Texas Sees Drop In Construction-Related Fatalities

Thousands of workers took time out from their jobs for an annual event designed to make things safer on construction sites. Safety briefings were held as a trade organization unveiled new figures showing a big drop in the number of workers killed or hurt on the job in Texas.


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Construction workers came out of the rain and mud to gather under a parking garage they’re building near the Galleria.

A safety educator talked to the workers about how to stay safe while working with ladders. These workers get a lot of safety briefings, but this class was part of the Texas Safety Stand Down.

It’s an annual event designed to prevent things like falls, head injuries, and vehicle strikes.

“You get a more efficient project, you get a more efficient job site if everyone’s safe than if not.”

That’s Brian Turmail with the Associated General Contractors of America, the group that sponsored the event.

According to the AGC’ analysis of federal safety data, Texas has seen a big drop in the number of construction-related injuries.

There was a 36 percent reduction between 2003 and 2011. The numbers also show that fewer workers are getting killed, with a 26 percent decrease in the fatality rate over a three year period. 

“Texas contractors had the eighth-largest improvement in reducing that construction fatality rate between 2008 and 2011.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets rules for construction safety education.

Turmail says there’s a daily briefing for the foremen and regular safety sessions for workers.  And to make those lessons stick there has to be constant reinforcement at the construction site.

“Well the best way is not to be adversarial but to make it part of the culture. You have these old stories from 20 years ago where the safety guy would sit with a ball-peen hammer at the front of a construction site and hit everyone on the boot to make sure they had a steel-tipped boot.  You know, that doesn’t encourage people to want to hang out with the safety guy.”
And experts say they are starting to see a big shift in culture when it comes to safety.  Doug Watson is the Director of Safety for the Associated General Contractors in Houston.  He says workers these days are much more aware.

“As soon as they get out of their vehicles, before they even walk on to the job, they have their safety vest on, their hard hat, their safety glasses.  They’re putting their gloves on before they walk on to the job. And it’s not so much that they have to do it, it’s become a part of their process.”

And Watson says a lot of it has to do with the fact that workers want to make it home safely to their families.

“It can be very devastating when the breadwinner for the family is injured on a job. And so that’s why we have things like this, the stand down, so that doesn’t happen, so that a family isn’t left in need.”

Workplace injuries are also costly to employers. Numbers from the American Society of Safety Engineers show the indirect cost of job site injuries could be 20 times the direct cost.

construction workers
Work came to a halt at a muddy construction site in the Galleria as workers gathered for the annual safety education event sponsored by The Associated General Contractors of America.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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