Current Labor Shortage Affects Safety, Survey Finds

Current Labor Shortage Affects Safety, Survey Finds

Troublingly, a small but significant number of firms report that worker shortages have the potential to affect workplace safety.

To better measure the extent and location of construction worker shortages, the Associated General Contractors of America surveyed its members during the summer of 2015 about current labor conditions.

The survey had 1,400 respondents, with 86% of firms reporting they are having trouble filling available positions, up from 83% in 2014 and 81% in 2013. Among the reasons for these shortages are an aging workforce and the fact many laid-off construction workers left the industry for other sectors of the economy. Another reason for growing worker shortages is the lack of quality training programs, particularly for hourly craft professionals.

Troubling, a small but significant number of firms report that worker shortages have the potential to affect workplace safety. Shortages are clearly more severe for hourly craft workers, with 79% of firms reporting trouble finding qualified workers.

Sixty percent of contractors report having the hardest time finding electricians.

Seventy-eight percent of responding firms report they expect it will either continue to be hard, or become harder, to hire hourly craft professionals during the coming year. As a result of the growing competition for workers, 56% of firms report they are increasing base pay rates for hourly craft professionals. Many other firms report they are providing incentives and bonuses, increasing benefits or paying more in overtime to retain workers.

Shortages may be affecting workplace safety too. Fifteen percent of firms reported they have experienced an increase in the number of reportable injuries and illnesses because of workforce challenges. Another 13% report experiencing an increase in the number of jobsite hazards identified in inspection reports because of worker shortages. And 11% report an increase in worker compensation claims that they attribute to tight labor market conditions.

The most severe shortages are in the Midwest. Eighty-five percent of contractors from the Midwest report having a hard time filling hourly craft professional positions, the highest rate of any region.

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