MAKE NO MISTAKE: Working on a home building jobsite is a matter of life and death. Someone is killed on a home building job every other day of every workweek.
In fact, construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in America. Some 1,126 construction sector workers died on the job in 2003, including 128 in home building.
Casualties take a variety of forms. Forty-nine of the residential deaths, just over one-third, resulted from falls. Another 32 were from transportation incidents caused by accidents with vehicles such as backhoes, bulldozers, and highway equipment. Nine were electrocuted. And another four were caught in running equipment or machinery.
Behind all of these statistics are real people. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, or someone's best friend. They are the backbone of the home building juggernaut that has powered the economy the past few years. Something must be done to ensure their safety, and that is why OSHA is cracking down. The agency's plan is to reduce workplace fatalities by at least 15 percent by 2008. OSHA also hopes that by stepping up enforcement, it can reduce workplace injuries and illnesses by at least 20 percent. The agency takes these goals seriously, so expect tougher enforcement in the months ahead.
The goal of this report is to get the industry to face the cold facts, then provide a framework for moving forward. The home building companies that offer the safest work environments find the time and money to partner with OSHA on workplace safety, hire full-time safety specialists, and organize in-house safety committees that are serious about taking suggestions from rank-and-file workers. Make the choice to be one of those builders, because as Carla Merrell, co-owner of Laredo Construction in Sisters, Ore., cautions:
“I don't want to ever have to call any of my crew's wives and tell them they were in a serious accident. It can happen to anyone, any day.”