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Focus on Safety and Leadership Needed to Prevent Fatalities

A spike in construction-related fatalities coupled with a looming labor shortage highlight the need for a renewed focus on safety and leadership in the construction industry, according to a new report by Marsh.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private construction sector deaths in the increased 5 percent to 775 in 2012, marking the first annual increase in work-related fatalities since 2006. Falls, slips, and trips remain the largest cause of construction-related fatalities, accounting for 36 percent of incidents.

In the latest Marsh Risk Management Research briefing, Building Safety and Leadership in the Construction IndustryMarsh examines the latest safety and employment trends in the construction industry and the role effective leadership plays in retaining valued workers and building a culture of safety.

The report notes that a shortage of experienced construction workers has resulted in many unskilled workers being moved into supervisory roles faster than before. This trend has exacerbated numerous problems as many new managers and supervisors are unfamiliar with the industry’s changing views on safety and risk management, which have transformed from “necessary evils” to core business principles that are integral to success.

At the same time, contractors today are being forced to pay higher wages and offer additional benefits to attract and sustain workers, putting additional strain on their limited financial resources. This can result in managers and frontline supervisors cutting corners when it comes to safety to control costs and regain eroded profit margins, Marsh notes.

“As the economy grows and the number of new construction projects pick up, now is not the time to be lax on safety,” says John Moore, a construction safety specialist in Marsh Risk Consulting’s Workforce Strategies Practice. “Inadequate safety performance can lead to employee turnover and various legal, financial, and reputational risks. Investing in high-quality leadership will go a long way toward retaining valued workers and maintaining a safe work environment.”

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