Unlike most industries, safety in construction industry is extremely important as exposure to dangerous conditions are a part of everyday work in construction projects. Due to this, safety cannot be ignored if accidents and hazards are to be eliminated. The types of risks, major and minor, include working at heights, slipping and falling, material handling, collapsing materials, high power lines, etc. Accidents in construction sites can lead unplanned major expenses like medical expenses, litigation, equipment and component damage, penalties for missed deadlines, and lawsuits as well in some cases.
Over the few years, safety procedures have become an unavoidable expense in most construction projects. This was majorly due to realisation of high expenses associated with poor safety procedures. In some case studies, it has been proven that little to no safety procedures resulted in expenses much higher than the cost of prevention. The difference in expenses was mainly due to factors like hiring replacement staff and implementing corrective measures.
Construction Safety Costs Vs Accident Costs
It is true that many activities can be completed faster with less or without safety protocols, but the decision to ignore safety is neither ethical nor smart from a business point of view. Safety equipment in construction sites include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), safety helmets, protective footwear, ear muffs, safety goggles and gloves. Wearable technology like Exoskeleton is an excellent safety measure that minimized strain and injury while promoting efficiency, but they are expensive.
As mentioned above, implementing safety protocols and investing in safety equipment might seem expensive at first but when compared to the cost associated with accidents and risks, they are close to nothing. For better understanding take a look at the statistics below:
- According to OSHA, US companies pay over $1 billion per week for worker compensation. Considering the full impact of project site injuries and fatalities, the cost would be around $151 billion per year for the US economy.
- The US Bureau of labor Statistics reported 2.8 million work injuries and illness, and 5,147 fatalities in 2018 alone.
Many organizations all around the world conducted a study comparing prevention costs with accident costs and the following were the results:
- The US National Safety Council surveyed financial managers and more than 60% said that 1$ invested in safety measures saved $2 in accident consequences.
- The European Commission reached to a similar results stating that €1 invested in safety yields up to €2.18.
- The UK study found that £1 invested in safety yields £3 in accident prevention.
Seeing the figures from the above studies, we can say that little to nothing safety prevention is 200% to 300% more expensive than investing in safety measures.
Talking in terms of savings, the National Safety council estimated that each prevented injury or illness can save the employer $37,000 and each fatality prevented can save $1,390,000. Thus, protecting workers at risk prone sites is an ethical responsibility for companies.
Can Construction Technology Improve Safety?
Construction technology or Contech is promising field and is estimated to evolve into a multibillion dollar industry by 2030. Contech is known to improve a wide range of activities in construction sites, including accident prevention. Below are a few ways that construction technology is making project sites safer:
- Wearable tech can notify workers in an audio-visual way when they step into a high risk area. Considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, wearables can help enforce safety measures like social distancing, body temperature, etc.
- Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), can be used to perform site inspections, gather information, supervision and damage assessment. UAVs can also reach areas that are considered as risky or inaccessible for humans, and gather useful information.
- Exoskeletons can reduce strain and assist worker lift and use heavy tools for longer duration. Exoskeleton is showing promise in construction to improving safety and improving the efficiency or workers.
- Construction robots can be used for simple tasks that result in Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) in workers, and difficult task that require heavy lifting and higher precision.
Prevention has a much lower cost than accidents and their consequences, and emerging technologies can help safety managers do their job more efficiently.