The construction industry consistently tops the charts in work fatalities and injuries. Danger is unfortunately a constant, inseparable part of construction, and our top priority is the protection of our crews as well as all other personnel on-site.
There are several reasons why construction work is so dangerous. For one thing, each jobsite is different and poses its own challenges and safety hazards. This is complicated further by constantly evolving job site conditions as construction progresses.
We rely on the following simple steps that can be adapted to all jobsites. Incorporating a bit of planning into our pre-construction process helps us get in front of potential hazards and possibly save lives. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
A proper safety plan should address both regular hazards and those that are site-specific. Regular hazards are ones our crews face every day, like dehydration, heat stroke, and weather. The project-specific hazards are typically identified per phase.
Once we know what the hazards are, we determine the best way to minimize or eliminate them. Some of the methods we use are engineering controls, training, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
It's common sense to stage a construction site for the obvious things like material deliveries and equipment storage, but we go a step further and also stage for safety. One way we achieve this is by designating areas for specific tasks or trades, as well as things like storing materials, tools, first aid kits, and PPE near the work taking place.
Another way is by limiting access in areas where hazards are a major concern with things like barricades, cones, caution tape. This can especially help eliminate hazards like electrocutions, getting struck by objects, falls, or getting caught in or between objects. As a bonus, it reduces traffic in areas where a distracted worker could easily get injured.
Safety meetings have a few main purposes; they help reinforce prior safety training, they give warnings about new or unique hazards, and they serve as a new reminder and help battle complacency.
Before each project, and sometimes each phase, we hold a safety kickoff meeting. THis is where expectations are set for safe working practices, proper PPE usage, and how to report accidents or unsafe conditions.
Toolbox Talks are held daily, and those focus on the immediate work being performed. It's also usually the time that questions or concerns that have come up are raised and addressed.
Although safety is everyone’s responsibility, someone in charge (superintendent, foreman, etc.) ultimately needs to make sure that plans are being executed, work's being performed safely, and all hazards are properly and immediately addressed.
We also encourage certain practices within our crews. New workers are paired with more experienced crewmembers; this helps with safety and also fosters a sort of mentor/mentee type relationship. If a worker sees something wrong, they know that we'd like to hear immediately. To prevent withholding, we don't focus on assigning blame or doling out punishments, we work to fix the problem right away.
Jobsite safety is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Construction is dangerous by nature, and complacency kills. We take a straightforward, proactive approach to battling these dangers.
It starts with preparation via OSHA and other training. Then comes early planning for the project's site and phases. Next, having regular meetings to serve as reminders and warn about the immediate hazards. And lastly, establishing and maintaining protocols and a crew atmosphere that promotes safety and makes corrections quickly.