Safety Risks Soar as Job Market Tightens

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One by-product of a strong economy is more employment, but the increased activity usually results in more workplace injuries. That’s because there are more inexperienced people on worksites and when a company is busy and there is more activity, the chances of an incident occurring also increase. This is especially the case in manual labor environments from production facilities, warehousing and logistics to construction and other trades. The September USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index found that 80% of contractors said that the skilled labor shortage is affecting jobsite safety and it’s the number one factor increasing safety risk on the jobsite. As business activity grows and the job market tightens, many companies are forced to hire more inexperienced workers who are not skilled at understanding all safety hazards. Experienced personnel have the know-how to identify workplace hazards and understand the safety protocols for all aspects of their work. While training can help new hires, nothing beats experience. Additionally, with many businesses working hard to fulfill orders, workplaces are busier, which can cause some workers to cut corners or take risks. Amidst all that hustle and bustle and people moving quickly, the speed and activity can also contribute to accidents in the workplace. Also, aggressive scheduling may cause employers to use workers with less experience or training, and can push employees to work longer hours, which can lead to shortcuts and compromised processes. If employees are working overtime, they may also be tired and fatigued, which can contribute to poor judgment and workplace incidents. One other issue that’s affecting workplace safety and is related to the tight job market is that employers are often having to settle for workers they may not normally hire in other times. As you know, the scourge of opioid addiction has been rampant and unfortunately if someone who has an addiction is hired, they may be a serious liability for the employer. Not only that, but more states are legalizing recreational marijuana and nearly 40 states have medical marijuana laws on the books. In many cases, people can easily get their hands on a medical marijuana card without an affliction that would require a prescription. Here’s what’s concerning construction employers on the worker addiction front, according to the USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index:
  • 39% were concerned about the safety impacts of opioids.
  • 27% were concerned about the safety impacts of alcohol.
  • 22% were concerned about the safety impacts of cannabis.
The report showed that while nearly two-thirds of contractors have strategies in place to reduce the safety risks presented by alcohol (62%) and marijuana (61%), only half have strategies to address their top substance of concern: opioids, which is a growing issue.

What you can do

In this environment of labor shortages and high competition for workers, employers should focus on:
  • Creating a culture of safety.
  • Improving the safety climate in the worksite.
  • Improving the firm’s safety culture.
  • Providing more leadership training for supervisors.
  • Tracking near misses and injuries, and identifying the factors that led to the near miss or accident.
  • Ensuring accountability at all levels.
  • Demonstrating management’s commitment to safety.
  • Empowering and involving employees in the safety process.

Tackling substance abuse safety risks

The top strategies employers are using to reduce safety risks caused by substance abuse are:
  • Testing
  • Prescreening before hiring
  • Education
  • Communication oversight by supervisors
  • Zero tolerance policies
  • Counseling
  • Access to rehab.


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