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Contractors are Increasingly Implementing Safety and Health Plans

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert | Nov 29, 2023
construction workers meeting
Construction contractors are making progress in addressing worker safety, according to Dodge Construction Network’s Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2023 SmartMarket Report, released in October 2023.

Construction contractors are making progress in addressing worker safety, according to Dodge Construction Network’s Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2023 SmartMarket Report, released in October 2023.

Dodge, in conjunction with the Center for Construction Research and Training, surveyed 298 construction companies about their safety management practices across a variety of topics.

More than half of respondents (52%) said they wanted additional training on worker well-being, including suicide, mental health and opioid use.

The second most-cited topic at 34% was lifting or ergonomic safety. According to Dodge, this is noteworthy because the other topics cited less are “well-known hazards that still plague the industry.”

Larger companies (100 or more employees) are more likely to offer programs for substance abuse or mental health than smaller companies. While 80% of large companies offer such programs, only 29% of smaller companies (fewer than 20 employees) do. Large contractors are also more likely than smaller ones to offer substance abuse peer networks.

Nearly all large companies (89%) offer anti-harassment training. They also more frequently offer it on a regular cadence rather than only when it is needed than do small or midsize companies: 13% offer it only when needed versus 32% of midsize companies and 26% of small ones.

“Making sure that harassment is not a part of the culture on the site can be a critical way to ensure the mental health and well-being of all employees,” the report’s authors wrote.

Working in extreme heat poses a risk to construction workers. According to the report, 52% of responding contractors report making company changes in the last three years to prevent heat-related illnesses on the job site. Sixty-six percent of companies implemented a heat-safety policy.

More than 70% of contractors report that creating a health and safety plan before construction begins leads to increased worker engagement with safety and reduced recordable injury rates. However, just over a third of the respondents say that health and safety directors are involved in their company’s preconstruction planning process. 

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Most companies (85%) provide a range of personal protective equipment (PPE) options to their workers, though the adoption is not even across the industry. Large companies are much more likely to provide PPE designed for women or others who are smaller or larger than the average American male, but 63% of construction companies that have less than 20 employees do so. Providing PPE that fits is also far more common among companies that employ only union workers (94%) than those who only employ nonunion workers (76%).
  • Nearly one in five contractors surveyed say they had a heat-related illness or injury at their company in the last three years. More than half of all the respondents say that changes to work practices have been made to prevent such injuries¾more large contractors than small and midsized ones; more union shops than nonunion shops (62% versus 35%); and more specialty trade contractors (55%) have made these changes than general contractors (48%).

About The Author

KUEHNER-HEBERT is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience. Reach her at [email protected].  

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