According to a study done by Southern Polytechnic State University, from 11:00 a.m. until noon is the stretch of time when most construction accidents happen. The noon hour is lunchtime on most job sites, and the thinking by industry experts used to be that accidents were least likely to take place during this hour of the day. During lunch, it was expected that workers would leave the job site and there would be no one around to cause or get into an accident. However, the data shows that construction accidents usually occur around the noon hour, and this raises a whole new set of worker safety concerns.
Another study released by the Associated General Contractors of America indicated that as a worker gets older, their likelihood of getting into an accident on a job site was higher. This was another one of the construction trends that flies in the face of conventional wisdom as most construction industry observers would expect older workers to be more careful and be more aware of the dangers of their profession.
A Case Study In Noon Time Accidents
In March 2016, a 36-year-old construction worker fell 53 stories to his death on a Los Angeles, California construction site. To make matters worse, the worker made an impact on a car that was in traffic near the building and injured the driver. The fact that a human being fell over 500 feet to his death and made a permanent emotional and physical scar on another person in the process is bad enough. But when investigators started releasing facts about the incident, things did not seem to make any more sense.
The general contractor running the job was not cited for improper safety equipment because the worker was not supposed to be on that floor during his time in the building. The worker was only supposed to be working a few floors from ground level in the center of the building. At that spot, there are no OSHA laws requiring safety harnesses or any other type of safety equipment.
The worker was also not wearing his hard hat at the time, which could have easily fallen off during the fall. The other part of this accident that investigators find strange is that the eight-foot tall metal fences that are supposed to be in place on high-rise buildings that do not have their windows installed yet, were in place and installed properly. There were also safety nets installed on the upper floors, as per the building code, but those nets did not start to appear until the 54th floor.
When all of the information is put together, the situation looks odd even to seasoned investigators. The worker was dozens of floors above his assigned workspace, there were safety fences installed to prevent anyone from falling, and he was not wearing a safety harness. That begs the question; what was he doing up there and why did he fall? The final piece of information investigators released was that the accident occurred at around noon local time.
A Disregard For Safety Rules Is Part Of The Problem
In the Southern Polytechnic State University study, it was determined that a little more than 25 percent of the construction workers who die around the noon hour were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we look deeper into what that could possibly mean, we may uncover one of the more disturbing construction trends in a very long while.
Construction workers are trained to be aware of safety issues as they do their jobs, and they are also taught how to use safety equipment when it is available. This rise in the number of construction accidents around the noon hour could indicate more of an issue with human nature, than with training. Non-union construction companies are continually accused of not providing the right kind of safety training or equipment for their workers, but that may not be the biggest reason for this worker safety concern.
The Associated General Contractors of America study found that the most prolific time range for accidents is from 10: 00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with noon being the highest peak time for accidents. In the hotter climates, work starts earlier which means earlier lunch and quitting times. All of this adds up to even the most seasoned construction workers letting their guard down when it is time to take a break or quit for the day.
The Afternoon Trend Is Becoming Obvious
The data suggests that workers become more relaxed about safety rules as it gets closer to lunch and break times. As the clock winds down to quitting time for the day, workers tend to look more forward to going home than staying safe. For some reason that only the victims can explain, the noon hour appears to be a time when safety rules do not apply, even to experienced workers.
For the case of the Los Angeles worker, a simple explanation is that he went up to the higher floors to either visit someone he knew or just see the project’s progress. He forgot that his job assignment did not require him to be at that height, and he also forgot that there is a long list of rules workers must follow to be on those higher floors. His focus was not on safety, and it cost him his life.
The data shows that as workers get older, the risk of them being hurt in an accident around the noon hour increase. It is entirely possible that workers with decades of experience tend to take safety for granted. They may feel that they have been around job sites long enough to know how to get around without getting hurt. This sort of disregard for safety is proving to be extremely dangerous for older workers.
A Construction Trend Only Workers Can Fix Themselves
When the safety manager of a construction company sets safety guidelines for a job site, those guidelines do not suddenly become relaxed at lunch time. On every job site, the potential for injury is just as strong around the noon hour as it is any other time of day. Yet the data suggests that some workers feel that a break in the work day means a break from the safety rules. The number of life-changing accidents that happen around the noon hour suggests that this line of thinking is extremely dangerous.
This is one of those construction trends that can only be altered by the workers themselves. Even on the best-managed job sites, a worker can get seriously injured if they feel that the lunch break means that the safety rules no longer apply. Construction companies post safety signs all over their job sites to remind workers of safety rules, but some workers seem to feel that those rules do not apply when the whistle blows at the noon hour.
Workers need to become proactive about their own safety and follow safety rules every minute they are on a job site. Workers should never visit spots of a job site where they are not supposed to be without first talking to the site supervisor, and getting the proper safety equipment. Safety rules are only useful when they are being followed, and too many workers are treating the noon hour as a time to forget safety rules and do as they please.