NWI Construction sites nearly 15 times safer than national average

Northwest Indiana's union construction industry has nearly 15 times fewer accidents than the national rate, a new study found.

The Northwest Indiana Business Roundtable looked at data compiled from 40 region construction companies and more than 30 million man-hours, and found the the local union construction industry far surpassed nationally safety statistics. The study examined man-hours, recordable incidents, days away and restricted work cases over the last three years.

During that time period, contractors from across the region and beyond were engaged in one of the largest construction projects in Northwest Indiana history, the $4.2 billion upgrade to the BP Whiting Refinery.

Still, the number of days employees missed work, did restricted work activities or transferred to other jobs was 3.78 times lower in the region than in the nation. The number of workplace incidents in Northwest Indiana was 14.8 percent below the national average.

"These numbers are very significant for all of the hardworking men and women of the Northwest Indiana union construction industry, and for the Construction Advancement Foundation," said Jim Arendas, Environmental Safety and Health director with the CAF. "We've built some outstanding training programs throughout our region that focus on developing essential skills to keep workers safe on the job, keep productivity high and reduce losses due to accidents and time away from work."

The Portage-based trade association, which represents more than 500 area contractors, recently opened a $1.6 million, 7,000-square-foot training facility where workers can train on a 25-foot-tall scaffold, an underground tank and a bay big enough to accommodate scissor-lifts and other equipment. 

The Construction Advancement Foundation provides 20,000 training hours to about 1,800 workers every year, but hopes to boost that to 30,000 training hours for about 2,500 workers.

Employers and workers across Indiana need to prioritize safety in order to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities, Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Rick Ruble said.

"The BP Whiting Refinery Project is a model example of safety priorities in action," he said

More than 14,000 tradesmen recently worked on the multi-year upgrade to the refinery.

BP government affairs Director Tom Keilman said congratulated NWI's construction workers.

"These stats align with BP's commitment that all workers 'go home the same as how they came to work,' because in the end, it is about workers going home safely to their families and friends," Keilman said.

John J. Watkins, file, The Times

John J. Watkins, file, The Times