Construction Safety

Construction Safety:

A Story of Resilience

Towers to tunnels. Bridges to buildings. The history of construction is a history of danger.

Yes, it’s iron, wood, concrete, steel. But also muscles, sweat — and blood and sacrifice.

What’s it take to stand tall atop a beam? To journey deep within the earth? To be the one that spans the gap that the future will travel across? The history of construction is a history of danger. No harness to secure, nothing to catch you if you fall.

Was it courage that put workers out there on the edge? Daring? Or simply the need to take a job — in spite of accidents being chalked up to the cost of doing business?

Today, of course, companies like Clayco make safety everybody’s business. “You see it, you own it!” is a mandate that gives authority to all workers on any job site to call out hazards and risks.

But for too long, “safety” itself was an almost foreign concept to the countless individuals putting their lives on the line to build America. When there was an accident, courts sided with employers. The accepted wisdom was one death for every million spent.

It was a time when accidents were considered “cheap” — with little incentive for industry to prioritize worker safety. All families could do was hold their breath, hoping for a safe return. But some communities and people bravely stepped forward.


Massachusetts led the way in 1877, mandating fire exits and guards for shafts, gears, and belts.

Eyewear had long been used to improve sight. But the safety breakthrough belongs to African-American inventor Powell Johnson and his 1880 patent for eye protectors to guard ironworkers, furnaceman and more from bright lights.


Inspired by the doughboy helmet he wore in World War I, Edward Bullard introduced the “Hard Boiled Hat” in 1919. A groundbreaking invention made from steamed canvas, glue and black paint, it was an innovative shield against falling objects on-site, offering newfound protection for construction workers.

Joseph Strauss took a stand for safety in ’33. As Chief Engineer on the Golden Gate Bridge, he added rope-and-mesh nets — the same kind designed for acrobats. 19 men — known as the “Halfway to Hell Club.” — owed their survival to those nets.

The modern safety harness came into being in the 1940s, inspired by military paratroopers of World War II.


In 1956, Charles Dalziel began the first real research on electric shock. His studies were a benchmark in electrical safety, and led to his invention of GFCI outlets and breakers.

In time — December 29, 1970, to be exact about it — the risks met the resolve of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA made safety regulations and inspections the norm.

But rules alone can’t change the fact that construction has its dangers. What is changing is a determined position on safety based on a new kind of fortitude.

It calls for eyes wide open before an accident — and it’s demonstrated by the companies that are focused on looking ahead with special clarity. That’s the idea behind a movement called the “Focus Five”: a guide to watch out and speak up.


Avoid FALLS by only walking and working surfaces that are clear, paying attention to where you’re going, and protecting edges with hard barricades. Set up ladders correctly, and keep hands free for secure climbing.


Plan for CONTACT WITH ELECTRICITY by only working on live systems with the right training and permit. Otherwise: turn it off, lock it out, verify it’s dead before work starts. Check for GFCI protection and ditch damaged cords.


Protect against STRUCK BY by wearing PPE, keeping controlled access zones, and watching where hands and bodies go.


Evade CAUGHT BETWEEN by keeping hands and body away from moving parts and “crush points” where you could be trapped. Aerial lifts deserve special notice: pay attention to where you are in relation to other structures.


Think about ERGONOMICS: too much stress can cause the sprains and strains that lead to much worse. Stretch throughout the work day, and use carts, dollies, and hoists to help lift, carry, push and pull.

For Clayco, the Focus Five is a reminder that safety is more than hard hats and safety glasses. Safety means being in a safe place, working with safe people — and making the safe choice. It speaks to the core tenets of our “Clayco Safe” culture: “No job is so important it cannot be done safely.”

At its deepest, it’s an active dedication to care and concern from all, on site and at home: “Work safe, live safe — 24/7.” It’s a leadership belief that we’re all in this together, that all incidents are preventable — and that everyone goes home safe.

The constructions that define our shared landscape also reflect shared sacrifice — and triumph. Construction safety is a story of resilience, of people coming together to protect each other — and to ensure that the industry’s legacy is one of progress and compassion.

Beneath the hard materials of our towns and cities lies the stronger foundation of human connection, and a mutual pact: that our commitment to safety must be as unyielding as the structures we build.

Towers to tunnels to bridges to buildings — The courage it takes to go up…To go under…To go across… Must be matched by the courage to take a stand — For industry…For workers…For families. This is the true courage of construction safety.