Construction site injuries and fatalities cost the state of Washington hundreds of millions of dollars, and exact an incalculable price on the lives of workers themselves. These costs were recently compiled and published in a report by Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.
The report, titled “The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in the Construction Industry,” indicates that states could save a great deal of money while simultaneously protecting workers by awarding contracts to construction companies with good safety records. Under Washington’s current system, the state screens potential companies based on prior performance, bonding capacity and legal details — but we have no pre-qualification system based on safety records.
The rate of death and the enormous costs that result from the absence of such criteria highlight the need for reform, the report says.
The cost — $712.8 million — is “really nothing to sneeze at,” said Keith Wrightson, the report’s author and a worker safety advocate for Public Citizen. “We think that this is costing the economy a lot of money, number one, but it’s also a deterrent for workers to enter the construction industry. We need highly trained individuals to build our infrastructure and safety should be a goal of all employers.”
“Everybody should have access to the public construction market but it needs to be done in a safe way where everybody’s protected,” Wrightson said. “The interests of business can’t supersede the workers.”
Officials in Washington State Builders and Contractors associations say they agree that something must be done to improve workplace safety in the state — but many of these groups disagree with Public Citizen’s ideas about creating a pre-qualification approach determined by health and safety records.
“On the surface, it sounds like a great idea,” said Henderson, who claims that any solution must be “much more thoughtful and nuanced than typically you see coming out of regulations and government.”
“Henderson cautioned against evaluating the health and safety records of general contractors, which often rely on subcontractors, because they have to “accept bids at the very last minute because that’s the nature of public bidding.” As a result, general contractors may not have time to verify the safety records of each subcontractor. He said he supported job-specific safety training instead.”
Workers’ Compensation Claims
Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that last year it ranked second for workplace deaths in the U.S. with 780 fatalities, behind only the transportation industry.
Workers who need help collecting injury benefits from L&I are encouraged to contact a Seattle Workers’ Compensation Attorney. We can also provide you with crucial advice if the Department of Labor and Industries has required you to complete an Independent Medical Examination.