Safety (Archived)

RT-013 Topic Summary
RT 013


RT-13 captures research published in 1991 by CII Safety Task Force 85-13 and includes two significant bodies of work:

  • Research that discusses the influence general contractors have on subcontractor safety performance. This work is supported by research presented for both small projects (average of $15-20 million) and large projects (average of $175-225 million).
  • Research that quantifies and reports the full cost of workplace injuries, taking into account both direct and indirect costs.

Key conclusions regarding managing subcontractor safety include: 

  • General contractor practices have a significant impact on the safety performance of subcontractors.
  • How general contractor practices impact their subcontractors differs between small and large projects.
  • By inference, owners can also have significant impacts on jobsite safety based on the types of factors found to influence safety at the contractor/subcontractor interface.
  • Providing a job environment that improves overall construction job safety will result in long term project profit increase.

Key conclusions regarding indirect costs of construction accidents include:

  • Indirect costs associated with construction worker injuries are, on average, considerably higher than the direct costs alone.
  • The “cost ratio” (indirect to direct cost) varies as a function of project size, with larger projects having larger cost ratio.
  • Cost reimbursable contracts were associated with larger cost ratios vs. fixed-price contract.
  • Cost ratios were NOT statistically different by construction craft type, nor by labor source (Merit or Union).

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Five Factors that Influence Subcontractor Safety

For small projects, five key factors under the general contractor’s control were found to significantly influence subcontractor safety: (RS13-1, p. 4)

  • Effective project management (well planned, good communications, on schedule)
  • Effective job coordination (between different entities on the job site, clear roles and responsibilities)
  • Managerial emphasis on job safety (communication: relative matters communicated to affected parties from top deck on down, clearly and consistently)
  • Strong interpersonal skills amongst supervisors
  • Safe work environment (enforce safety standard, good housekeeping/maintenance)
Reference: (RS13-1)

2 : Project Manager Influence on Subcontractor Safety

For large projects, two key factors under the general contractor’s control were found to significantly influence subcontractor safety: (RS13-1, p. 7)

  • Managerial emphasis on job safety (e.g., through communication, staffing, monitoring, safety meetings, enforcement of standards and regulations, incident investigation, and linkage to compensation bonuses)
  • Effective job coordination (i.e., between different entities on the job site)
Reference: (RS13-1)

3 : Indirect Costs

Excluding claims costs, the average ratio of indirect to direct costs (“cost ratio”) for construction site injuries—including medical treatment, restricted activity, and lost workday cases—ranges from 1.6 to 1.8. Including claims, the average cost ratio was broader, 4.2 to 20.3, with this higher average cost ratio being associated with more severe injury classifications. (SD-67, p. 2)
Reference: (SD-67)

4 : Implementation Tool #1

RS13-1, Guidelines for Managing Subcontractor Safety on Construction Projects

Contains generic safety program guidelines that Contractors can use both to shape their own activities in respect of subcontractor safety, and to include in subcontracts to shape safety program requirements for their subcontractors. Some of the topics covered include: (RS13-1, Appendix A)

  • For Contractors – selection of subcontractors; scope of work safety requirements; safety orientations; and safety performance recordkeeping and exchange
  • For Subcontractors – fundamental elements of a basic safety program that may need to be in place and provided as part of a bid response
  • Safety Program Guidelines for Contractors and Subcontractors – contains basic and generic informational recommendations and requirements of an effective safety program for either Contractors or Subcontractors. Some of the topics covered include: (RS13-1, Appendix B)
    • New employee orientation
    • Toolbox / safety meetings
    • Work Permits
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Project Emergency Plan
    • Inspections 
Reference: (RS13-1)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved safety

Research Publications

Indirect Costs of Construction Accidents - SD-67

Publication Date: 11/1991 Type: Source Document Pages: 24 Status: Archived Reference

Managing Subcontractor Safety - RS13-1

Publication Date: 02/1991 Type: Research Summary Pages: 34 Status: Archived Tool

Subcontractor Safety as Influenced by General Contractors on Large Projects - SD-39

Publication Date: 10/1988 Type: Source Document Pages: 173 Status: Archived Reference

Subcontractor Safety as Influenced by General Contractors on Small- and Medium-Sized Projects - SD-38

Publication Date: 10/1988 Type: Source Document Pages: 76 Status: Archived Reference