prevent them.

Source: Risk & Insurance, " ASSE: Productivity concerns deter use of protective devices," by Nancy Grover, 9 September 2013