Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Research: Union safety effect in construction firms

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine just released a new study into the presence of a union safety effect in Ontario’s industrial, commercial and institutional construction sector. “Protecting Construction Worker Health and Safety in Ontario, Canada Identifying a Union Safety Effect” found two interesting results.

First, accepted no-lost-time claim (NLTC) reports were 13% higher in unionized firms than in non-unionized firms. NLTCs are injuries where the worker required some sort of medical attention but went back to work the next day. These injuries are often thought to be “minor” injuries.

Second, accepted lost-time claims (LTC) reports were 14% lower (adjusting for firm size) in unionized forms than in non-unionized firms. LTCs are injuries were the worker could not go back to work the next day. These injuries are often thought to be “serious” injuries”.

Basically, it looks like unionized workers are more likely to report minor injuries but less likely to report major ones. The research does not explain why this effect occurs, but, off hand, I’d guess unionized workers are less likely to fear retaliation for reporting injuries (ergo higher NLTC reports) and are less likely to be seriously injured due to safer workplaces (ergo lower LTCs). 

There are other potential explanations for these findings (e.g., unionized workers may be more experienced and/or safety conscious—the question here would then be why unionized firms attract these kinds of workers). Overall, an interesting study that begs for additional research.

-- Bob Barnetson

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