First Word: Jobsite danger constant reality

The recent rash of crane collapses across the country has a lot of people thinking about construction site safety. In New York City, where two crane collapses in three months killed nine people, emergency meetings are being held and citizens are telling city council members they’re afraid to sit on their couches. When interviewed for ABC News’ “20/20” after the second NYC collapse, Donald Trump, owner of some of the world’s largest construction projects, said he’s nervous every time he steps onto a jobsite. “Construction is a very complex and dangerous business,” he said.

Setting aside the fact Trump probably isn’t the best source of crane safety information, he did make a good point. The reality is construction sites – big and small – have always been hazardous places. Construction regularly ranks as one of the deadliest occupations according to data the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases each August. In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, construction accounted for more fatalities – 1,226 of 5,703 work-related deaths – than any other industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists falls, trenching and excavation, electrical and struck-by incidents as hazards that commonly cause the most serious construction injuries (www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/construction).

Since spending every work day at a construction site can desensitize your employees to these dangers, safety experts say awareness is the most powerful tool for preventing accidents. Identifying the hazards at each jobsite before work begins and coming up with specific plans for mitigating the danger is imperative.

We at Equipment World feel it is our duty to help you shoulder the immense responsibility of providing a safe working environment for your employees. One of the ways we’re doing this is with our Safety Watch article, which became a regular monthly feature this year. Editor Marcia Gruver prefaces each article with a description of a real, equipment-related accident – illustrating how quickly a seemingly mundane situation can become tragic. She then explains how the accident could have been prevented. I encourage you to raise safety awareness among your employees by sharing these articles during safety talks and/or posting them on your company bulletin board.

One side of the tear-out article is printed in Spanish to help you better communicate with Hispanic employees. According to a study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month, one in three work-related deaths among the Hispanic population occurs in the construction industry. Researchers said language and literacy barriers often prevent workers from understanding risks and safety precautions.

Equipment World also has partnered with Infrastructure Resources, which produces the Common Ground Alliance Excavation Safety Conference & Expo and publishes the Excavation Safety Guide (www.excavationsafetyguide.com). The annual conference and guide provide a wealth of information on how to dig safely – a critical topic considering the fatality rate for excavation work is 112 percent higher than that for general construction, according to OSHA.

Construction won’t be leaving the most-dangerous-jobs list anytime soon. But by remaining vigilant, and making sure your employees do the same, you can have the peace of mind of knowing your company is a safe place to work.