As more and more “Help Wanted” signs appear on windows and doors of businesses across the country, the workers who continue to show up each day face increased dangers. A labor shortage has a ripple effect on the employment sector. It can be felt throughout every industry from top to bottom, but some shortages place people at greater risk than others.
The Minot workplace injury attorneys at Larson Law Firm, P.C. discuss the dangers of labor shortages in today’s blog.
Lack of skilled laborers is especially dangerous in the construction industry
The construction industry has been dealing with a lack of skilled laborers for years now. According to the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), “it’s been estimated that for every skilled worker who enters today’s workforce, five workers are retiring,” as the industry struggles to get young workers to replace its aging population. The shortage worsened when the pandemic hit the United States. Construction did not slow to a halt during the pandemic; it took off as people decided to use stimulus money from the government to renovate their homes, complete long-dreamed-of projects, and build the backyard of their dreams.
Noel C. Borck, co-chair of the LHSFNA, explains that “contractors rely on crews of workers to each perform their tasks on time, correctly, and safely to keep the entire site running smoothly and the job on schedule. That can be much more difficult to achieve if a task that would normally be completed by five workers has to be done by four or three.”
When a construction site operates with too few laborers, it reduces the number of eyes that might be able to find deadly hazards, safety issues, or other problems that could easily be spotted and prevented before an accident occurs. It also forces workers to move faster and do more in less time.
This problem becomes even more troublesome when the workers who make up these teams are inexperienced. They won’t have the knowledge, experience, or know-how needed to spot potential risks at the construction site. Inexperienced construction workers used as spotters when heavy equipment is in use could turn into a deadly situation.
Labor shortages in the emergency services
The pandemic has hit the emergency services especially hard all across the country. Not only have firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and EMTs retired early instead of risking bringing home COVID to their family or getting stuck working days on end, the industry has experienced a difficult loss of life due to the illness.
North Dakota is no different than the rest of the country. There were just over 2,000 EMTs in the entire state in 2019, a problem that began long before the pandemic hit. Organizations throughout the state have created partnerships in the hopes of increasing the number of certified EMTs who can staff ambulances. There are paid EMTs who work in Bismarck and other large areas, but the rural areas of North Dakota rely on volunteer EMTs to staff ambulances.
Sanford Health EMS Operations Supervisor Tyler Kientopf said that Sanford Health and the Dickinson Fire Department have created a partnership to offer an EMT certification course for those interested in learning the trade:
Because of our rural nature, it takes time to get to those places. It’s not uncommon for western North Dakota or southwestern North Dakota, where you could be waiting up to 20 to 30 minutes for that ambulance to arrive in some areas. So having additional medical knowledge or (an) ability to control bleeding or provide CPR in those types of emergencies helps increase the chance of survival to our loved ones and everyone else that we are around on a daily basis.
Truck driver shortage impacting multiple industries
The trucker shortage is not news, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. The American Trucking Association reported that there was a shortage in 2018 in the United States of 60,000 truck drivers. The shortage is expected to swell to 160,000 by 2028. Much like the construction industry, trucking is an older industry: the average age of a tractor-trailer driver is about 55, and drivers are retiring every day.
To combat the shortage, trucking companies are recruiting younger drivers; even Bismarck State College has a CDL program for 18- to 21-year-old students. They’re not the only ones looking to help the industry, either. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been issuing hours-of-service exemptions for over a year to help retailers get the goods they need during the height of the pandemic, and Waymo and Daimler have teamed up to create driverless trucks.
We know the industry is in trouble, but some of these options may not be safe. We end up with inexperienced drivers, fatigued drivers, and drivers who rely on automation instead of a learned skillset. Are they being trained correctly? Are they being supervised? Is the rush to get more bodies in vehicles allowing safety precautions to fall by the wayside, increasing the chance of truck accidents? Meanwhile, supply chains for everything from food to paper to medical supplies to computer chips are down around the country, so the trucker shortage really does affect almost every other industry in the country.
How will these shortages affect us long term?
The labor shortage creates immediate safety concerns – fewer workers at any given place of business can increase the risk of an injury – but it could also have long-term effects as well. A recent JAMA study found that “there was a significant increase in the incidence of stress cardiomyopathy during the COVID-19 pandemic when compared with prepandemic periods.” In other words, the last 18 months have stressed people out so much that they’re giving themselves heart conditions. While we may assume much of that stress is related to isolation, fear, and grief over the loss of loved ones, the undue stress of working during a pandemic, and being expected to do more with fewer resources and less help, should not be discounted.
Larson Law Firm, P.C. wants workers to be safe. If you were injured on the job, we may be able to help. Call our Minot worksite injury attorneys today at 701-484-HURT or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment with a member of our trusted team. Our firm has offices in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo.
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