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Use different skill sets for safety success

December 4, 2012
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Most accidents result from human error. Whether an error is made from carelessness, incompetence or by chance, an accident generally results from the inattention of a worker. Many times, this can be caused by the repetitive nature of many work actions and the natural comfort that comes from going through the motions. Other times it can be from a miscommunication between different groups of people on the site. Even with the most experienced worker, being comfortable or having several groups of people on the job can make everyday tasks seem monotonous and relaxed; when in reality, every day presents new tasks, projects and challenges. This is true especially for construction sites, as there are several kinds of people working at once, causing inattention and safety non-compliance.

With the nearly 6.5 million people working at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation on any given day, it is not uncommon for these sites to boast workers who perform repetitive actions, as well as an abundant need for clear communication and hazard recognition. According to OSHA, the fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average in this category for all industries, costing billions of dollars on an annual basis. With statistics like these, it is important to look at ways for better planning and implementation of safety strategies, such as recognizing hazards. An effective way to do this is to implement a team safety structure among all parties working at the site.

It’s a team effort

With all the different skills it takes to get the job done, having a team means to provide a variety of working relationships within your organizational structure to ensure that your safety initiatives are being followed in the company. The best way to utilize a team safety strategy in your company would be to first look at the design and choice of materials and machinery that will be used to eventually create the final result. The kind of approach you take for your safety and team organization will depend on those factors and should begin in the earliest stages of the project, before any worker can step foot on the site, and continue until the site is completely finished and devoid of any materials.

This means there is a lot of planning, as there are typically three kinds of people on a site: construction workers, contractors and engineers — and they all need to know what’s going on. For success and safety, this team approach should be developed and implemented on a daily basis through the general contractor or construction manager on the project. Here is a summary of their job duties to see how each group of people on a construction site needs to work together.

Worker — These are the people physically putting the building together, as well as many more responsibilities, especially regarding safety. Includes management and supervisors.

Contractor —This person oversees the construction project and is in charge of communication between all the parts of the construction team as well as the company, person or government entity that needs the construction. Subcontractors may also be hired.

Engineers — These people are in charge of making sure the plans for construction are safe and sturdy, including the final building, temporary structures, and schemes for lifting and transportation of materials.

To make group safety efforts work for your organization, there must be a shared approach to safety that allows for daily meetings to remind people on the site of the need for safety, the need for a team approach to safety, and to address particular safety concerns related to the work to be performed that day. Such statements and advice seem so basic and easy to achieve, but are rarely performed, which could cause an accident to occur.

Setting the standard with safety

Safety is not only a concern for the obvious reasons — risk of injuries or death and damage to property — but the better your safety standards, the more measurable improvements for your organization. Improved safety can serve as a standard for the project delivery team’s management of all aspects of the job, including quality control, schedule, maintenance and cost control. If all the groups of people involved in construction — owner, contractor, engineers, workers, etc. — are committed to safety, the results have proven to be that the safest jobs are consistently the most profitable jobs.

There are also legal implications of safety non-compliance that are carried out from OSHA requirements and penalties, as well as from civil lawsuits, that arise from accidents and other problems. In addition, safety non-compliance results in lost productivity, scheduling problems, and in negative media coverage. By reducing these risks associated with construction, the overall direct and indirect project costs can be significantly reduced with a team safety approach.

Safety first and foremost

Safety is one of the most prominent concerns at a construction site. Everyone must work in conjunction with each other on their assigned role or roles to efficiently and safely complete the project. Though everyone is accountable for keeping the site as safe as possible, team safety strategies are meant to bring a higher level of safety communication around the site to ensure less inattentiveness and a higher regard for construction activities. Remember — there is no ‘I’ in team; safety is a team effort.

 

References

Hudson, Kevin, and Foltz Martin, LLC. “Preventing Safety Non-Compliance through a Team Approach.” Construction Business Owner Magazine. Construction Business Owners, May 2008. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://www.constructionbusinessowner.com/topics/safety/construction-safety/preventing-safety-non-compliance-through-team-approach>.

Skinner, David, and Melanie Tunget. “A Team Approach to Safety.” Construction Today Monthly. Construction Today, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://www.construction-today.com/index.php/sections/columns/228-a-team-approach-to>.

“The Team Approach to Safety.” ActSafe Newsletter 1 (May 2010): 1. ActSafe.ActSafe.Web.<http://www.actsafe.ca/wp-content/uploads/resources/pdf/v1_no3.pdf>.

“Team Safety.” National Training Calender. National Safety Council, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://train.nsc.org/ntc/TCALDet01.aspx?id=60>.

“Worker Safety Series - Construction.” Occupational Safety & Health Administration. United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3252/3252.html>.

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