In the wake of a number of construction accidents in the U.S. over the weekend, experts are asking, "how can construction accidents be prevented?"
Nearly 5,000 construction workers are killed on the job in the United States each year, or about 12 people per day. For an industry that's seen little reform in recent decades, fixing the problem seems to a complex situation.
A bridge collapse in Corona, California over the weekend left nine workers injured, with three of those construction workers suffering critical injuries. According to the Press Enterprise, the construction accident occurred around 11 p.m. on Friday. A new section of highway was being lowered when it suddenly dropped more than a foot, injuring the construction workers who were underneath.
By comparison to other fatal construction accidents over the past year, the Corona accident was minor, yet still severe enough to question safety standards in the construction industry.
Riverside County Transportation Commission Executive Director Anne Mayer talked about the construction accident and announced a work halt when she said, "Any time there is a serious accident involving injuries on a construction site it is imperative to stop, re-examine and re-emphasize the overall safety procedures on the project."
Earlier last week, California was home to another construction accident when a San Jose construction worker was involved in the worst type of accident and lost his life when an excavator struck and killed him. Cal-OSHA is currently investigating the fatality, according to NBC Bay Area.
Construction accidents like this have become increasingly common. Earlier this year in Ohio, a bridge collapsed during a Southbound Interstate highway demolition project. The accident killed a foreman and injured an excavator operator. Demolition had been stopped once already because of concerns about some steel girders lifting off their bearings but work resumed soon thereafter, following some remedial measures. Then the accident happened and, inevitably, it became clear that the safety standards weren't up to par.
In an industry where safety should be a prime consideration, poor safety training could be the catalyst to the high number of construction accidents. According to an expert from the construction safety training company Safety Xperts, most construction accidents occur due to: falls, scaffold collapse, electric shock, trench collapse and impact.
Ultimately, the task of instilling better contractor education is the responsibility of contractors, unions, and employers. If there is a safety protocol that has been demonstrated to work then it falls on all three parties' shoulders to ensure the guidelines are shared, upheld and enforced.
Having protocol and the proper mindset in place is paramount to minimizing injury without holding up project completion. Most of the time workers make fatal or life changing mistakes when they rush their work, or enter the job frame of mind in a frustrated or agitated state. In addition, fatigue and competency are two other factors that can compromise a contractor's ability to work safely.
The question is, are companies looking for any symptoms of poor work ethic beforehand?
There is always going to be risk associated with the construction industry, but unions may have the potential to make the construction industry safer, because a centralized and experienced representative can more clearly vocalize and specify agreements with the employers regarding safety protocols, than hundreds of individual contractors can.
This also quickly becomes an issue of immigration, as many contractors are exploited because of their lack of documentation, and hired because of their lack of unionizing and lower bid prices.
The answer has to be in degree of compromise, with help from unions, since lower-end contractors who don't have the high reputation, are basically choosing unsafe work conditions over poverty—another statistic that is unfortunately recurring.
[Photo credits to: Yahoo.com, Wikispaces and Safety Xperts]