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Shortage of skilled construction workers increasing safety risks, survey respondents say

construction worker
Photo: NIOSH

Washington — Commercial construction leaders are concerned about higher safety risks resulting from a shortage of skilled workers, according to the most recent results of a quarterly survey conducted by USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Released Sept. 6, the Commercial Construction Index for the third quarter of 2018 was developed using more than 2,700 online survey responses from industry “decision-makers” (i.e., general contractors and construction managers, among others) between July 11 and July 20.

More than half of the respondents (58 percent) reported that workers with insufficient skills are increasing safety risks, and 62 percent say those workers will increase safety risks in the next three years.

Eighty percent of the respondents also said they are at least “moderately concerned” about the skilled labor shortage’s effect on safety, with 26 percent expressing “high or very high concern.”

“The commercial construction industry is growing, but the labor shortage remains unresolved,” USG President and CEO Jennifer Scanlon said in a press release. “As contractors are forced to do more with less, a renewed emphasis on safety is imperative to the strength and health of the industry. It continues to be important for organizations to build strong and comprehensive safety programs.”

Other findings:

  • Nearly half of the people surveyed (49 percent) said shorter construction schedules are affecting safety, and will for the next three years (47 percent).
  • 71 percent said they are at least “moderately concerned” about the effects of opioid use on workplace safety, with 39 percent expressing “high or very high concern.”
  • 58 percent said they are at least “moderately concerned” about the effects of alcohol use on workplace safety, while 54 percent said the same about marijuana use.
  • About two-thirds (67 percent) assert that safety training at all levels would have the most significant effect on improving safety culture, followed by ensuring accountability for safety at all levels, at 53 percent.

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