As long as we’ve had houses and other structures, we’ve had people who specialized in building them. Until the last 100 years or so, though, the idea of safety in the construction industry just didn’t exist.
How has construction industry safety improved over the years, and what advances are we still making to ensure workers are safe on the job?
A Brief History of Construction Safety
One hundred years ago, construction safety looked a lot different than it does today. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were no safety measures to prevent people from getting injured or even killed on the job. While employees had the option to sue their employer for damages, their chances of winning were slim to none because employers weren’t liable for these incidents.
The U.S. government didn’t establish the National Safety Council until 1913, and it wasn’t until 1921 that a majority of the states had some sort of Workers’ Compensation laws on the books. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that we so often cite as the construction safety “bible,” didn’t make its appearance until 1971.
Even with all the advances made over the past century, there were still 3.5 fatalities for every 100,000 workers in the sector in 2019.
Safety on the Modern Construction Site
Construction site safety is something the industry is constantly trying to improve, with varying levels of success. Despite this, one out of every five workplace fatalities happens in the construction industry, the highest across every sector. What can companies do to improve safety on their work sites?
A safe work site starts with comprehensive and continual safety training. Everyone should receive the same training, and that shouldn’t stop once a new hire has completed their onboarding. Visitors and anyone who doesn’t work for your company should either be barred from entering the job site, or should be accompanied by a trained employee at all times to prevent incidents.
In addition to training, employees also need the tools and equipment to do their job safely. This should include, but not be limited to, personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, safety goggles, ear protection, and gloves. All equipment and PPE needs to be maintained so it’s in good working order, and repaired or replaced as needed. Read 5 traits of the safest contractors.
Keep in mind that you will need different sizes of PPE for your various crew members. This is one part of life where one-size-fits-all just won’t cut it.
Construction safety has come a long way in the last 100 years, from a time when we had no safety rules whatsoever, to now, when we’ve got plenty of rules to keep us safe. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s been a series of strong steps in the right direction.
Author Bio: Rose Morrison is a freelance writer who covers construction and building design topics. She is also the managing editor for Renovated.
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