58% of Construction Workers Say Safety Takes a Back Seat to Productivity

As the nation pauses to observe Workers’ Memorial Day, NSC reminds employers to prioritize safety.

​Itasca, IL – A  National Safety Council survey found 58% of Americans working in construction – the industry that sees the most workplace fatalities each year – feel that safety takes a back seat to productivity and completing job tasks. What's more, 51% say management does only the minimum required by law to keep employees safe, and 47% say employees are afraid to report safety issues. By contrast, 36% of the 2,000 full-time and part-time employees in the 14 industries surveyed by NSC feel their employers prioritize productivity over safety.

The findings come as the nation pauses to observe Workers' Memorial Day on April 28, and just before the start of the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction (May 8-12).

A total of 4,836 people died in workplace incidents in 2015, and 937 of those killed were construction workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Falls are the second leading cause of death in the workplace, and more than half of fall-related deaths each year occur in the construction industry, according to Injury Facts® 2017

"On Workers' Memorial Day, we pause to remember those that have been lost in completely preventable incidents," said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Sadly the results of our survey indicate that many workers still worry about whether they will make it home safely tonight. We call on all employers to renew their commitment to keep everyone safe, on every job, each and every day."  

Gauging Americans' perceptions toward their safety at work may help provide further insight into workplace deaths. Other key findings from workers across all industries include:

  • 32% feel management ignores a person's safety performance when determining promotions
  • 62% say everyone is involved in solving job safety issues
  • 63% of employees feel they work in areas or at stations that are set up ergonomically correct
  • 48% of employees believe safety meetings are held less often than they should be
  • 47% believe performance standards are higher for job tasks than for safety; this percentage is higher among construction industry workers, where 67% feel this way
  • 33% of employees working in transportation and warehousing do not agree that management has a written policy that expresses their attitude about employee safety

NSC offers free resources through the Journey to Safety Excellence for those looking to improve the safety culture in their organizations, and calls on employees to take the pledge to keep one another safe at work.

The survey is based on the Council's Employee Perception Surveys. Full survey results and methodology are available here.   

About the National Safety Council
Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact – distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities. Safety+Health magazine, the Council's flagship publication, is a leading source of occupational safety and health information.

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