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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

There are few industries hit as hard by a tough economy as the construction industry. Between the cost of safety equipment and incentive based contracts that have the potential to rush workers even in dangerous environments, a bad economy can make a hazardous workplace even more high risk.

When asked about worksite behavior changing due to the economy Dean Ikeda, acting Regional Administrator of OSHA in Seattle said, “I’ve heard allegations of employers cutting corners in safety due to the difficult economy, but it’s not backed up with hard evidence.” This is true. It’s difficult to prove that any company lacks fall protection or doesn’t follow safety guidelines simply to cut costs so hard evidence would be difficult to come by.

However, fines over the last year have gone up. Whether this is due to the economy or not is difficult to say. Recently Haverhill Roofing in New Hampshire was fined $84,000 for using no fall protection and exposing workers to electrical hazards. Examples like these remind us that even in a bad economy, cutting corners on safety isn’t a good bet. You’re not only risking the lives of your workers. With this kind of fines, you’re risking the future of the company.

We need look no further than the Gulf of Mexico to see what cutting corners on safety has the potential to do. Reports state that BP was constantly looking for ways to cut costs. This of course isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, it’s part of doing business. If I can get a two dollar job done just as well for one dollar, why wouldn’t I? So instead of twenty-one stabilizers, BP put in six. A BP official was quoted as saying at the time it would “Probably be fine.” Eleven lives, millions of gallons of oil, and just as many millions of dollars later, we see the results.

Many times the decisions that save lives are made long before the first worker steps on the site. Times are tight and saving money is always something a project manager needs to keep in mind. This is where finding the right fall protection for the right price comes in.