Last week the state of Washington held its 7th annual Construction Safety Day. The event is sponsored by the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board and the state Department of Labor & Industries. The daylong event included workshops, exhibits and demonstrations with cranes, job site tools and job site equipment. The workshops included an owner/management track and a worker/foreman track and covered a number of safety topics including fall protection, working around electricity, crystalline silica hazards and drug and alcohol awareness.
This event got me asking why there wasn’t a National Construction Safety Day or better yet a whole week or month dedicated bringing awareness and emphasizing the importance of safety being a priority at the construction site each and every day. Think about it, we already have hundreds, if not thousands, of days, weeks and months dedicated to bringing awareness to all sorts of important issues, diseases and world problems. We have observations for everything from National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week in November to National Doughnut Day celebrated on the first Friday in June. That last one was actually started by the Salvation Army back in 1938 to honor the “Doughnut Lassies” who served the troops during World War I and not some marketing ploy thought up by a Krispy Kreme executive to sell more of their tasty wares.
Construction safety is definitely worthy of a week or month dedicated to safety awareness, training and education on a national level. Construction worker fatalities actually increased 9.2% from 738 deaths in 2011 to 806 deaths in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Construction safety is such an important issue that I was surprised OSHA or some of the major construction trade associations hadn’t created a National Construction Safety Day. I did learn that OSHA sponsors a number of regional and national safety stand-down events to raise awareness of various workplace hazards like the National Fall Prevention Stand-Down being held June 2-6, 2014.
During the course of my research, I also happened across a group on LinkedIn called Safety Week 2014 which led me to the website http://safetyweek2014.com/. Safety Week 2014 is a collaboration of 31 national and international construction and engineering firms from the Construction Industry Safety Initiative (CISI) and the Incident and Injury Free (IIF) Executive Forum to create the first US Industry Safety Week which runs May 4 – 10, 2014. These are big name corporations sponsoring Safety Week 2014 including Jacobs, Skanska, Gilbane, Lend Lease and Fluor. According to the Safety Week 2014 website, the aim is “to inspire everyone in the industry to be leaders in safety”. The website also features a discussion forum along with resources and ideas for conducting a safety week at your company like providing training and certification courses or inspecting hard hats and other personal protective equipment.
So it appears that for the first time we are getting a National Construction Safety Week. Maybe in the years to come these sponsoring corporations can get OSHA or state labor offices involved along with local chapters of trade associations like AGC or ABC to host events and workshops the way the state of Washington does. This way you could bring together individuals and companies from all aspects of the construction industry to share ideas about making the construction site a safer place for everyone. If your company isn’t already planning on celebrating Safety Week 2014 next week, there’s still plenty of time to put together some activities emphasize the importance of making safety the number one priority by everyone, every day at the construction site.