Oct. 23, 2012 
 
Construction Injuries and Fatalities Cost Washington $762 Million Between 2008 and 2010

State Would Save Money by Only Giving Work to Companies With Strong Safety Records

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Occupational injuries and fatalities in the construction industry cost Washington residents $762 million between 2008 and 2010, a new Public Citizen report shows.

The report, “The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in Washington’s Construction Industry,” quantifies the estimated costs of deaths and injuries in the state’s construction industry by considering an array of factors. 

From 2008 to 2010, Washington recorded 34,700 construction industry injuries and illnesses, of which 16,600 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 39 construction-related fatalities were reported in these years.

Drawing on a 2004 analysis on the cost of occupational injuries in combination with newer data, Public Citizen determined that such incidents cost the state’s economy $762 million during the three-year period.

“The economic picture we came up with is quite staggering,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We now know that construction accidents impose huge economic costs in addition to tremendous pain for individual victims.”

A solution proposed in the report is to award public construction contracts only to companies that have strong safety records, Public Citizen says.

The report notes that Washington already screens construction companies to ensure that they meet standards on past performance, apprenticeship utilization and legal proceedings. But safety is excluded from the state’s prequalification system. The system should be expanded to require construction firms to demonstrate that they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors, and that they do not have serious safety violations.

“Implementing a prequalification process for public construction projects would not address all of the industry’s safety problems,” Wrightson said. “However, such a positive step could yield significant gains to the economy for minimal costs.”

The report can be viewed at https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/price-of-inaction-washington-construction-worker-safety-report.pdf.