The Correlation between Safety Practices in Construction and Occupational Health

Maged Malek, Adel El-Safty, Amal El-Safety, James Sorce

Abstract


Over recent years, safety has become a way of life for construction and industrial workers in the US. A new safety culture has emerged. In fact, the incidence rate for all recordable nonfatal injury and illness for construction workers has decreased from 13.1% in 1992 to 5.4% in 2007 (BLS, 2002)(BLS, 2008). This decline is due to standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the efforts of owners, contractors, subcontractors and designers (Farooqui, 2008). The benefits of safety programs are widely apparent and become more evident as companies focus on improving these programs. Are there benefits to focusing on occupational health and wellness of the workers? The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 defines occupational safety and health standard as, “a standard which requires conditions, or the adoption or use of one or more practices, means, methods, operations, or processes, reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment and places of employment” (OSHA, 2009). OSHA regulations do not delineate between occupational safety and occupational health, therefore legal compliance does not involve promoting the health of workers. Under OSHA incident reporting guidelines, injury and illness are recorded under the same category (OSHA, 2003). The health and safety programs being implemented need to include a wider scope than just preventing injuries and fatalities. The scope of occupational health should include the physical and mental wellness of workers, including illness and disease, as a result of working conditions or situations to which they are exposed, also encompassing the treatment or diagnosis of problems through medical testing and health surveillance. The health and wellness of workers should be equally important as safety to the construction and industrial industries since it can affect the bottom line of companies. An unhealthy worker or work environment, often leads to lost productivity for companies, lost wages for employees and unsafe working conditions. An even greater cost to companies can be long-term costs of workers compensation and litigation. Furthermore, occupational health of workers has an impact on the workers’ wellbeing, state of mind, overall attitude and morale; therefore the safety, quality of work and inevitably the profitability of the company is affected. This paper explores the possible benefits of focusing on the occupational health and wellness of construction and industrial workers as a separate category from safety. Could the development of an international occupational health standard be a useful tool for construction and industrial industries?Key Words: Occupational Health; Safety; Wellness; Health Monitoring; Health Surveillance

Keywords


Occupational Health; Safety; Wellness; Health Monitoring; Health Surveillance

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968%2Fj.mse.1913035X20100403.001

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