US construction companies with less than 20 employees have experienced an increase in worker fatality rates, as their larger counterparts continue to see rates fall, according to a recent report.
The fatal injury rate for smaller construction companies has jumped 57 per cent in recent years, from 15.5 per 100,000 workers in 2008, to 24.4 in 2016. Meanwhile, companies with more than 20 workers have experienced a nearly 30 percent drop in their worker fatality rates.
From 2003 to 2016, small construction companies accounted for 56.6 percent of the industry’s 5,155 fatalities, whilst only employing less than 37 percent of all construction workers during that time. In 2016, over 67 per cent of all construction fatalities occurred in organisations with less than 20 employees.
The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) report says the figures show smaller construction establishments are clearly lagging behind their larger counterparts in safety management and best-practice. It notes that small businesses may face “many barriers to implementing health and safety programs, such as limited resources and increasing pressures from business competition.”
The figures are made even more alarming by the fact small companies dominate the US construction industry landscape. In 2016, over 80 per cent of all establishments had fewer than 10 employees, and another 9.4 percent had 10 to 19 employees.
In terms of event or exposure, almost 62 per cent of fall fatalities and over 55 per cent of electrocution deaths occurred in establishments with 10 or fewer employees. Young, Hispanic, and foreign-born workers were also overrepresented among fatalities in smaller establishments.
To assist small businesses in improving worker safety and health, the CPWR has developed the Safety Climate Assessment Tool for Small Contractors, designed to help small construction employers and their employees assess and improve their job-site safety climate.