Maintaining a Safe and Healthy Construction Workplace
So often, the path to safety leads back to effective communication. Workers must understand the intent behind rules and procedures they are asked to follow, how it benefits them, and why it is important.
Here are some tips to develop and maintain a safe and healthy construction workplace.
Establish a Team Environment
Larger companies often have the resources and manpower to designate health and safety officers, whereas smaller companies might more effectively implement collective safety cultures. Either way, the safest companies are those where employers and employees work together to make safety and health a priority and a responsibility equal to that of production and quality. This collaborative safety environment can be established by following a few key steps.
Safety begins at the top and must include everyone at the facility involved in health and safety, through policymaking, employee committees, and other safety-related activities. Every employee needs to know that his or her input is critical and valued when it focuses on personal safety and the safety of co-workers.
Post the company’s written safety and health policy or other safety slogans as regular reminders of the company’s commitment.
Invest the company’s time, effort, and money in the safety and health program. Show that it is an important piece of the company’s operating expenses and procedures.
Abide by all safety and health rules. This applies to all staff, no exclusions.
Hold regular meetings and trainings that focus on employee health and safety.
Analyze Potential Problems
In order to establish an effective health and safety program, management and employees must perform scheduled evaluations of all worksite conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards. A few important steps will ensure a successful workplace analysis.
Involve all employees in the hazard analysis process and include their knowledge of the jobsite and tasks in the development of prevention strategies. This will help minimize oversights, ensure a quality hazard analysis, and get workers to “buy in” to the solutions.
Review the worksite’s history of accidents and occupational illnesses that required treatment or resulted in losses that required repair or replacement to equipment, as well as any “near misses” in which an accident did not occur but could have. These are indicators that the existing hazard controls may not be adequate.
Discuss the hazards that employees observe in their current work and surroundings. Brainstorm with them ideas to eliminate or control those hazards. Don’t wait until the job hazard analysis is complete or an incident occurs to fix any problems that can be corrected easily.
The work environment and work practices should be continually reviewed to control or prevent workplace hazards. Implement a programmed approach to prevention strategies.
Begin by regularly and thoroughly maintaining all equipment.
Ensure that hazard correction procedures are in place and that all employees understand and follow safe work procedures.
Always ensure all employees that need Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) know how to use and maintain it. Proper care of this equipment ensures worker safety. This is critical when it comes to arc-flash prevention, hearing protection devices, eye protection, and respiratory protection.
Develop a safety check list. Cover recognized hazards daily.
Reinforce safe and healthy work activities to employees, daily.
It is vital that everyone in the workplace be properly trained, including supervisors, managers, and part-time and temporary workers.
Hold emergency preparedness drills.
Train supervisors and managers to recognize hazards and understand their responsibilities—they are the front line in worker health and safety.
Allow only properly authorized and trained employees to do any job.
Pay particular attention to employees learning new operations to make sure they have the proper job skills, tools, and hazard awareness.
A health and safety plan is only as good as a company’s compliance with that plan. Compliance with the health and safety program is an essential management tool, a good business practice, and a moral obligation.
How do you know if your safety culture is effective in preventing injury and illness?
The best way to gauge your safety culture is to observe and engage your employees. Company owners and supervisors need to visit project sites at different times of day or night, year, and project scope to observe whether workers are following safety rules and properly using personal protective equipment.
A simple questionnaire is a good tool to get feedback from employees. Make it anonymous to ensure honest answers. You may learn that employees are not following safety rules or that they feel the rules are too restrictive or don’t make sense.
Another way to determine the effectiveness of your safety program is to examine accident reports. Remember, however, that these give information only on accidents that were reported. Also look at or implementing a near-miss reporting. There are solid statistics that indicate the number of near-misses directly correlates to lost-time accidents. Again, near-miss reporting depends on employee feedback. Workers should be encouraged to reflect on near-misses they might encounter every day and should be assured that when reporting these near-misses there will be no negative consequences.
Once a company has collected data on worker adherence to safety culture, it can be used to enhance the safety program and, hopefully, result in preventing workers from being injured.
Industrial Hygiene Group Manager
Nova Consulting Group Inc.