The Travelers 2022 Injury Impact Report analyzed more than 1.5 million workers compensation claims over a five-year period (2015-2019). According to Ken Wengert, Vice President of Risk Control - Construction, Energy & Marine for Travelers, the report found that 48% of workers’ compensation claims in the construction industry involved employees who were with their company for less than a year, regardless of age or industry experience.
The severity of injuries sustained by construction workers resulted in an average of 98 lost workdays – more than in any other industry. The top two most frequent causes of injury were slips, trips, and falls (27% of all construction claims analyzed) and overexertion (25%). The number one most common resulting injury category was strains and sprains (30%).
When you consider the ongoing challenge to find qualified construction workers, you can see that these numbers illustrate the importance of onboarding and safety training for new employees to help mitigate risk. These statistics also show the importance of transitional duty in helping employees return to work as soon as is medically appropriate. This can help build morale and keep injured workers connected to the workforce during recovery.
Given that soft tissue and repetitive motion injuries continue to be leading causes of injury, a focus on ergonomics can contribute to a reduction in those injuries.
Travelers offers contractors virtual and on-site ergonomic assessments that leverage AI-enhanced video capabilities to help quantify job-related risks that can lead to injury. Using those insights, our human factors and ergonomic specialists can provide customers with reports including ergonomic solutions for making job tasks safer for workers.
Steps to mitigate and reduce jobsite accidents
Many contractors use some form of job hazard analysis or pre-task plan to help them identify potential risks, along with associated controls or safety procedures to eliminate or mitigate the potential for incidents. These actions rely on effectively communicating with, and properly training employees.
However, training alone may not be enough if employees are getting inconsistent guidance on the job. To maintain consistency, it’s important that superintendents, forepersons, and project managers have strong safety awareness and communications skills.
When an injury does occur, the way it’s handled is also critical. Travelers recommends these five post-injury management strategies:
1. Respond immediately and in a caring, nonjudgmental way.
2. When possible, use occupational medical providers who understand your company and the nature of the work.
3. Assign transitional duties, when appropriate, to help retain injured employees and keep them engaged.
4. Provide attentive case management to help injured employees throughout the recovery period.
5. Review and measure how this post-injury process performs against your goals for continued improvement.
Travelers also recommends evaluating prior accidents and recent field observations by safety teams to identify issues, prepare for upcoming job site activities and make sure that appropriate safety controls are in place.
A better understanding of accident causes can help contractors take steps to reduce their reoccurrence. Travelers’ REACT accident investigation training program offers coaching and guidance to help contractors uncover the root causes of accidents. For some, it’s a great refresher on best practices. For others, it establishes a strong foundation for them to know the right questions to ask and then to capture more thorough information after an incident.
Technology’s role in jobsite safety
Technology can be used in various ways to address job site safety issues. But contractors need to identify the issues first. For instance, when soft tissue and repetitive motion injuries frequently result from certain tasks, further analysis may be warranted.
To get even more insight into an issue, contractors can talk to peers, technology vendors, suppliers, and their insurance providers. The “test and learn” approach at Travelers is something that contractors can do themselves. They can try out an innovation, evaluate its use on a job site, adjust the strategy as appropriate, and, if they see a benefit, decide to invest in and adopt the technology.
The focus of this approach should not be solely on new technology solutions on the market; it should also include new ways to extend existing technology, which can help with acceptance on the job site.
Finally, no technology implementation will always be as simple as “set it and forget it.” It helps to cover all bases before, during, and after – from getting buy-in from all necessary stakeholders and addressing curveballs and challenges along the way, to actively soliciting two-way conversations with the workforce, supervisors, and vendors.