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Work safety focus can increase efficiencies

Posted on July 27, 2016 by Taber Times

Chances are when most of us head off to work, we don’t worry that perhaps we won’t return home in the same state of health in which we left.

But the reality is that some jobs are more hazardous than others, and ranking high on that list are jobs in the construction industry. It’s with that in mind, that the provincial government announced last week it is going to increase the number of off-hours inspections of construction sites this summer.

Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray said Occupational Health and Safety is launching a new summer safety blitz that will see more safety inspectors visiting residential construction sites during evenings and weekends in an effort to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.

Gray noted safety officers wrote out more than 1,600 tickets last year, with more than half involving employees injured in falls.

Jim Rivait, CEO with the Canadian Home Builders Association, welcomed the news, saying there’s a need to eliminate the practice of taking shortcuts that produce unsafe working conditions.

The news should be welcomed on all fronts. Statistics from 2013 indicate that Alberta saw a record 188 workplace deaths that year, with the largest number – 76 – occurring in the construction industry.

In terms of workplace injuries, figures from the Workers Compensation Board show that the lost-time claim rate in Alberta has decreased considerably over the past two decades, falling from a high of 3.43 claims per 100 person-years in 2000 to a rate of 1.31 in 2014.
That suggests that perhaps safety measures in Alberta workplaces are improving, though the 2013 workplace fatality numbers show that there’s still work to be done.

Speed and efficiency are certainly important in the construction industry – or any industry, for that matter – but cutting corners from a safety perspective not only can’t be justified, but ultimately is counterproductive anyway because a workplace accident only reduces productivity. When a serious injury or death results, that’s a consequence that can’t be undone.

More inspections by safety officials should be a positive step toward reducing the chances of a workplace mishap, but the onus should also be on construction companies to ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. That includes making sure workers are properly trained and equipped.

Workers can also do themselves a favour by ensuring they don’t cut corners by playing loose with safety guidelines in the name of saving time. Putting on a pair of safety goggles or strapping on a safety harness takes a fraction of the time it takes to rehabilitate from an injury.

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