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Safety – The Dark Side

Foundations #223 – Day 1. Safety performance among union and non-union workers in the construction industry. Wow – this gem is always talked about in terms of productivity increases on the job. There is so much more, and it truly is the tip of the iceberg as it relates to having a working knowledge of safety on the construction site.

Just some of the differences between union and non-union construction workers in terms of safety performance are demographics, employment, age, training and sociopsychological factors related to safety performance. These are some of the areas.

However the top issue is money – what a surprise! Everyone always talks about the warm and fussy of protecting the workers, morale and productivity on the job and beyond.

But it comes down to money and even more specifically who gets the saving on one side, and pockets the profit on the other side. Well the answer to this are the Sponsors, Owners & Contractors for Large Construction Projects typically 100 million and larger.

Construction Wraps, come in different forms and serve different entities, a “Wrap-Up is more formally known as an Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP) when sponsored by the project owner, as a Rolling Owner Controlled Insurance Program (ROCIP) when the owner covers multiple projects under one program, or as a Contractor Controlled Insurance Program (CCIP) when the General Contractor or Construction Manager sponsors the program”. A quick and easy to read White paper by William Gallagher Associates:

Since the inception of Wrap Ups an increasingly strong correlation can be made of Construction Managers beating up on union contractors in many ways including insurance. Because that is where the biggest spreads are!

Labor Rising has had developed conversations with 2 senior executives, and 1 middle executive of the 3 major insurance underwriters for construction. In class we disclose who they are, however the point that is taken away from these talks is quite mind bending. At the top end of construction – even though unions send their workers home day in and out with all their fingers and toes and continue to improve their safety culture – it is the NON-UNION construction companies that can run with us in EMR and as importantly overall safety – as a cost! Think about that irony for a moment, we are safer, BUT the non-union as it relates to safety, and its cost on the job, is right there with us.

The short answer is in the culture and the reporting of safety. The bad guys do not report all incidents and near misses, and in some cases even larger safety issues. Also think 1099’s, temp workers, mis-classification.

So bottom line is we do it right, for all the right reasons, and in the construction conference meetings are given rightfully the acknowledgment for it; however the bad guys and their poor practices, with all its implications for the worker and their families isn’t penalized what-so-ever!

On the larger projects, with the Wrap – which is almost all of them – the big boys actually save big $$ on one side and extract even more profits on the other side. As a side NOTE: this is part of the reason construction does not appear to follow the laws of supply and demand. It absolutely does, it’s just the down steam contractors and even more importantly all workers do not see the benefit of increased wages, when work picks up.

Why there is so much talk of worker shortages is multi-faceted and is in part due to the fact that the construction companies, at all levels, can demand higher prices, or a premium to get the job done. They also can somewhat negotiate performance penalties. Worker shortages mean the big boys make even more money and if they are astute negotiators, a lot more $$$$.

So bottom line which is these companies only concern, past the photo ops of safety, have made safety not only an industry unto itself, but a very profitable one to be sure.

So we in the field see and deal with it daily. How many fricking safety people are all around you, 12” on center is the answer. On some jobs it almost paralyzes performance and yet the big boys still make money.

So how in the hell does that happen? Off the workers backs in lower wages and benefits.

Danny L Caliendo
Labor Rising Group

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