Photo from Unsplash
Originally Posted On: https://timesinternational.net/construction-industry-has-a-liability-problem/
The construction industry is one of the most dangerous in the world. Every year, thousands of workers injure themselves, and thousands more die on the job. Each death is a tragedy for both the individual and the family concerned.
Laws are improving. Things are getting better in most places. But construction still faces tremendous headwinds in the current regulatory environment. It remains an exceptionally dangerous occupation.
What’s Gone Wrong?
There are several reasons why construction is such a dangerous industry to work in. And, surprisingly, many firms still aren’t fully aware of the risks.
Take cancer, for instance. Construction is responsible for around 40 percent of occupational cancer deaths across all industries, even though it only employs around 3 percent of the population. Naturally, the biggest share goes to asbestos, but there are also risks from silica and diesel exhaust fumes.
Then there are hazardous substances. Chemicals, dust, and harmful mixtures in paints are also common in construction work. These processes emit various small particles into the atmosphere which lead to breathing problems and dermatitis. There appears to be virtually no way to conveniently protect against these risks, so they continue.
Then there are the physical health risks. We’re not just talking about slips, trips, and falls, but also general back and upper limb disorders from carrying heavy materials around.
Finally, we have noise and vibration-related disorders. While construction firms give workers plenty of protection in this area, many simply don’t use it on the job, or ear protection is ineffective.
What’s Causing This?
Things are going wrong in the construction sector for several reasons. The industry simply isn’t able to get a firm grip on the problem, mainly because of how it operates.
For instance, there is little to no appreciation of risks at the employee or management level. Most staff simply aren’t aware of the statistical risks that workers face. Or if they are, they believe that they are only something they need to worry about in the future.
Then there are the working arrangements in the sector. Many workers are either self-employed or frequently change employers. Some work away from home.
This fractured structure means that it is harder to police health and safety practices.
Then there is a lack of appreciation of the law. While there might be regulations on the books, many contractors and smaller firms simply aren’t aware of them or implementing them in practice. The construction site environment, mobile scaffolds, and regulations about toxic substance labeling simply aren’t being followed.
In the future, though, the general state of ignorance in the industry is likely to change. And at that point, firms are going to have to fall back on their insurance. It’s unlikely that the industry can continue in the way it is at present with so many health-related liabilities.
In fact, insurance companies will play a pivotal role in this. Their job will be to raise premiums on firms that don’t put basic safety measures in place. Ultimately, that will be the only incentive that works.