While the feeling of building a gorgeous structure from scratch is very rewarding, a job in construction can be far from tranquil. A construction project has many moving parts and involves large, complicated teams, and if safety is not the top priority, accidents can happen. Recent numbers show that there are over 150,000 construction site injuries per year.
Although the job can be dangerous, it doesn’t have to be. A responsible builder can mitigate the chance of injury by keeping up on safety training and implementing smart policies that are followed by everyone on the crew. Let’s look at some policies your company should enact today to avoid the common incidents that can happen on any given job site.
Before the Job Starts
Before a single crew member steps on the job site, it should be the policy of the foreperson and management team to look at the project ahead through the eyes of a safety inspector. An inventory should be made of all tools and safety apparatus that will be needed during the job, and training should be developed for the crew that will inform them of how to use the equipment and avoid common hazards unique to the project.
Remember that safety doesn’t only allude to mechanical issues but also the elements. If the job takes place in hot summer temperatures, it is the responsibility of management to ensure that workers are supplied with enough water, sunblock and safety helmets so that they can avoid dehydration and heatstroke.
While you are thinking about the workers, also consider staffing. Make it a policy to have a predetermined number of employees on the site at once. There should be enough to fulfill the required tasks without pushing themselves to exhaustion or working too much overtime. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that those who work over eight hours vastly increase their risk of physical injury. This occurs because the longer you work the more mentally exhausted you become, which diminishes your ability to concentrate and multitask.
While the protection of your staff is a top concern, management also needs to put policies in place to protect the public. Before any job starts, it should be required that all proper signage is posted in dangerous areas, and the entire site should be cordoned off with fencing and caution tape. In many municipalities, these safety precautions are often legally required for permit inspections. Safety for the public is especially important around high-risk areas, including near parks, schools, and urban streets, so management must plan accordingly before the job starts to cover all potential issue.
Training and Communication
A strong training program should be a cornerstone of every construction company, and it should be a corporate policy that all workers are provided with adequate safety training before they step onto the work site. One of the best ways of ensuring that you are training on all important aspects is to go over the OSHA checklist for construction site safety. This list covers common hazards and solutions, proper handling of ladders and scaffolding, and how to safely operate heavy machinery, among many other topics.
Management needs to set up a training program complete with pamphlets, videos and on-site refreshers. Veteran employees should be required to re-take this training session at least once per year and need to sign off on their understanding upon completion. Management can also partner up new employees with these experienced workers, so the seasoned craft professionals can show the ropes and help put their safety training into action.
On top of the general yearly training, management should also hold safety meetings each morning before work begins. Remind the staff of the common risks on the particular job and ask if they have any questions. Remember that an open-door policy is essential. Workers should always feel comfortable coming to management when they see a hazard or if they feel like one of their co-workers is engaging in dangerous behavior.
While proper training is essential, sometimes it takes putting a policy in writing to get the message through to the worker. Have your employees sign off on safety policies so they understand the importance of following the protocol. Additionally, with this signed documentation, management can remind their staff of the obligations they agreed to and protect themselves in the event of an incident.
Obviously, safety gear and equipment are essential to keeping a construction site safe. To ensure your workers both understand how to use the gear and equipment and care for it properly, use a checklist and sign-off sheet on the job site that accounts for all protective gear required for their work. Depending on the job, safety goggles, knee pads, helmets and earplugs may be required, and the employee should not be able to begin work until they have the safety equipment required. The sign-off sheet and documentation can help management keep track of who has the proper gear and who may need additional training on the essentials.
When working on the job site, it is important to avoid distractions, and with an endless amount of entertainment available on cell phones and tablets, this is harder now than ever before. To mitigate this potential threat, management needs to create a device usage policy, educate the team on what it says and then get their acknowledgment in writing. This policy should state when cell phones cannot be used and when they are allowed, such as at lunch or when the employee is in a designated area away from danger. Instead of cell phones, the company can equip their staff with walkie-talkies or headsets, which will limit the potential distractions and still enable them to communicate with one another.
Any employees who use heavy machinery, from a forklift to a jackhammer, should have the proper training for usage and safety when operating the device. This training should be documented. Along with that, any required certification to operate large machinery should be filed away and renewed accordingly.
Construction can be a very rewarding job, but it can also be dangerous if not handled appropriately. By taking the time to sort out and review essential policies now, you can have confidence that your team will remain efficient and protected.