Across the U.S, there are nearly 10 million people working in almost 3.8 million construction businesses daily. Although their work is essential to keep the economy thriving, their tasks come with certain hazards. They often work under unfavorable weather conditions, work at height, and many operate various kinds of heavy machinery.
However, the presence of these unavoidable hazards doesn't mean that workers’ safety must be negatively impacted. To help construction businesses improve their safety performance, we're looking at 5 best practices that can immensely improve construction worker safety while on the job.
1. Update safety procedures and protocols
Sometimes vital safety documents and information end up neglected and almost completely forgotten.
Let's take the example of a safety policy. A documented safety policy is mandatory in an organization with five or more staff. Usually, it encompasses safety plans, emergency procedures, safety regulations, etc.
However, simply having this document doesn’t mean that you're set up with safety. When were these documents last updated in your company? Do they reflect the latest version of safety information for the industry? Do your safety policies incorporate OSHA guidelines for construction work?
Regular reviews and updates are necessary to enable companies to:
- Remain compliant with any changes to health and safety regulations.
- Safely adapt to changes in their business operations (e.g. a larger workforce, new machinery acquired, etc).
It’s advisable to take action right away and confirm the status of your safety protocols and documentation. With the often hectic pace of work in construction businesses, it’s possible that quite some time has elapsed since the last updates occurred.
Ideally, during this exercise, check for updates on other resources as well — such as your SOPs and safety checklists.
Digitizing of these documents can improve and simplify your safety procedures and practices. The availability of digital copies will make it easier to update and distribute these items among staff. Digitized copies will also empower staff to input their observations and feedback easily.
2. Benchmark safety performance
Across different industries, benchmarking remains one of the best practices that enables companies to identify areas of improvement, track their progress in those areas, and reach their goals faster. Regarding construction workers safety in the US, Bancroft construction and Denark Construction are often featured for being the best in safety standards, performance, and keeping records.
To benchmark your safety performance, you can research what these companies are doing differently, and find ways to integrate those ideas in your company’s operations.
3. Onboarding processes
After attracting and hiring qualified job candidates, passing them through a thorough onboarding process can establish the foundation for safe work practices going forward.
When companies continually emphasize safety at this stage, it positively affects their perception about the company. This is also a key factor that helps to keep safety top of mind for their remaining stay in the organization.
During onboarding, it's necessary that new hires are exposed to two types of training, namely:
- Skill-based training, where new workers see hands-on demonstrations of the procedures required to perform specific tasks — e.g. handling hazardous equipment.
- Awareness-based training, using resources (e.g. safety policies, videos, audio, etc) to teach employees how to confidently identify, report, and manage safety risks.
4. Safety training
We've established that training new hires is one of the key best practices for improving safety. Another practice that improves safety is adopting a culture of frequent and continuous safety training and education for all workers.
This continuous training should cover topics such as:
- Identifying and reporting hazards
- Safely operating heavy machinery
- PPE usage
These courses help to build competence for employees, and expose them to the most up-to-date and relevant safety information in the industry. Furthermore, they can later pass on their newly acquired knowledge to other staff.
5. Proactive equipment maintenance
There's hardly any task completed on a construction work-site without using a piece of equipment or tool. However, many of these assets pose serious risks for those operating them and everyone else in close proximity.
From cranes to compactors and even hand tools, the risk of equipment-related injuries is a daily reality for construction workers. Fortunately, these risks can be significantly reduced by keeping these assets in optimal condition — using a proactive and thorough construction asset management program.
A strategic asset management program will help keep infrastructure reliable and safe for many years. While adopting and implementing an asset management program, ensure that measures are in place to check and minimize the following common causes of maintenance inefficiencies:
- Rushing through maintenance procedures (pencil whipping) or even neglecting some maintenance tasks completely.
- Equipment-related hazards that aren't reported in a timely manner.
- Human error.
Let's look at the issue of human error. This is a particularly tricky, but ever-present safety risk that most of us can relate to.
In the context of equipment usage and maintenance, it manifests as “forgotten” repairs and other oversights. To minimize the impact of human error in maintenance, the accepted best practice is to automate as much of equipment maintenance as possible.
Construction maintenance teams can automate and streamline every area of equipment maintenance by deploying a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). By using a CMMS, they can ensure that hundreds of repetitive maintenance tasks are organized and executed by the software while they focus on other work demands.
In essence, worker safety will always remain a key issue in construction. And, the buck doesn't stop on the employer table. Certainly, employers have a large share of this responsibility. However, employees owe it to themselves to watch out for each other's safety as well.
With all parties working together, the goal of getting everyone home in a safe and healthy condition after a hard day's work will be easier to achieve.