Shockingly, there hasn’t always been such a prominent emphasis on workplace safety in the construction industry. In fact, less than a century ago, many workers went to a job site accepting that they could potentially be injured—or worse. Fortunately, the years that followed have offered a greater understanding of how dangerous these jobs can be and how important it is to protect these individuals from harm. This is the evolution of safety in the construction industry and what precautions we take today.
In the late 1800s, there were very few construction site safety regulations—if any. Every job was done at the workers’ own risk and, if injured, they were offered minimal compensation from their employers. As such, it was about this time that employees began taking out insurance policies on themselves to protect their families should something happen. When this practice become more widespread in the years to come, the government began to take notice and passed new laws. Actions such as the Federal Compensation Act of 1916 and the development of the U.S. Department of Labor established benefits for injured workers and required compensation for their time in recovery.
The Creation of OSHA
Eventually, the focus turned to preventing injuries rather than just compensating workers after the fact. In the early 1970s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to establish concrete safety guidelines and ensure that businesses adhered to them. This was also when research began on how often workers are injured on the job and what the most direct causes were. Ultimately, it’s due to this increased level of research that we’ve developed more effective safety precautions on a job site.
Today’s Safety Procedures
Thanks to official agencies, businesses are now held accountable for ensuring their workers’ safety. In fact, before a construction business is allowed to take on clients, they must demonstrate an understanding of all fundamental OSHA safety guidelines and acquire the proper equipment. This includes providing their workers with the proper power tools, fall protection equipment, and training in how to use them. Training must also involve how to properly store fall protection equipment to keep them in usable condition and the signs that certain items should be discontinued.