The construction industry is well-known as a dangerous industry.

While safe work method statements and safety training have made a great difference, some areas of risk that may not receive as much attention are the factors of age and the sort of business structure you choose to operate under.

How old are you?

A recent study in the US found that between 2011 and 2012, the number of fatalities in construction increased 8.7 per cent nationwide. By age group, the largest increase in fatalities was among the 55-to-64-year-old age group. When comparing younger workers (aged 18 to 44) with older workers (aged 45-plus), the difference was striking: a 15.2 per cent increase for older workers, and a 1.9 per cent increase for their younger counterparts.

Like it or not, we all age, and while older workers bring expertise, dedication and mentoring to their places of work, they also bring physical and mental issues of aging. Today’s workforce is grayer than ever, so the construction industry must find ways to keep these workers on the job.

Sprains, strains and repetitive motion injuries are common. Lighter weight, better-designed hand tools and changes in construction site layouts – like storing materials off-ground for easier lifting, with cranes, forklifts, carts and dollies readily available – will reduce these injuries. Additionally, level walkways and shorter distances to staging areas will decrease falls.

While these work site improvements improve safety for older workers, they also benefit younger members of the workforce. Today’s younger workers will reach old age in far better shape, and they will have the advantage of mentoring by their more experienced peers who stay on the job longer.

With good safety planning and better equipment, the likelihood of getting hurt on the job is considerably lower for all, regardless of age. More years will be spent working and the cost of doing business will be reduced.

Self-employment is more dangerous

Interestingly, the same study found another trend: that construction fatalities differed by employment class. While the increase in the number of fatalities among wage-and-salary workers in construction was 4.4 per cent between 2011 and 2012, the increase was 27.8 per cent among the self-employed. The annual change in the number of fatalities was 41.9 per cent among self-employed specialty trade contractors.

Whilst the same health and safety laws apply to everyone, individuals who are self-employed may be tempted to ‘risk it’ or struggle to keep up with complexities of workplace safety plans. Yet with cost-effective tools to ensure you meet your workplace safety requirements, it is really not worth taking the risk. Smaller business owners or those who are self-employed are still able to access the safety programs and advice used by the larger construction companies.