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OSHA Training, Best Practices More Common at Construction Firms Employing Union Workers, Survey Shows

A recent survey commissioned by The Center for Construction Research and Training, known as CPWR, indicates construction companies which employ at least some union-member workers are more likely to engage in safety best practices and undergo OSHA training than those who don’t.

The latest Construction Safety Management Survey, conducted every other year with the purpose of expanding research on construction industry hazards and accident prevention, shows unions have a positive effect on workplace safety and overall safety culture within construction firms.

The survey was completed by over 330 construction firms, 90 of which employed only union workers, nearly 110 that employed both union and non-union workers, and 135 comprised solely of non-union employees. Both union-only and union / non-union employing firms were grouped together as “union firms” for the purposes of the study, and were more likely to be larger companies, general contractors, and involved in industrial and commercial high-rise building, as well as non-building projects.

Here are some key findings from the survey in terms of training:

  • 77% of union firms had site-specific training programs for all employees and subcontractors. Roughly 68% of firms without union workers did the same.
  • 71% of firms employing union construction workers required OSHA 30-hour training for supervisors, as compared to just 54% of non-union companies.
  • 63% of union firms required OSHA 10-hour training for worksite employees, while only half of non-union firms required such training.
  • Overall, union firms were more likely to view all 8 indicators of safety culture listed by the survey – including training and accountability at all levels, improving communication and supervisory leadership, involving workers, demonstrating management commitment, and encouraging involvement of owners and clients – as having a higher impact on safety than non-union companies. Both, however, considered training at ALL levels as the most critical factor behind workplace safety.

For adherence to best practices, survey results revealed the following:

  • 79% of union firms conducted job hazard / safety assessments prior to beginning construction, compared to only 55% of non-union firms.
  • Following qualifying events, 67% of construction firms with union workers performed prompt and thorough near-miss / incident investigations, while just under 50% of non-union firms did.
  • Competent project-safety personnel were designated by 76% of union firm respondents, compared to 62% of non-union companies.
  • Just under 9 in 10 union firms (roughly 87%) had site-specific health and safety plans, whereas roughly 7 in 10 non-union firms (70%) had such plans.
  • Overall, 36% of union firms implemented and used at least 4 of the 5 specific safety policies listed by the survey – including site-specific plans, site-specific training for all employees and subcontractors, measurable objectives and safety goals, prequalification of subcontractors based on safety performance, and safety incentives. Less than 18% of non-union firms did the same.

What the Survey Says

Though the survey may not provide a complete or accurate representation of all construction firms in the U.S., it does provide some reassuring findings that collaboration with labor-management unions can improve a construction company’s approach to training, adherence to best practices, and its overall safety culture. The reasons behind this may be varied and difficult to extract, but it has much to do with the fact that unions can be a powerful tool for promoting workplace safety on construction sites, and creating a deterrence for poor standards.

The survey is also important in identifying areas of improvement, such as the need for more thorough and complete training of a firm’s workforce, as well as the need for construction firms to adopt all critical safety policies. Though the numbers are being shown as positive, it is important to remember that the risks of violations or liability are not always enough to compel construction firms, contractors, and employees to take needed steps that ensure worker safety – accidents still happen all the time.

As our legal team The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. knows, construction accidents, serious injuries, and deaths occur frequently on worksites throughout the country, and particularly in New York City. That’s why our attorneys are available 24/7 to help injured workers and their families understand their rights, options, and how we can guide them through the most viable pathway to needed compensation – whether that be a workers’ compensation claim or a civil personal injury lawsuit.

If you wish to discuss a potential case with a New York City construction accident attorney from our firm, call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online to request a FREE consultation. Our firm has recovered over $500 million in compensation for clients, and serves clients throughout the state.


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