Why it pays to select contractors that comply with professional and occupational standards.

Construction, when done wrong, can be an industry fraught with workplace injury.

On any given day, more than six million people work at some 252,000 construction sites across the nation, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 2015, 927 construction workers died from labor-related incidents and another 2.9 million were injured, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Safety, therefore, is a continual concern for those of us in the industry. But it should also be a matter of importance to those who hire construction workers to do a job. Issues of liability, injuries to tenants as a result of a poorly managed worksite, or damage to personal property such as vehicles, are concerns that all apartment owners should consider when contracting for work on their buildings.

It Pays to be Safe

It’s a common misconception that safety is expensive. In fact, the opposite is true.

Construction firms that put a value on safety experience higher productivity, reduced worker’s compensation, associated medical expenses and OSHA penalties, less worker turnover and less waste – not to mention lower overhead costs such as insurance.

Lower employee turnover reduces costs for training and the risk for accidents caused by an unskilled workforce. By retaining a skilled and experienced team, these companies will also experience higher productivity and quality of work – all of which lower costs and enables reductions in bid projections.

“Employers often find that changes made to improve workplace safety and health can result in significant improvements to their organization’s productivity and financial performance,” OSHA determined.

Guarding Against Safety Issues

An apartment owner’s first line of defense is to hire a licensed, certified and bonded contractor.

The State Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists maintains a database of licensed professionals. Visit www.bpelsg.ca.gov for more information. If the name you’re searching for isn’t there, you can call 1-866-780-5370 to make sure the omission is not due to a clerical error. The California Architects Board lists licensed architects at www.cab.ca.gov. The California Contractors State License Board keeps a database of all licensed and insured contractors at www.cslb.ca.gov.

Be sure to also insist on proper insurance documentation. Worker’s compensation and professional and general liability insurance are needed to protect yourself and your property in the event that something goes wrong. Never assume a contractor has coverage, and make sure you are named as additionally insured on your written contract.

BEWARE: Some companies may present you with a certificate of worker’s compensation, but it’s important to check their status with the CCSLB. Go to www.sclb.ca.gov, click on “check a contractor license,” search for the business name, click on the appropriate license number, then scroll down to the section dealing with workers’ compensation. Click on “workers’ compensation history.”

If the posting states “exempt” click on the word for an explanation. (As seen below) Typically, this means that the company owner lists himself as the sole employee, and that no workers are insured under worker’s compensation. That puts you – the building owner – at risk in the event of any jobsite accidents or injuries.

seismic retrofit no workers comp

How Safety Impacts Your Retrofit

Safety is not a commodity that can be bought or gained. It is the result of what happens when things are done right and events go as planned. That can only happen when firm policies are in place and employees are expected to follow them or face disciplinary action, maybe even termination.

Some of the most common accidents leading to injury in construction include:

  • Falls
  • Excavations
  • Electrical
  • Heavy equipment

It’s important that your retrofit company and its employees adhere to occupational standards related to these and other potential mishaps that reflect the risk of injury while work is being performed.

What are the risks to occupants of a building once the work day has ended?

Neglected tools and debris can create a potential fall hazard to tenants, or their vehicles. This includes discarded hardware, screws, nails and other sharp objects. Trenches dug for footings can present a fall risk if they are not properly once the work day is over. Likewise, wood or other construction materials piled unsafely could in some circumstances tumble

What You Should Demand of Your Contractor

In addition to checking the credentials and references of any contractor you hire, be certain the firm also follows these typical safety protocols:

  • Do they have an assigned person on site to inspect and ensure that safety precautions are met?
  • Is safety a routine part of the company’s job training?
  • Are safety protocols followed on the job?
  • Does the company maintain injury logs with government agencies?
  • Are all tools and construction debris removed and/or stored at the end of each work day?
  • Is the work area clear of any potential hazards or nuisances once the work day is over?

Be sure to ask about safety protocols when interviewing prospective contractors for any job. In the end, it could pay off significantly for you, your tenants and even the company you hire.