The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 20, 2015

Record low for construction deaths, injury trend down, too

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING – Historically low construction industry fatality rates continued in Michigan in 2014, with MIOSHA's Construction Safety Division recording an all-time low of seven program-related on-the-job deaths. The previous record low was nine in 2012, and 12 construction workers died on the job in 2013.

On-the-job injury incidence rates in the construction industry have also been trending downward in Michigan. Numbers that measure illness and injury on the job - DART (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) per 100 Michigan construction workers stood at 1.9 in 2013 (2014's numbers won't be compiled until later this year), dropping from 2.7 in 2012. As recently as 2001, the statewide DART number was 4.8.

And, Total Recordable Cases for construction injury incidents stood at 3.5 per 100 employees in 2013, down from 5.0 in 2012 and way down from the 8.9 rate in 2001.

“MIOSHA’s Construction Safety and Health Division is committed to preventing death, injury and disease through eliminating or reducing construction worker exposure to safety hazards, both physical and chemical,” said Mike Mason, acting director of the MIOSHA Construction Safety and Health Division. “The agency offers a number of services to ensure compliance, build cooperative partnerships, and create a culture of safety and awareness within the construction industry.”

MIOSHA points to several initiatives and focus areas that have helped bring the injury and fatality rates down in recent years:

*The agency's Strategic Plan focuses attention and resources on the most prevalent types of workplace injuries and illnesses. The agency aims to achieve this decrease by focusing on the four leading causes of fatalities: falls, electrocutions, struck-by, and crushed-by/caught-between.

*The Partnerships for Worker Safety and Health are programs in which the agency enters into cooperative relationships with an individual employer, employees, and/or their representatives. These partnerships have resulted in significant reductions in workplace deaths, injuries, and illnesses. There are currently 10 active construction partnership projects.

*With nearly one-third of construction fatalities taking place among homebuilders, and with that sector growing again, MIOSHA and the Home Builders Association have undertaken a "Residential Construction Initiative" "to assist employers in protecting their workers from the most common hazards associated with residential construction."  The year-long initiative began on May 15, 2014 and will run through May 15, 2015.

Enforcement will focus resources on inspections of single and multi-family home construction.  Inspections will focus on the “Residential Top 5” serious hazard categories commonly associated with residential construction. There have been 212 safety inspections conducted since May 15, 2014.

*The Construction Safety and Health Division of MIOSHA had an overtime initiative from June 1 – September 30, 2014.  Thirteen field staff participated, and the purpose was to provide a greater field presence during nontraditional work hours.  Safety field staff concentrated on road/bridge/right-of-way projects, blight removal projects, and residential and commercial projects.  Many of the road projects occur more frequently at night and on weekends to minimize disruption of traffic flow.  Health field staff concentrated their inspections on specific work operations that create the greatest exposure to health hazards, e.g., silica, lead, noise, concrete cutting, bridge painting, and loud machinery and equipment, at the project sites described above.  

It was a fruitful effort.  A total of 69 inspections were made, resulting in the recording of 82 serious violations.