OSHA’s New Report: The Cost of Not Protecting Workers

OSHA reportOSHA has recently released a new report that has many long-term implications for the construction industry. While the report focuses largely on the macro-economic and social consequences of work-related hazards, construction companies with an eye on the long-term should take heed: According to the report, if safety costs start to tip the scale against new construction or even long-standing projects, financial opportunities will be lost.

Big Picture Trends

“Work injuries and illnesses impose heavy costs on workers, families and the economy.”

Trends in the labor market have created new burdens on construction companies, workers and the government programs that support them. “Trends include the increased presence of employees of multiple employers at the same worksite, the pervasive misclassification of wage employees as independent contractors and the widespread use of temporary workers.”

The report also asserts that workers injured on the job often bear the financial cost despite state-based workers compensation programs. While it is difficult to measure the exact numbers of these cases, the financial burden and the long-term social implications on many communities is pronounced. Because lower wage workers also disproportionately bear the burden of occupational injuries and illnesses, this has a negative a trickle-down effect on the economy.

Bottom-Line Benefits of Protecting Workers

The National Safety Council estimates the cost of fatal and non-fatal work injuries at $198 billion in 2012. These include direct costs: workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services as well as indirect costs: training replacement employees, accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

In McGraw Hill’s “2013 Safety Management in the Construction Industry SmartMarket Report,” 51% of firms reported increases in project ROI; with a fifth of those reporting increase of greater than 5% following the implementation of safety management practices.

An Even Stronger Case for Prevention

The most cost-effective solution to most of these disturbing trends, concludes OSHA and safety managers, is prevention. Although there has been much improvement protecting the health and safety of construction workers, there is room for improvement. Increasingly, the rewards of safety are far outpacing the costs of injury. Safety audits, full-time safety officers and on-going training are some of the important measures that yield results.

For more information, contact Diversified Safety Services.



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