Big contractors lead in site safety measures, small peers lag

Source: McGraw-Hill Construction, New York

Of contractor respondents to a survey behind a new McGraw-Hill Construction study, 92 percent representing firms with over 500 employees report having fully inclusive and widely observed safety programs, nearly double smaller firms’ rate (48 percent).

Individual practices are widely adopted across the industry, however, demonstrating awareness of safety programs’ importance. Sixty percent of contractors report that they use eight of 15 survey-cited practices; topping those by adoption rate are including jobsite workers in the safety practice (80 percent of survey respondent) and analyzing potential site safety hazards before construction begins (78 percent).

“These results show the industry is concerned about safety and making clear strides to help manage it, but owners need to help drive smaller firms to incorporate the same level of holistic investment [as] larger firms,” says McGraw-Hill Construction Vice President of Industry Insights and Alliances Harvey Bernstein. “Our study results reveal that the industry knows what to do; it just needs the tools and incentives to do so.”

“The fact that an average of 13 workers die on the job every day in America means that we are far from reaching a zero injury goal,” adds Brian Tonry, executive vice president of, which joined McGraw-Hill in production of the “Safety Management in the Construction Industry” SmartMarket Report. “A commitment to safety training helps save lives and supports construction workers with the awareness they need to prevent accidents and injuries. At the same time, it is building an effective safety culture that holds the entire construction team responsible for safe work practices.”

Concern over worker health and well-being is driving safety practice implementation, the report finds, with 79 percent of survey respondents reporting that factor as a major driver to their investments in safety management. Insurance costs (78 percent) and liability concerns (77 percent) likewise play a strong role in contractors’ decisions to invest in safety practices. The top three practices selected as most effective in increasing project safety confirm the importance of bringing safety to the front line, early on: 1) Developing a site-specific health and safety plan; 2) Analyzing potential site safety hazards before construction begins; and, 3) Appointing/assigning/authorizing project safety personnel before construction begins.

In addition to size, firm type influences the level of safety practice adoption. General contractors consistently have higher adoption rates than trade contractors for every practice, although the relative ranking of specific practices remains the same. The “Safety Management in the Construction Industry” SmartMarket Report, with full survey and study results, will be released in June and available at .