The history of construction safety may not get much coverage in the textbooks, but for those of us in the safety business, this specialized historical subset is both intriguing and pertinent. The law firm of DiMarco, Aruajo, and Montevideo recently put out this extremely informative timeline of fatality rates throughout the history of construction, appropriately titled “The Human Cost of Construction.” The timeline starts with the construction of the Erie Canal in 1825, which took the lives of 1,000 out of 50,000 workers, a rate of 20 deaths per thousand workers. While the timeline includes international construction projects, it is interesting to track the progress of safety in the United States, from the Erie Canal all the way up to the CityCenter in Las Vegas, constructed in 2009. While the CityCenter project was given a death rate of just .75 deaths per thousand workers, the timeline states “…six workers died over the course of construction, two from falling and four from being struck or crushed by objects, causing workers to refer to the project as “CityCemetery” and strike briefly in 2008 due to poor safety conditions.”
This strike may not seem shocking to the modern reader but take a look back on the timeline, to the construction of the World Trade Center only 39 years earlier. Sixty deaths, and a death rate of 17.4 per thousand workers. The death rate during the construction of the World Trade Center was over 22 times greater than “CityCemetery” and yet, no mention of any strikes or protests. This interesting fact goes to show how far safety practices have come in a relatively short time. There is very little difference in the death rates of the construction of the Erie Canal and the World Trade Center, despite the two events being separated by 145 years. Yet in the short span of 39 years, our perception of construction safety has undergone a paradigm shift, to the point where a death rate of .75 per thousand workers is unacceptable. As well it should be.
At Checkers, we are doing our part to bring that .75 per thousand down to zero. Our diverse lines of high-quality products have many applications throughout the construction industry, including our industrial signals, cable protectors, and ground protection mats.
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