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More jobsite hazards eliminated when constructor influences the design

February 7, 2013 | By Anthony Capkun

February 6, 2013 – In the U.S. construction industry, almost two workers per day on average died while on the job, according to the latest available statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor for 2011. The real number for that year was 721 fatalities, the second-highest of any U.S. industry, and Brian M. Kleiner says “This number is unacceptable”.

Kleiner is the director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. He focuses much of his research on construction safety, and some of his recent work included looking at the efforts undertaken in Australia that seemingly provide a safer environment for its construction workers… at least, according to the statistics.

Kleiner has subcontracted with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Melbourne to gain insights into how the Australians operate differently from the U.S. in construction. Kleiner and his colleagues have found that, in Australia, the concept of eliminating hazards or reducing risks at the design stage of construction projects has gained momentum since the national Occupational Safety and Health Strategy report of 2003-12 identified “eliminating hazards at the design stage” as one of its five national priorities.

Kleiner and his colleagues are studying how the construction industry in the States can improve its processes and practices, leading to improved safety and health of its workers.


With the data on various categories of hazards they have collected from case studies so far, their analysis suggests that higher-level controls—such as elimination and substitution of hazards—occur with greater frequency when the constructor has more decision-making influence in the design stage of a project, which is already the ongoing practice with the Australian construction industry.

“In the U.S., safety is primarily left for the implementation or construction stage, relegated to the constructor, and control occurs through administrative systems and personal protective equipment, most typically. Also, communication between the constructor and the designer related to safety appears to be stronger in Australia than in the U.S., especially earlier in the construction life cycle at least at this point in data collection,” said Kleiner.

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