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How to improve construction site safety

Construction work is regarded as one of the most dangerous occupations, leaving construction sites to be considered anything but fully safe. Heights, large equipment, edges, deep holes, and wobbling stairs are a reality in many construction sites, no matter how modern or careful the contractors claim to be. Although the employers do need to take care of the safety and security of the workers, workers must also need to keep in mind a lot of precautions themselves when working in such hazardous conditions.

Maintaining a safe construction site and a safety culture takes diligence. “Safety First” can’t just be a catch phrase delivered to workers, it must be put into practice by building strong safety habits within your organization. Your commitment to safety should be one of the core principles of your company’s culture.

Here are a few ways to improve construction site safety:

Make safety the priority

Construction site safety should be placed above everything else: costs, productivity, timelines, etc. Your employees are your number one asset, proving to them that their safety is your top concern on every project instills confidence and builds trust. Putting safety first can help reduce costs and improve productivity on the construction site. Accidents lead to cost overruns and project delays. Improving safety means fewer days lost due to accidents and injuries. A strong safety record can also help reduce insurance costs.

  • Start with upper management - getting buy-in from employees requires a top-down approach starting with the executive officers. From the CEO on down, safety needs to be a core value of your company; management should lead by example by participating in safety meetings and trainings.

  • The use of safety committees, which include both managers and field workers, can also be an effective way to improve safety.

Ensure workers are properly trained

Properly training your workers is the easiest way to help improve your company’s safety culture. It shows your workers that you are committed to keeping them safe and healthy. Train your workers on use of safety equipment, safety expectations, and any safety risks and precautions relevant to their job duties. Training shouldn’t be a one-off event. Safety training should be a continuous and ongoing effort to help reinforce best practices. Ongoing training will help your workers better retain what they’ve been taught and it keeps safety top of mind.

  • Verify Contractor Certifications: You must make sure your contractors are pre-qualified for safety. You should review the safety performance of your potential sub-contractors as part of your procurement process. This could include reviewing CSAM recordable rates and conducting an audit of their safety management systems.

  • Emergency Preparedness - Be alert and take some measures to prevent them; but also be prepared in case an emergency occurs. All workers should know the escape or exit route if a fire occurs. Knowing where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them may prove to be very advantageous in many situations and is therefore highly recommended. Employers should train workers to use this emergency equipment.

  • First aid training is also another vital skill to have on construction site. Ensure site managers are trained and up to date on fist aid certification.

Hold everyone accountable - at all levels

All employees need to be held accountable for safety and safety rules should be consistently enforced. Everyone who steps foot on the construction site is responsible for safety, not just your safety managers and those in charge. Workers should know that unsafe practices put not only themselves in danger, but those around them. Make sure safety rules are clearly defined and explained to everyone on the site and that the consequences for failing to follow the rules will be strictly enforced. You should also empower employees to speak up and report unsafe conditions, near misses or coworkers failing to follow safety protocols. Everyone on the site should have the power to order a work stoppage to address and correct any safety issues.

Protective Apparel and PPE

Employers are supposed to provide their workers with proper protective gear and clothing. If you as a worker do not have them, demand them from your employer and wear them correctly.

  • Well-fitted helmets and protective eyewear are a must.

  • At sites where there is a lot of movement of heavy vehicles, workers should wear highly visible clothing so that they can be located and seen easily. Because construction workers have to be working outdoors regardless of weather conditions, they also should have some climate protective gear and clothing.

  • Ear plugs or muffs for working in noisy areas and protective gloves when dealing with toxic chemicals should be worn. Anti-slip footwear and protective apparel are necessary for those working in toxic or dusty environments. Make sure you wear them.

  • Fall harnesses are very important for every construction worker. Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths, so make sure your fall protection program is effective. You should have a specific fall management plan for each project where the risk of falls is present. Ensure your harness is sturdy and secured to a strong anchorage point when you are working at heights.

Conduct daily site inspections and safety meetings

Safety should be a part of everyday conversation. Construction sites should be inspected before and after each workday to address any safety concerns such as tools left lying around or damaged equipment. Job sites should also be inspected throughout the day to identify any potential hazards and monitor workers to make sure they are working safely. Hold a brief safety meeting before work begins each day to go over what tasks are scheduled to be performed along with the safety procedures to be followed. Be sure to address any concerns or issues and acknowledge the good practices observed from the prior day. This is one of the best management tools out there to improve safety. Inspections can uncover safety risks caused by worn equipment, unsafe behaviours, or misplaced tools and give you a chance to correct them before they can cause an accident.

  • Take safety into account during the project planning process. Your project planning process should include conducting a Job Safety Analysis of each component of the project so that proper controls are implemented before work begins.

  • Put together a safety committee that includes employees from all levels of your business. They should be involved in reviewing and updating your company’s safety program, crafting site-specific safety plans during the pre-construction phase of each project and helping identify potential hazards and safety concerns.

  • Make sure safety is addressed at shift changes, weekly meetings, and anytime there is a job change. Get your workers involved and invested.

  • Workers who are involved in the process of building and improving your safety culture will feel invested and are more likely to take safety seriously. They are also more likely to communicate their concerns if they feel their input is valued.

Review accidents and near misses

Investigate all accidents and near misses to determine their root causes and use that information to improve safety procedures and prevent future incidents.

  • Create a corrective action plan with input from employees. Make sure all workers are aware of the plan to ensure it is properly executed and enforced.

  • Assemble an accident response team for each job site made up of a few employees who have some basic first aid training. They should know what steps to take in the event an injury occurs to mitigate any existing hazards and administer first aid to injured workers.

Be cautious of common hazards

  • Scaffolds are an integral part of most construction sites and are associated with a high number of injuries. So when you are going to be working on them, you must ensure your safety first. Check with your supervisor or find out yourself whether the scaffold has been inspected by a professional or a competent person. Never work on an incomplete scaffold which does not have a strong platform or base.

  • Ladders are other essential construction site tools with a high potential for danger. Check the ladder thoroughly before using it. If you find any part of the ladder wobbly, do not us it. A ladder should be of proper strength and of a height that always keeps it at least one meter above the landing. All of the steps or slabs of the ladder must be secured properly. The upper and lower end of the ladder should preferably be fastened or secured properly. If not, ensure there is someone manually keeping it secure in order to prevent a fall from height.

  • Electrical hazards - Construction sites require a lot of electrical installations. If you are using plugged-in portable devices, such as grinders or drills, you should always check that the cables are protected, the metal casing is grounded, and the power supply is provided with an earth leakage circuit breaker. Never allow the electrical tools to come in contact with water.

  • Equipment - You'll need proper training before operating some equipment, including a material hoist and a crane. Ensure the hoist is operated only after the gates are locked properly. Know the working load limits of a hoist and never exceed those limits. Most importantly, when using material hoists, make sure the communication between you and the operator are clearly understood. Any error here can cause a major accident on the site.

Always have First Aid readily available

While it may not be possible for workers to carry first aid supplies with them all the time, both the site supervisor and contractor should ensure that first aid is always accessible to the workers. If as a worker you find that first aid you will need is not around, inform your supervisor immediately. Basic first aid for minor burns, cuts, and falls should be available on site so that the required medical assistance can be provided to the workers immediately. This is beneficial to the employer, as well, because this ensures that after resting for some time, the worker can return to his work as soon as possible. Some injuries when treated immediately helps in limiting the damage immensely and prevents infections from spreading.

To conclude, a construction worker needs to be careful at all times and contractors must ensure they diligently maintain safe construction sites at all times.



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