All business owners know there are costs associated with accidents and injuries. Considering the hazards associated with construction, contractors are in the unenviable position of evaluating injuries and deaths in the cold, calculating manner necessary to determine how much losses accrue from incidents.

Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group, released a report, “The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in Maryland’s Construction Industry,” that finds occupational injuries and fatalities in the construction industry cost $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010.

From 2008 to 2010, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents, of which 11,000 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in these years.
Public Citizen determined the costs of occupational injuries and fatalities with data in three categories: direct, indirect and quality of life costs.

“The economic picture we came up with is quite staggering,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We now know that construction accidents impose huge economic costs in addition to tremendous pain.”

Nationwide, other studies have found astronomical costs of on-the-job accidents. According to the 2010 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the direct cost of the most disabling workplace injuries in 2008 was $53.42 billion. The National Academy of Social Insurance estimates the annual workers’ compensation benefits paid for all compensable injuries and illnesses in 2009 was $58 billion.

Public Citizen suggests factoring safety records into construction contract awards. Apparently, Maryland already screens construction companies to ensure they meet standards on past performance, bonding capacity and legal proceedings, but the state excludes safety from its prequalification process.

“It’s the right thing to do and would position Maryland as a leader in occupational safety and health,” Wrightson said.

In an industry where promoting safety culture is a best practice, such a focus could highlight the safest contractors and help ensure everyone gets home safely at the end of each workday. Moreover, it could free up financial resources in the still-recovering economy.