One of the biggest yet least publicized advantages of offsite construction is the improved overall safety performance on projects. A recent report by Dodge Data & Analytics found that 83% of general contractors utilizing prefabrication techniques realized improved safety performance with 53% rating the improvement as “high” or “very high.” This should not be surprising if you think about all the perils associated with a typical construction jobsite. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
Construction is a high hazard industry that comprises a wide range of activities involving construction, alteration, and/or repair. Construction workers engage in many activities that may expose them to serious hazards, such as falling from rooftops, unguarded machinery, being struck by heavy construction equipment, electrocutions, silica dust, and asbestos.
From October 2018 through September 2019, OSHA issued nearly 4,000 citations in the construction industry. About one fifth of all citations dealt with fall protection, the most cited issue. Falls on a traditional job site can often result in serious injury or even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “Falls are the leading cause of construction-worker fatalities, accounting for one-third of on-the-job deaths in the industry. In 2017, there were 366 fall fatalities out of 971 total fatalities in construction.”
By shifting work typically performed on a traditional job site to an offsite factory location, the risk of fall injuries drops dramatically. Workers on the factory floor may be constructing a panel or module for the third or twenty-third floor of a building – all while still standing on the factory floor!
Another high risk on a traditional job site are “struck by” accidents. Struck-by injuries are produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment such as a truck or crane. Other examples include injuries where someone is struck by a flying or falling object. Again, many of these risks are minimized and, in some cases, eliminated by shifting work to a controlled factory setting.
From the Dodge report, specialty trade contractors rated the use of prefabrication even higher than general contractors in terms of improved safety performance. In fact, thirty-one percent rated improved safety as “very high”, an important measurement given that specialty trade contractors provide a bulk of the jobsite labor. It should come as no surprise that specialty contractors cited safer working conditions as a key driver for offsite prefabrication at a higher rate than general contractors - 58% compared to 42%.
With the aging construction worker population and growing shortage of overall workers in the industry, it seems as if keeping workers safe would be a higher priority for all.