Safety Programs Make Canadian Construction Work Less Risky

Companies are making strides to protect the health and safety of construction workers in Canada, despite high fatal injury and time-loss claims.

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries in which to work, however strides are being made to protect the health and safety of construction workers in Canada, according to the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) of British Columbia.

In 1998, there were 21 accepted fatal claims in the British Columbia construction industry, 7,195 WCB time-loss claims were excepted and $112 million was spent on claim costs.

WCB advised that part of the reason for the number of claims in construction is due to the inherent risks of the construction business and relatively high level of youth employment in the sector.

WCB construction industry services manager, Don Nelson said that new workers to a worksite, no matter how long they have worked in the industry, need to be properly oriented to that worksite to perform their duties safely.

"Site-specific safety orientation programs are essential to ensure the dangers associated with that particular construction site are minimized," said Nelson. "Safety procedures must be tailored to suit the job site, because the variables in construction are just too numerous for generic safety measures."

In 1998, the overall construction industry injury rate was 10, which is more than double the provincial injury rate of 4.1 and equivalent to about one in 10 construction workers being hurt on the job.

WCB accident statistics in 1998 show that the construction industry had the second highest injury rate for young workers at 13.4 next to forestry with a rate of 19.5 per 100 person-years of employment.

"We're seeing more construction firms and contractors who are implementing safety orientation programs for all workers -- from those with only two weeks on the job, to veterans with decades of experience under their belts," said Nelson.

To further encourage firms to promote safety, WCB is collaborating with the construction industry on a number of initiatives, including educational programs aimed at reducing the number of young workers injured in construction.

WCB also co-sponsored a construction safety symposium and trade show recently held in Prince George.

Other WCB programs underway to promote health and safety within the construction industry include industry funding of health and safety projects that have the potential to reduce injury rates and save lives as well as promoting employers to adopt safety committees.

Further information materials on the construction industry are available on the WCB Web site at www.worksafebc.com.

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