Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Deconstructing California's economy
A new report from Public Citizen shows the drag that construction accidents put on the state's economy and the need for more safety.
In a New York Times article published today, the paper paints a rosy picture of California's economy, one that's in stark contrast to what California residents have seen and heard in recent years. The article reported that the state's struggling economy, which in recent years resulted in a $25 billion budget shortfall, is now on a solid economic foundation and that budget surpluses may be achieved within a year's time.
One driver of the economy, reports the New York Times, is California's housing market. "Houses are sitting on the market for a shorter time and selling at higher prices, and new home construction is rising. Home sales rose 25 percent in Southern California in October compared with a year earlier."
But with increased construction projects comes increased risks of accidents at the job site.
A new report, “The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in California’s Construction Industry,” from the DC-based public advocacy group, Public Citizen, shows that workplace accidents in the construction industry are a major drag on the state's economy.
The report shows that between 2008 and 2010 the cost from occupational injuries and fatalities at construction sites across the state amount to $2.9 billion. The dollar amount was tallied by examining "direct, indirect, and quality of life costs resulting from fatal and nonfatal injuries."
"Many different issues lead to injuries in the construction industry," reads the report. "Accidental falls and contact with objects and equipment are two of the leading causes of fatal and nonfatal injuries, and oversight agencies have failed to do their part to reduce the frequency of such tragedies."
“The economic picture is quite staggering,” writes Keith Wrightson, the author of the report. “We now know that construction accidents impose huge economic costs in addition to tremendous pain for individual victims.”
In just two years time, from 2008 to 2010, 168 construction workers were killed in accidents at job-sites statewide.
Last year, the report found that 721 construction workers died while at work.
According to Wrightson, five construction-related fatalities were reported in San Diego County-- three in San Diego, and two in Chula Vista.
Wrightson pegs the cost from the fatal workplace accidents at $24.5 million. And that's just a fraction of the total amount. No detailed information on non-fatal incidents in San Diego County was provided-- the estimated cost for a non-fatal incident in 2010 was calculated at $41,378.
The report shows that the state's occupational safety and health department is inadequate when looking at the number of construction projects occurring at one time. "In 2010, there were only 237 Cal/OSHA inspectors assigned to inspect 1,337,867 California workplaces. With such insufficient resources, it would take Cal/OSHA approximately 158 years to inspect each workplace in California once."
Suggestions to decrease the rate of construction accidents include adopting a statewide policy that requires contractors to provide safety records before becoming eligible for state contracts, have contractors provide more training for workers, and tie in safety practices with government contracts.
"California should adopt legislation that speaks to these issues," reads the report. "It’s the right thing to do and will keep Califonia as a leader in occupational safety and health."
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