Construction, by its nature, is an inherently dangerous business. We work on elevated platforms and ladders; we use power tools; we work on sites with sharp objects, fall hazards, and caustic and explosive chemicals. For construction company owners, safety hazards surround our industry and our staff every day, and it’s more than just another task list item to keep people safe: it’s our responsibility.
Of course, no one wants to get injured at work, and no owner certainly wants any of their team to be hurt, so making safety is a priority. But if that’s not reason enough for you, safety is heavily regulated in the construction industry through organizations like OSHA and state OSH offices. Violations can carry very lofty fines, civil, and even criminal penalties.
Safety needs to be deliberate and planned for. Too many contractors go through the “activity” of putting together their safety plan, their fall protection plan, and more, only to never use it or revisit it. It becomes relegated to a checklist item of sorts. This is not acceptable. Safety needs to be integrated into the culture of an organization. It’s a top-down initiative and must be part of the workflow process in your company.
Where Are The Dangers?
Every construction company is different, so that the safety risks will be different as well. Trim Carpenters probably don’t go on the roof, for example, so that might not be a hazard you need to address. Start with defining the obvious hazards in your business. If you are a roofing or siding company, your team likely uses ladders, scaffolding, pump jacks, nail guns, etc. Provide written direction and general guidance on how these tools are supposed to be used and set up.
It’s just as important to explain what not to do as it is to explain how tools are supposed to be used. For example, don’t use power tools with frayed power cords, missing safety devices, or other malfunctions. Identify where the dangers are in every type of job you do, then create protocols on how to address those safety concerns. For roofers or anyone using ladders, it’s essential to have a written Fall Protection Plan. Whatever your team does that is inherently dangerous, start building your plan from there.
Reporting Safety Hazards
The next step is to define or identify what to do if these items or hazards are found. For example, if your team has a situation where their harnesses are frayed or rusted, what do they do? Who do they report it to? You need to identify a competent person who will handle these situations and react appropriately and swiftly to avoid loss of productivity and non-compliance.
Next, you need to establish a means to record incidents, perform training, discussions, corrections, and action planning. These generally come in the form of checklists, and there are a ton of useful templates you can find online. Customize these to suit your own needs, and then make sure your employees or crew have access to them and are familiar with them.
Talk About Safety. A Lot.
Simply put, training is not enough. Your organization needs to be active in regular safety discussions as well as routine and ongoing training. As hazards are identified, training and discussions need to be updated, especially if you’re introducing new tools or equipment into your company. My company holds a safety discussion every morning on each Jobsite with the Project Manager and a company-wide safety refresher training each month, which covers our internal safety protocols and standards.
Again, the more you can make safety part of the workflow process in your organization, the better. A helpful way to do this is to make specific safety checks part of the process of “signing-off” on a task or project. Before you can move on from one job to another, these specific safety items must be addressed and signed off by either the PM or the crew manager. It’s a good way of making sure everyone is on the same page, especially with the latest safety protocols you want to integrate.
Safety is simply one of those items that need to be actively managed. You should have routines and processes in place to make sure training and discussions are happening. You need to define how to fill out forms and where required postings are located. All of these things need to be in place. Still, the reality of safety is that it needs to be fully understood and practiced by your team, either out of fear of repercussions for not following the protocols or because they understand it is a core value of your organization – one that has a zero-tolerance for not following.
Either way, safety falls on the shoulders of you, the owner, and is something that needs to be integrated into your business at all levels. If you need some assistance creating a safety plan that can integrate with every facet of your organization, give us a call.