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Budgeting for Construction Safety

Whether it’s an OSHA fine or an accident, budgeting for safety on your jobsite is very important and must be thought about before any work can begin.

    New construction finally seems to be making a comeback. Current forecasts have been positive. But the industry is still not what it used to be.

Now that smaller construction firms are starting to bring in some work and make a little money, the last thing on their mind is spending money on jobsite safety. It is a necessary evil though and should not be thought of as a “cost” but instead an “investment”.

Safety Manual

All companies, small and large, should have a safety manual. If OSHA shows up on your site, they are going to ask for it. If you don’t have one, there’s a good chance the Compliance Officer will open up a full site investigation instead of doing just a “focused” inspection. So why don’t you have a safety manual?

Usuallysmaller firms don’t want to spend the money for a strong safety program. But what they may not realize is this is a one time cost…an investment. Once the plan is in writing, it won’t change all that much unless OSHA updates a regulation or a better “best practice” is realized and the manual will be updated.


OSHA 10 or 30 Hour training is not “required” by OSHA…yet. But OSHA does state, you, as the employer, must train your employees in hazard recognition. Whether its Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), fall protection or scaffolds, documented training is important.If OSHA comes to visit because they happen to see your employees working in an unsafe manner while on a scaffold, the first question they will ask you is “Have they been trained?” If you have no proof, it never happened.

Employees do appreciate having training offered to them even though they initially complain about having to attend. Employers often find that once improvements are made to their health and safety program, they have a more productive and profitable company. Happy employees, low turn over rate and boost of moral are all proven elements of a stronger safety program.

The cost of training may seem high at first to the employer but again, this is an investment. Making an investment in your employees will show them you care about them.

Workers Comp Accidents

The definition of “accident” is “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury”.

No one wakes up one day and decides they will be in an accident. It’s impossible to budget for an accident – it’s much easier to budget to not have an accident!

To cover the cost of a $500 accident, an employer would have to:

  • bottle and sell 61,000 cans of soda
  • bake and sell 235,000 donuts
  • deliver 20 truckloads of concrete

And that’s covering only the medical portion. There is always an emotional and psychological element that affects the injured as well as their family. Productivity usually declines once there is an accident on site.  And more than likely, your insurance premiums will go up.

Cost Examples

Here is an example of the cost of a strong safety program vs. no program at all:

Strong safety program:

Manual $3,000

Training for 10 people $1,350

Site Visits to ensure compliance (based on 8 visits) $3,200

Approximate cost is $7,550…the next project you work on though will be at a much lower cost though due to the manual and employee training already being in place.

No company safety program and OSHA visits your construction site:

Fine for general requirements $1,000

Fine for no fall protection $1,453

Fine for not training employees $659

Fine for not wearing head protection $635

Fine for not wearing eye protection $575

Fine for not using ladders properly $716

Total approximate cost after OSHA visit is $5,038. This does not include money and time lost during the OSHA site visit. This does not include the cost of trying to get yourself out of the OSHA fine. This does not include the cost of OSHA telling you you have to hire someone to be in charge of safety for your company. This does not include the money it will cost to fix all the issues found on site by OSHA. Such as creating a safety manual. And the fines listed above are only if one (1) instance is found. Numerous instances and repeat violations cost an astronomical amount of money.

Before starting a project, think long and hard about how much you should be budgeting for safety. The more of an investment you make, the greater your return will be.



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