1594e Why we need vision zero: the ups and downs of construction safety in the usa


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Abstract

Between 1990 and 2010, the USA experienced a decline in construction fatality rates of about 40%. By then, as a result of the Great Economic Recession, the industry had lost 25% of all workers and employers. By 2014 the industry was gaining back some of that employment, and suddenly we saw a large increase in fatality rates. By 2015, this increase had wiped out all the gains made between 2000 and 2010. This was not a surprise. In fact, based on past experience, CPWR predicted this would happened when the recession struck. Today there is full employment, and there is a shortage of both contractors and workers. To fill this void, new employers and new workers, with little experience, enter the industry and pose tremendous risks. How can such shortsightedness be mitigated? First, stronger regulations are needed. The requirements to get a business license as a construction contractor are minimal. In most states, there are no requirements for workers to have minimal skills or safety training before they get a job.While the regulatory approach is essential –the backbone of any safety system – it is also minimal. It is not possible to regulate excellence. Excellence comes from culture, not requirements.We know this, because there are sectors of construction within the US, and construction companies, that achieve such excellence. But we can also show that conditions can easily be created that foster risk taking.That’s why Vision Zero is so important. It provides the core of a safety culture that is easy to grasp. CPWR has created its version of Vision Zero, and has developed two implementation tools. The first is the Safety Climate self-assessment tool known as S-CAT, which allows any construction organisation or work site to assess its performance over eight broad indicators. It is now available online, and free of charge. The second is a training program called Foundations for Safety Leadership.Excellence in safety can be achieved, but it requires commitment from everyone. That’s what is captured in Vision Zero.

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