Statistics released by the Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM) show an alarming number of injuries in the construction industry.
In line with the high injury statistics, FEM has launched a campaign to raise awareness of construction site injuries and get the industry onboard and committed to reducing the unacceptably high accidents. The campaign is branded as ‘ZERO Is No Accident’.
On average, 36 people are injured on construction sites daily. In total, for the period 2015 to 2021, there were 54,964 injuries requiring medical attention. Two of the major types of injuries sustained on construction sites were ‘falling to different levels‘ and ‘struck by’. These are standard statistical reporting categories used to record and report incidents both nationally and internationally.
Over the 2015 to 2021 period, extracted as of March 2022, of the 54 964 injuries that required medical attention, a total of 5 842 ‘falling to different levels’ cases were recorded, and 18 165 ‘struck by’ cases, accounting for 44% of all accidents and 35% of fatal accidents.
In addition, the two incidents accounted for 120 out of 243 people becoming permanently disabled, representing 5% of total disabilities during that period. The medical costs attributed to these two types of injuries totalled over R1 billion or 44% of the total cost of injuries between 2015 and 2021.
Accidents in the industry continued despite COVID-19 and its impact on construction activity. In the 24 months to Dec 2021 12 317 accidents were reported to FEM. the top four accident categories were ‘struck by’ with 4 032 incidents; ‘slip or over-exertion’ with 1 743 accidents; ‘striking against’ with 1 484 accidents ; and ‘motor vehicle accidents’ with 1 086 accidents. In addition, 1 046 work-related COVID-19 incidents were reported , this is however deemed to be a temporary trend. These figures, in most cases, align with international trends, FEM said.
According to the statistics, in addition to the human impact and the operational impact from a business perspective, each accident on average cost R51 494 of workmen compensation benefits. The accident cause with the highest average cost was ‘contact with electric current’ at R185 000 per injury average.
“We firmly believe that every accident is preventable, and that a construction industry with zero accidents is achievable,” explained FEM CEO, Ndivhuwo Manyonga.
“The figures relate only to employers who are insured by FEM, we estimate that the FEM policyholders employ around 50% of the formal workforce within construction. The actual number of accidents across the entire industry is higher than what is reported to FEM considering that injuries are also likely to occur in the informal construction sector,” she added.
“The initiative seeks to educate, influence and create advocacy around health and safety (H&S) in the industry. FEM regularly engages with lives that are severely affected by workplace safety. Whether it be a loss of life, an injury, a claim or a settlement, lives are changed by these events.”
FEM says the campaign will run for 12 months and will include through-the-line marketing activities, all aimed at raising awareness on the risks of poor H&S compliance in the industry and the impact on employees and construction workers. The campaign initiative will culminate in an educational road show that will reach industry employees on the ground and aim to foster positive behavioural change.
Falling to different levels: This definition typically describes an incident in which a person falls while working in an elevated position, such as from a ladder or a scaffold.
Struck by: This definition captures a number of different types of incidents. For instance, a person struck by a motor vehicle while working next to a public road would be classified as a ‘struck by’, as the person was struck by a moving vehicle. Other typical examples of ‘struck by’ injuries would include a brick or timber boards falling on someone.
Ms Manyonga explained that training needs to be intensified regarding H&S protocols and processes. “Employees are required to hold their employers accountable when these processes are not adhered to, and vice versa. Employers who are neglecting health and safety processes can be reported to the Department of Employment and Labour inspectors.”
“Stringent measures also need to be put in place to reduce the number of injuries. This can be achieved by creating a safe working environment and ensuring that employees receive proper training.”
“To lower the level of onsite accidents, employers must also ensure that their workforce is constantly trained on issues relating to H&S,” Ms Manyonga said.
Because Workmen’s Compensation is compulsory, employers are at risk. Without insurance, if a staff member is injured on a construction site, the employer will be legally responsible for the medical costs. Also, tender applications usually require a Letter of Good Standing to confirm that workmen’s compensation payments are up to date.
With insurance, employers benefit because FEM provides its policyholders, amongst numerous other benefits, have access to industry statistics to better understand the current shortcomings in relation to H&S in the industry and how to achieve best practices.
FEM policyholders also benefit from its associations with industry role players and through its H&S grants to industry bodies (such as SAFCEC and the Master Builders Associations). FEM also provides access to the various services offered by organisations aimed at improving H&S within the industry.
Other focus areas are on efficient pay-outs, quality care and empathy towards claimants, and to ensure the provision of wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of their employment.
To access the FEM accident statistics Click Here