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Construction injuries, fatalities cost Maryland $712.8 million from 2008-10

Awarding work to companies with strong safety records would save state money

constructionOccupational injuries and fatalities in the construction industry cost Maryland residents $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010, a new Public Citizen report shows.

The report, "The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in Maryland’s Construction Industry,” quantifies the estimated costs of deaths and injuries in the state’s construction industry by considering an array of factors.

From 2008 to 2010, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents, of which 11,000 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in these years.

Public Citizen determined the costs of occupational injuries and fatalities through a conservative methodology that totaled costs from three broad categories: direct costs, indirect costs and quality of life costs. Combined, the incidents cost the state’s economy $712.8 million during the three-year period.

“The economic picture we came up with is quite staggering,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We now know that construction accidents impose huge economic costs in addition to tremendous pain.”

A solution proposed in the report: to award public construction contracts only to companies that have strong safety records.

Maryland already screens construction companies to ensure that they meet standards on past performance, bonding capacity and legal proceedings, but safety is excluded from the state’s prequalification system. Public Citizen is calling for a requirement that construction firms demonstrate that they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors, and that they do not have serious safety violations.

Implementing a prequalification process for public construction projects would not address all of the industry’s safety problems, Wrightson said. However, such a positive step could yield significant gains to the economy for minimal costs.

“It’s the right thing to do and would position Maryland as a leader in occupational safety and health,” Wrightson said.

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