As a core value of business, both in construction and other industries, most will rank safety as a top priority. In construction, many top contractors have accepted and implemented safety oriented cultures and programs to promote going home in the same way they came to work. STAC Enterprises is producing this report because we too believe safety should be a top priority for every business. By partnership in every safety culture, whether it be an industry association or individual companies, we look to set and improve the standard on safety accountability. In this report, information from the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will be displayed and discussed to allow other contractors to use as a baseline to benchmark against. By making this information readily available and palatable on a local level, we can start the conversation to assist companies in a benchmarking process and improve awareness in the local area.
Beginning on a national level, the report will then focus primarily on the Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana “Tri-State” area. We want this report to be a conversation starter while encouraging our local industry associations to start benchmarking with one another and begin sharing as an industry how we bring these numbers down in the local area. As the information provided from the 2016 and previous years releases is primarily lagging indicators, the complete picture cannot be grasped without the help of additional contractor input. In future releases, the goal is to also obtain and reveal best practices from local contractors for other industry partners to emulate. Through collaboration and technology we can improve our local area by improving business practices and improving people’s lives.
Nonfatal Information: In the latest Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, the private industry sector had an all-time low in the number of reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. Companies in 2016 reported nearly 48,500 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2016 than the previous year. This decline has been a continued pattern for over a decade. The construction industry also experienced an all-time reported low in incident rates per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. Below in Chart 1 the overall private industry is compared with construction and manufacturing over the last decade.
Although the total number of reported incidents were lower, the number of more serious occupational injuries and illness was slightly higher as the days away from work was essentially unchanged from 2015. In regards to construction, there were roughly 1,200 fewer reported occupational injuries, although the number of incidents with days away from work, job transfer, or restriction increased by roughly 3,000 from 2015 as seen in Table 1. The overall incident rates for both characteristics of incidents, days away from work, job transfer, or restriction and other recordable cases are both down for the year 0.1 and 0.2 respectively.
The question comes to mind, have we really gotten better, or just better at reporting? General contractors in an effort to reduce incident rates and improve response time are putting EMS professionals on site, which provides better first aid care to the individuals, yet essentially removes the smaller first aid reporting which would sometimes show on a OSHA Log. Likewise, employers have begun to seek more knowledgeable healthcare facilities which would choose to use first aid measures that are not recordable versus those which would have traditionally used stitches, or prescribed some type of medication or ointment. Does this explain the full picture or is there more for the story to tell? Seen as forward progress due to the lower incident rate, one would believe that the overall industry would be getting much safer although the next set of statistics may point in the opposing direction.
With an industry in need of skilled workers, those that would traditionally retire have continued to stay and work while the industry continues to recruit. Unfortunately, 2016 reported an increase in fatalities of construction workers over the age of 55. Vehicular accidents also increased by 39% for the construction industry meaning workers are increasingly being impacted on their commute to projects. This information may have also been the reason first line supervisors had the highest fatality count since 2003.
The fatal four; falls, struck by, caught in between and electrocution once again claimed the most lives in 2016 for construction with nearly 2/3 of all fatalities. Occupations such as roofers and structural steel ironworkers experienced death counts of 101 and 16 respectively, both the highest counts since 2003 for each occupation. Lastly an increase in workplace violence contributed to such historically high rates in this decade.
Although the fatality rates have remained the same for the industry as a whole, the loss of nearly 1,000 construction workers in a year is unacceptable and must be decreased. What can we do to decrease these numbers? Is it training and education, is it better equipment or tools, or is it culture that needs improved? Reports from Dodge Data and Analytics, as well as the Associated Builders and Contractors indicate that a strong safety program lead by upper management and shown by example have a strong correlation with reduced injuries and incident rates for contractors. Has your organization truly adopted the practices in which they claim to take to heart or is it another box to check for an owner, general contractor or compliance agency? How is this attitude locally?
Tri-State Outlook (Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana)
Employment Information: The common theme of the Tri-State area is simple – as an industry we can’t find enough people to do more work. Seems like everyone is busier than a one armed wallpaper hanger. This information is reflected in the most recent employment and unemployment rates for the Cincinnati Area. Currently the construction industry employment in the Tri-State region is near the highs of 2008 at the beginning of the Great Recession shown in Chart 2. Employment for the construction industry has been on a steady climb from its lowest depression in 2010. This information also closely corresponds with the regional unemployment rate below the national average and the regional statewide averages. As seen in Chart 3, the Cincinnati Area unemployment rate dropped 5% or 0.2 from November 2016 to November 2017, less than the national average of 11%. With such an increase in work and employment, is the safety related information keeping in line with national standards?
Safety Statistics: The three states, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, within the tri-state region, all are at or below the national average for construction when it comes to total recordable cases (TRIR). The OSHA Recordable Incident Rate (or Incident Rate) is calculated by multiplying the number of recordable cases by 200,000, and then dividing that number by the number of labor hours at the company. Ohio, with the worst of the three states, matches the national average of 3.2. Kentucky, then Indiana come next in line with 2.9 and 2.8 respectively. Indiana also has the best average for specialty trade contractors at 2.9 which is below the national average of 3.5
Shown in the Reference Table below, one can see most of the individual trades or other sub-sectors of the industry are not reported on a state by state basis. Ohio though, has the best in the tri-state for highway construction and finishing contractors with rates of 1.9 and 1.4 which are well below the national average of 3.5 in both of those selected industries. Local contractors and industry association safety initiatives may be assisting the efforts to reduce overall incidents and safety indicators on local projects. Service in your local area, transparency between contractors, accountability within your organization and collaboration with local and regional trade associations is key for a strong safety culture. Take these statistics to heart and promote safe work practices today. As an industry we must remove our incidents, fatalities and the mindset that safety is not a top priority!