A recent study revealed that unionised construction companies are more likely to comply with work health safety procedures compared with non-unionised firms. The report found that unionised work places have higher no-lost-time and lower lost-time claims rates. It was also observed that unionised construction sites may encourage work health and safety reporting and reduce risks through hazard identification, control and management.

The study was conducted by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) in Canada but may have direct implications with the recent union disputes in the construction industry in Australia. IWH is a not-for-profit research organisation based in Toronto, Canada. The study, titled “Protecting construction worker health and safety in Ontario Canada: Identifying a union safety effect,” was published at the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on 2 September 2015.

The research used 5,797 unionised and 38,626 non-unionised construction sites/firms for its data, taking into account information submitted to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board from 2006 to 2012. Taking into account the size and complexity of the construction firms, the study reveals that unionised construction companies, compared to non-unionised companies, report:

• 13 per cent higher rates of total injury claims (both claims that are allowed and not allowed);

• 28 per cent higher rates of allowed no-lost-time injury claims (meaning claims that require health care but don’t result in time off work beyond the day of injury);

• 14 per cent lower rates of allowed lost-time claims (meaning claims that involve missed days of work); and

• 8 per cent lower rates of musculoskeletal injuries.

The study seems to suggest that workers who belong to unions feel more comfortable about reporting workplace injuries. The study, however, did caution that some factors were not considered in the study – such as the age of union members suggest that they are more experienced than their non-unionised counterparts.

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