SOUTHFIELD—Many construction occupational injuries can be prevented with the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). A new study by Lawrence Technological University’s Construction Safety Research Center (CSRC) outlines several steps construction managers can take to increase the proper use of PPE.
Research from CSRC Director Ahmed Al-Bayati, assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering at LTU, identified lack of proper use of PPE as being the cause of 85% of falls that result in death among Hispanic workers at construction sites. And the issue is far broader in the construction industry. Other research has found that 70% of all fall incidents involved a lack of PPE. Al-Bayati says the evidence shows lack of proper use of PPE also contributes to deaths and injuries among electrical and road workers.
Why don’t workers use PPE properly? The CSRC study identifies poor PPE design, the belief that PPE is cumbersome and too hot in warm climates, the belief that PPE will slow down work, inadequate safety supervision, lack of safety training, and lack of management support, among other factors.
Al-Bayati’s CSRC conducted a national survey and focus group sessions to address these issues. Steps toward greater compliance with using PPE properly included:
- Improve PPE’s adaptability and comfort in warm and cold climates
- More worker training on the proper use of PPE, including among front-line supervisors, and make that training available in several languages, with annual refreshers
- Emphasize to workers the high risks they’re taking due to PPE non-compliance
- Seek feedback from workers on improving the comfort of PPE
- Explore how PPE can better meet the needs of workers with pre-existing health issues
- Bring upper management into safety training program meetings and the development of safety program procedures
The study, titled “PPE Non-Compliance Among Construction Workers,” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Safety Research, a top scholarly publication in the safety industry published by the National Safety Council and Elsevier. The study’s white paper can be found on the CSRC webpage at https://www.ltu.edu/engineering/csrc/research.asp
“The construction industry in the United States represents 4.1 percent of the workforce, yet accounted for 21.2 percent of U.S. on-the-job fatalities in 2020,” Al-Bayati said. “Construction workers are 5.5 times more likely to get injured than non-construction workers, which shows the importance of the CSRC. The CSRC will continue to conduct studies like this one, to make construction workplaces as safe as they can possibly be.”
Al-Bayati added: “Many thanks to our founding members and industry participants for supporting this vital effort.” The individuals and firms who participated in the focus group sessions were:
- Brian Carson, Safety Director at the Roofing Contractors Safety Alliance,
- Dale Ave-Lallemant, Safety Director at Clark Construction Co.,
- Greg McKinney Jr., Safety Director at Davis Construction Inc.,
- Jim Spaulding, Safety Director at Dee Cramer,
- Joe Wallington, Project Safety Manager at Christman,
- Mary Shepherd, Environmental and Safety Services Supervisor at the Department of Public Works, City of Sterling Heights,
- Mike Miller, field superintendent at Dee Cramer, and
- Tanisha Johnson, Safety Manager at O’Brien Construction
The Construction Safety Research Center is a membership-driven collaboration of companies, municipalities, associations, and agencies that aims to reduce work-related fatalities and injuries by providing innovative safety practices derived from groundbreaking research. The CSRC has a process that helps industry leaders contribute to better safety performance so they can transfer their knowledge and extensive experience into products that save lives and improve overall industry performance. The CSRC’s founding members were key to conducting the study. Those founding members are:
- Bouma Corporation, a Grand Rapids construction contractor
- Carhartt, Inc., a Dearborn-based maker of work apparel
- DTE Energy, Michigan’s largest utility
- RBV Contracting, Inc., a Detroit construction firm
- The City of Kalamazoo
- The City of Southfield
Also contributing to the CSRC effort is Michael Darga, partner at Giffels Webster, the Detroit civil engineering firm, who graduated from LTU in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science in construction management.
In November 2022, the CSRC also announced the addition of four new members. They are:
- Barton Malow, the Southfield-based contractor and construction manager
- CAB Engineering LLC, a Northville-based provider of government certification, procurement, and contracting consulting services
- MISS DIG 811, the non-profit corporation that operates the underground utility safety notification system for the state of Michigan
- Frank Rewold & Sons, the Rochester-based construction firm
Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.