Behavior based safety has proven effective in reducing injuries, engaging workers in their own safety and boosting workplace morale. But there's one industry that seems not to have gotten the word: Construction. I would like to look at why construction companies have resisted behavior based safety.
The 3 Impediments
There are three characteristics of construction work that pose obstacles to running behavior based safety processes:
1. The Short-Term Nature of the Work
Behavior based safety has historically been regarded as a long term process in which awards aren't achieved until after as long as efforts of three to five years. Most construction projects don't last that long.
2. The Transient Workforce
Behavior based safety requires at least a modicum of stability in the workforce. That's because the workers need to participate in a series of training steps. But the workforce at construction projects tends to be transient. Workers simply don't stay on the job long enough to make the behavior based training models effective.
3. The Incentives Disconnect
Implementing a behavior based safety program at a construction site takes an outlay of money. It also consumes time. Construction contractors are usually incentivized to keep costs low and complete work as quickly as possible. So adopting a behavior based safety program can reduce a construction company's earnings on a project.
Next week, in Part 2 of this series, I will look at some of the things construction companies have done to overcome these obstacles and successfully implement behavior based safety programs at their sites.
HISTORIC MOMENTS IN WORKPLACE SAFETY
A Short History of Child Labor
By Glenn Demby
|Children sent to work in the coal mines, early 20th century.|
Child labor in America goes back to colonial roots when kids worked as slaves and indentured servants. But the phenomenon really took off during the 19th century. It was fuelled by kids forced from farms and workshops by industrialization. The waves of immigrants that came to America provided a steady source of child labor to the factories in the latter half of the century.
By 1890, the American workforce included approximately 1.5 million children. They worked an average of 60 hours a week and earned about one-third as much as adult laborers. Industry welcomed the influx of inexpensive and pliant labor; parents were grateful for the revenue. And the federal government turned a blind eye to the practice.
Early Reform Efforts
Early initiative to regulate child labor came from the states. In 1836, Massachusetts became the first state to enact a child labor law, requiring that children under 15 working in factories attend school at least three months per year. In 1842, Massachusetts limited children's workdays to 10 hours. Other states followed suit.
The growth of labor unions forced the pace of reform. In 1876, the Working Men's Party proposed that states pass minimum age laws. By 1913, all but nine states had set the minimum age for factory work at 14 years.
Reformers also exerted pressure on the federal government. The 1896 Democratic Party platform called for a national ban on factory work for children under 15. Eight years later, the National Child Labor Committee was formed to lobby aggressively for federal child labor laws.
The first federal child labor law was enacted in 1916. But it lasted only two years before the Supreme Court struck it down. A new law was passed. But the Supreme Court also ruled the new version unconstitutional.
So the reformers shifted tactics, deciding to push for constitutional reform. In 1924, Congress passed a constitutional amendment giving the federal government express power to regulate child labor. But not enough states ratified the amendment and it died on the vine.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
Final victory wasn't achieved until 1938 when Congress enacted and President Franklin Roosevelt signed the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law established for the first time federal minimum employment ages and work hours. The FLSA would survive Supreme Court scrutiny and remains the law of the land today.