When It Comes to Safety on the Job Site: Modular is Safer
Safety on the construction site is always a top concern. Since it is a potentially dangerous industry, it might come as no surprise that construction fatalities accounted for 21% of all worker fatalities in 2016, according to OSHA stats. Many commercial business owners, contractors, and architects have come to realize that they can make progress in reducing construction site injuries by utilizing an offsite construction process. In fact, safer project worksites are quickly becoming one of the main drivers of building with modular construction.
The Fatal Four
In 2016, the leading causes of fatal injuries in the construction industry were: falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, or being caught in or between objects. These injuries are collectively called the “Fatal Four.”
- Caught between objects
- Struck by object
Collectively, they are responsible for almost 64% of fatal injuries in the construction injuries. Eliminating these four categories would save 630 lives each year.
Off-site Worker Safety is Starting to Get Attention
When the majority of the construction process is moved offsite, as it is with modular building, unique safety components can be implemented that can’t be done on a traditional construction site.
A Smart Market Report on the offsite construction industry, Prefabrication and Modularization: Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry, shows that industry professionals are quickly realizing the benefit of reduced injuries in off-site construction and they are leaning towards using modular construction for future projects.
- Over one-third of respondents (34%) who are currently using prefabrication/modularization have seen site safety improve as a result.
- For firms already using prefabrication/modularization, the factors driving the continued use include:
- Lower project costs (85%)
- Project schedule improvements (84%)
- Project quality improvements (70%)
- Project safety improvement (58%)
- For firms not using prefabrication/modularization, 49% say safer construction sites are a primary driver for future use.
Firms using prefabricated or modular construction found that it improves site safety. In general, they felt the three main safety benefits of the modular building process were:
- the ability to do a complex assembly at ground level
- the need to have fewer workers on-site, for less time
- a fewer number of tasks completed at great heights
Modular is Safer at the Production Facility
The most obvious safety benefit to off-site, indoor modular construction is that it virtually eliminates the weather element. When construction takes place in a weather-controlled environment, the absence of rain and snow eliminates slippery surfaces and cuts down on slips and falls. It also eliminates the risks of exposing electrical lines to moisture., and even electrocutions.
When your building is constructed from modules, each one constructed individually offsite and assembled at the final site, more work is done at ground level and the need for working at heights is reduced. Whereas, on a traditional worksite, construction workers can spend exponentially more time working stories high.
With offsite construction, permanent scaffolding is used when workers are required to work from heights. This differs from scaffolding used on construction sites, which is constantly being assembled and disassembled, opening up more opportunity for error.
It’s also been found that the repetitive nature of an assembly-line construction method promotes higher safety standards and reduces the risk of accidents and injuries, which can be caused by working in unfamiliar surroundings.
Modular is Safer On-Site
Congested Construction Activities
Using an assembly-line inspired construction process, offsite construction allows workers to have adequate space to perform their jobs. Offsite construction allows for less exposure to large construction vehicles moving around tight workspaces, which can lead to fatal injuries from being struck by machinery or caught between objects.
As individual modules are placed and integrated together in final assembly, modular units provide a more rigid system than conventional framing, making a sturdier base for those workers who do need to scale the building.
What has been your experience with modular construction? Did your construction project reinforce the idea that modular construction is safer than traditional construction?