A recent study shows construction firms that hire union workers have fewer work injuries requiring workers’ compensation payments for time away from work.
The study, Protecting Construction Worker Health and Safety in Ontario Canada: Identifying a Union Safety Effect, was conducted in Canada but has direct implications for the industry in the United States where 74,950 construction workers suffered “lost-time” injuries in 2010, according to statistics collected by the National Safety Council.
Lost-time injuries consist of on-the-job injuries serious enough to keep workers from doing their jobs, requiring expensive workers’ compensation lost wage reimbursements.
“Our findings indicate that unionized construction firms may encourage occupational injury reporting and reduce risks through training, and hazard identification and control,” said Dr. Benjamin C. Amick III, co-principal investigator of the research project and chair of the department of health policy & management at Florida International University Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work.
Workers’ compensation payments totaled more than $61.8 billion in 2012, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Social Security Administration. Historically, the construction industry accounts for approximately 15 percent of overall workers’ compensation payments on an annual basis. So the “safety effect” described by the study represents billions in potential savings on workers’ compensation expenditures for the industry when construction firms employ unionized workers.
Funded by the Ontario Construction Secretariat, the study was based on 5,797 unionized and 38,626 nonunion construction firms in Ontario, Canada. The study was conducted by the Institute for Work & Health, a not-for-profit research organization headquartered in Toronto, Canada, where Amick is a senior scientist. Amick co-led the study with Dr. Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, with the aid of team members Dr. Ron Saunders and Ms. Desiree Latour-Villamil.