In construction, perfect conditions are matched to create a giant tree. Yahoo has called America a ‘huge residential area’, as private and public construction companies try to capitalize on the trend of high house prices, wealth accumulation and low mortgage rates. As construction progresses, so do safety concerns. There was already a shortage of health and safety professionals due to COVID-19, and these roles have not been filled spontaneously due to the easing of restrictions and the number of deaths. With that in mind, steps should be taken to protect construction workers who are at risk.
New risks and threats
While health and safety often involves only physical threats, there is a growing realization that protecting employees well encompasses much more than that. Safety and Health Magazine recently reported a large increase in the number of construction workers report mental health problems† Given the hazardous nature of their job, this is becoming a health and safety issue in the workplace, and this has increased the risk they face. For example, the CDC reports that Austin construction workers are now at a five times higher risk of injury than they were before the pandemic. Similarly, in New York, which is typically a strong area when it comes to building safety laws, risk is up 33%. Private lawsuits were key. In both New York and Construction Accident Lawyer in Austin action has been instrumental in enforcing the law and providing security where OSHA, which is sparsely distributed, cannot. Going a little further for construction workers helps to ensure their overall safety and that of their colleagues.
Expansion of the unions
Outside of private lawsuits, professional union representation was the best historical protection construction workers could get. Union membership is correlated with lower injury rates and greater success suing employers for possible negligence. However, according to Construction Dive, membership rates have only remained constant — and overall membership is declining. Unions are controversial in the US, but it is clear that construction unions are a beneficial force. Workers should join at the earliest opportunity to protect themselves from existential threats, or at least the evidence suggests a lot, although union membership clearly comes with a range of other responsibilities.
Raising the problem
Given the opportunity needed to solve the housing crisis, officials and news outlets can be forgiven for not shining a light on unsafe workplaces. Simply put, houses are needed – now – and this often comes at the cost of workers’ problems. This should not be the case. As The Atlantic recently emphasized, there is a dark side to many of the shiny apartments and skyscrapers that fly around the US. It is critical, both for the health of workers and for the wider national conscience, that these issues are addressed and addressed.
Bringing key issues to the fore is a critical part of public pressure, and it’s a dire moment in the construction industry. Before more serious accidents can happen, there must be a break and a proper assessment of worker safety. The next generation of homes and homes must be built in sustainable and safe hands – not the other way around.