Contractors report positive effects on budgets and schedules as well as injury rates.
Implementing safety practices and investing in safety training cost money — but they also pay off in terms of project budgets, schedules and quality according to a new Dodge SmartMarket Report.
The report, “Safety Management in the Construction Industry 2017,” from Dodge Data & Analytics, reveals findings from a survey of 334 general and trade contractors on the use of specific safety practices and their impact on project safety and other outcomes.
Of respondents who rated the impacts of safety practices as positive or negative, 73 percent reported a reduction in reportable injuries and 79 percent saw increased worker willingness to report unsafe conditions — not surprising. But the benefits didn’t stop with safety; 63 percent reported a positive impact on project quality, 40 percent on schedule and 38 percent on budget.
Of the contractors who noted a benefit to project budgets, 28 percent reported that budgets decreased by 1 to 5 percent as a result of safety practices. According to the researchers, “If this reduction translates to more profitability for contractors, then even a 1 percent to 5 percent decrease can make a big difference.”
"While injury reduction is the number one reason to implement safety measures, it’s not surprising that contractors enjoy financial returns on those investments. Injuries cost contractors both money and time — which equates to money,” said James A. Dorris, vice president of health, safety and environment for United Rentals.
Large contractors (those with 100 or more employees), BIM users and GCs (vs. trade contractors) were more likely to report positive outcomes on project quality, perhaps because, as the report notes, they may track measures of project quality more frequently. Far more contractors who use BIM reported improved schedules as a result of safety measures than did those who don’t use BIM.
Large contractors were much more likely to report reduced reportable injury rates than smaller ones.
Most contractors, and especially large contractors, also reported that their safety practices had a positive impact on their standing in the industry and their ability to contract new work, though fewer did than when a similar survey was conducted in 2015.
In a dramatic departure from the 2015 survey results, fewer than half of contractors (just 44 percent) reported a positive benefit on staff retention, possibly reflecting the “worker-friendly market” created by the skilled worker shortage. But, noted the researchers, “[T]hat same issue also reinforces the importance of having an appealing workplace, including a company’s safety record.”
Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.