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Report: Construction Workers' First Year is Most Dangerous

In a Tennessee case study, employees in their first year sustained nearly half of all reported injuries.

Construction injuries can happen to anyone, which is why seasoned workers need to guard against complacency. But new workers are especially vulnerable. A case study from the CPWR, The Center for Construction Research and Training, bears this out.

The study focused on construction injuries in Tennessee in 2014 and 2015. Strains, lacerations and contusions were the most common injury types according to statewide workers’ compensation data, and injuries happened most frequently to the lower back, followed by the fingers, shoulders and hands.

The bigger finding: Nearly half of the workers — 44.5 percent — who sustained injuries had been on the job for one year or less. The report noted similar one-year-tenure injury results for Ohio (46 percent) and Washington (48 percent).

The Tennessee data reinforce another known phenomenon: Larger construction companies tend to be safer than smaller ones. In the case study, the smallest firms (0 to 4 employees) reported injuries to nearly half (49 percent) of employees during 2015. Firms with 100 to 249 workers reported injuries to less than 10 percent of employees.

According to separate data from Associated Builders and Contractors, companies that conduct in-depth indoctrination of new employees into their safety culture, systems and processes have incident rates nearly 50 percent lower than those of companies that cover only basic safety and health compliance topics.

RELATED: Safety Tips for the Smallest Construction Companies

To reduce TRIR scores and protect workers from injuries, taking steps to keep newer workers safe is critical. The report noted, “Based on the findings presented here, the importance of new employee ‘on-boarding’ or orientation cannot be over emphasized.”

According to separate data from Associated Builders and Contractors, companies that conduct in-depth indoctrination of new employees into their safety culture, systems and processes have incident rates nearly 50 percent lower than those of companies that cover only basic safety and health compliance topics.

RELATED: Reduce Incident Rates with Better New Hire Safety Orientations

Another useful tip: Assign a safety mentor to coach newer workers on safety awareness and how to minimize jobsite-specific hazards.

Although the most inexperienced workers may be the most likely to get hurt, don’t ignore ongoing safety training for more seasoned workers. These workers are still vulnerable to injury, and those injuries may be more serious. According to the case study, while minor injuries fell after the first and second years of employment, the percent of injuries that were moderate increased.

“Longer tenured workers have the same injury Causes and Types as shorter tenured workers; therefore safety training for ‘new’ workers can also be used as refresher training for experienced worker,” wrote the authors.

Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.;

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