Document Detail

Title: SD-88 - Construction Safety Self-Assessment Process
Publication Date: 3/1/1993
Product Type: Source Document
Status: Tool
Pages: 106
Liska, Clemson Univ.
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The construction industry in the United States accounts for approximately 10% of the GNP with an annual dollar volume of about $450 billion. Five percent of the nation’s workforce is employed in the construction industry and yet that 5 percent experiences a disproportionate 20 percent of all traumatic occupational fatalities and 12 percent of the total number of disabling injuries. This corresponds to 6 to 10 fatalities on construction sites every working day throughout the United States.

Studies indicate that between 1980 and 1987, workers’ compensation insurance costs in the United States doubled. The upward trend continued in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and in 1991 it is projected that the workers’ compensation insurance premiums will increase from 5 to 30 percent, depending on the state. Construction contractors, depending on their Experience Modification Rates, are paying 10 to 20 percent of their direct labor cost for workers’ compensation premiums and this amount usually exceeds their profit margin. The same study also indicates that it is not uncommon for contractors with poor safety performance to pay twice the premium costs as compared to those who have good safety records. The study further states that in 1979, $300 billion worth of construction was performed of which industrial, utility, and commercial sectors accounted for $137 billion. Accident costs were a significant 6.5 percent of the $137 billion or $8.9 billion. At the same time the cost of workers’ compensation insurance was $2.74 billion.

By 1989, the industrial, utility, and commercial segment of the construction industry accounted for $245 billion of a $445 billion dollar industry. The accident costs, driven by increases in medical costs, litigation, and ballooning insurance costs, rose to 17.1 billion dollars per year, and the annual cost of workers’ compensation insurance to the industry reached $5.26 billion. Coupled with these direct costs are indirect costs which must also be considered. Estimates of the ratio between indirect and direct costs vary from about 1:1 to 20:1. The ratio varies greatly with the magnitude of the accident and is not necessarily linked to the severity of the injury.

Safety performance and its improvement on construction sites has received a great deal of attention since the implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Research has shown that development and implementation of effective safety programs reduces accidents. Project safety is an issue which is supported by everyone in concept. Unfortunately, when it comes to spending time and money on safety, many people do not feel it is vital to the success of their projects. This stems from the failure of many to recognize that the effective implementation of project safety techniques can reduce job accidents and directly or indirectly reduce project costs.

Those contractors who would benefit most from an effective safety program are those having annual business volumes of less than $25 million. A study performed by Fetridge (1991) noted that these size contractors experience the majority of accidents. Furthermore, most of these smaller contractors do not have effective safety programs, and in many cases none at all (Hinze, Harrison, 1981).

There are four factors—financial pressure, regulatory and legislative pressure, media and goodwill—that motivate management to develop and implement an effective safety program (Geyer, 1991). While regulatory pressures inspire some to launch effective safety programs, most companies respond by the promise of the financial rewards. It is essential that contractors and owners devote resources for the development and implementation of techniques with the goal of attaining a zero accident project. Better project safety performance is usually accompanied by improvements in quality and production and this should be sufficient to convince contractors and owners of project safety’s bottom line potential.

Purpose of the Construction Safety Self-Assessment Process

An effective safety program is comprised of many techniques. Some of these are required by law, such as OSHA regulations, and others are voluntary. Research performed for the Construction Industry Institute Zero Accident Taskforce has identified 170 safety techniques and sub-techniques which, if implemented in a quality manner, will positively impact safety performance.

The purpose of the construction safety self-assessment process described in this document is to provide management with a simplistic decision support model to improve project safety performance. The self-assessment process will provide owners and contractors with proven techniques of achieving a “zero-accident” level on construction projects as opposed to trying to sift through a vast amount of opinion and published materials and attempt to make improvements on a trial and error basis. For any one specific project, the assessment process as described in Chapter Two will indicate the degree of existence (significant versus minimal) of each of the safety techniques identified by the CII-sponsored research as making a difference. This will help management in identifying the weak areas of project safety performance and consequently, to take the necessary actions to make needed improvements.