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It’s not better not to know

In the early 1990s, Toby Keith had a big hit with a country song whose chorus goes, “I wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then”.  It’s a common human failing. I think at one point or another, we’ve all been Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. No one likes to hear bad news, and we sometimes react by not asking questions whose answers we think won’t be to our liking.  But this attitude has absolutely no place in the construction industry. A company that buries its head in the sand when it comes to safety risks will get people hurt — or worse.  And if you’re faced with a lawsuit, willful ignorance is no defense at all. If someone gets hurt on your jobsite, in a negligence suit you will be held to standards of ordinary prudence. Hiding from information will play badly.

Nevertheless, we sometimes hear from construction companies that they worry about the use of site photos to assess safety risks. Isn’t it a bad idea to collect and store thousands of photos that show specific safety hazards on the job site?

For starters, you’re almost certainly going to have plenty of photographic evidence on hand from site documentation. In any liability suit, the plaintiff's counsel will require you to turn these images over, and they’ll spend plenty of money to have an expert or an algorithm go through them to find safety violations. So, why not be proactive and use technology to identify the safety risks in these images so you can take action before an accident occurs?

wbamc_shadrockwilliamsmasonry_4157_2019-11-26T16.22.31.678_UTC_enr2017Photo courtesy of 2017 ENR Photo Challenge

Technologies like predictive analytics are showing their worth, and insurers have begun to notice.  In fact, most insurers are already using predictive analytics internally to understand their own risk. Plus, many of your peer companies are using these tools to improve the safety of their workers. In a liability case regarding a worker injury, your safety officer will likely be called to the witness stand to testify about the measures the company has taken to ensure job sites are safe. It’s likely that he or she will be asked, “Are there tools to provide actionable information about job hazards? Did you use them?”

The defense you want to assert in tort cases is: here was our plan, here’s what we did, and our approach was in line with top industry standards. Newmetrix strengthens your legal defense because it demonstrates care for worker safety and enables Predictive-Based Safety.

Should your company find yourself in court facing a liability case, there will be no need for your legal team to do an awkward “Safety Dance.” You’ll be able to present hard data demonstrating that you relentlessly monitored risk with advanced technology and took concrete steps to mitigate it.

Written by Charles Cobb

Charles W. Cobb is a construction lawyer who, for six years, was in-house counsel with a large Boston area construction manager William A. Berry & Son, Inc. serving institutional, high tech and health care owners. Berry was acquired by Suffolk Construction in in 2007. Prior to that, he worked as an attorney handling commercial leasing and business law. At the start of his legal career, Chuck worked as a trial lawyer on insurance claims for both plaintiffs and defending insureds for carriers. Always interested in technological improvements to business practices, Chuck helped with field adoption and implementation of reporting with a tablet-based product developed by Newmetrix's CEO’s prior company.

View more posts by Charles Cobb.

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