Did you know that employers pay almost $1 billion per week in workers’ compensation costs due to safety issues in the workplace? That’s “billion,” with a “b.”
Naturally, you care about your workers for reasons that go far beyond money. But there are some serious financial risks that you face if your firm doesn’t ensure its job sites are properly protecting workers. These include:
- Costly delays to the project
- Devastating lawsuits
Too many construction managers have no specific strategy in place to proactively prevent incidents and are unsure what steps to take to establish a strong construction safety culture.
Construction managers must follow the safety checklist detailed below to cut down on workplace safety incidents and lower their risk of a lawsuit or major project delay.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Safety First: Establishing Your Number One Priority
Before reviewing the checklist, a few words on the importance of a strong construction safety culture. It’s not enough to make safety one of many top priorities you’re addressing—safety must stand alone as your first and foremost focus.
The temptation as a business is to stay laser-focused on the bottom line, but you must make safety the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning.
For example, a few years ago, a jury awarded $82.5 million after a worker was killed by a heater that exploded at a natural gas processing facility in Texas. Think about that for a minute:
Could your firm absorb an $82.5 million hit?
Even if you don’t lose a lawsuit, what does a death like that do to the morale of your workforce? To the reputation of your firm?
And could your conscience handle it?
While this is an extreme example, it’s not impossibly far-fetched.
Commit to the following daily routine: Set aside 15 minutes before you start work each morning to ask yourself how you can make the job site a safer place for your workers today. Revisit the following checklist as often as possible to ensure you’ve got a rock-solid construction safety culture in place.
The Definitive Construction Safety Culture Checklist
Once you’ve committed to safety as your number one priority, it’s time to bring a safety-focused mindset to every aspect of your business. The following checklist will ensure this happens. Below the checklist, we’ll dive into each step and offer some specific actions to take before checking off the item on the list.
1. Provide Thorough Safety Training to All Employees
Protective equipment is incredibly important—we’ll cover this in more depth later—but training is the most important thing you can provide your employees in order to keep them safe.
The data agrees with this assessment: Human error is responsible for 80 percent of all accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. You must properly train all workers—and keep training them throughout their careers—in order to install and maintain a genuine culture of safety. Workers who lack proper training pose a serious risk to themselves and their peers.
CHECK IT OFF: Lots of companies offer OSHA-approved safety training courses that focus on whatever you need your workers trained in, whether it be forklifts, hazmat or fall protection. Sign up all your employees for these courses and schedule regular refresher training sessions throughout the year. While it’s difficult to quantify the ROI, there’s no denying the importance of investing in continuous training.
2. Set Clear Guidelines and Consequences
It’s one thing to preach a culture of safety, but you’ve got to put it in writing. Set clear guidelines on what kind of safety-first actions you expect from your workers and what consequences they can expect if these guidelines are violated.
This should go the other way too though: Reward and recognize employees who have perfect safety records or go the extra mile to make the job site a safer place to work.
This should be done after everyone has received training so that the guidelines are created in as educated a fashion as possible. Then, determine consequences and post these rules in all visible spaces of your job site.
CHECK IT OFF: This is another good opportunity to collaborate with your employees. Take a day to gather all your employees and really hash out some solid, detailed guidelines on what rules everyone must follow to keep the job site safe.
3. Constantly Inspect the Job Site
Safety requires vigilance. You must constantly follow up on the guidelines you set and conduct inspections of both the job site and your workers to determine if those rules are being followed. Guidelines are nothing without accountability, and you can’t hold everyone accountable if no one is checking up on them.
For example, if you agreed that all workers should wear a safety harness whenever they are working on scaffolding, conduct random checks of workers to ensure they are complying.
CHECK IT OFF: Make it a habit to conduct a walkthrough of the job site at least once per day. Conduct much more thorough inspections on a weekly basis. Assign trusted members of your crew to do the same and report back to you.
4. Gather Feedback From Your Employees
Your employees are your eyes and ears on the job site. There’s only so much you can learn from inspections and crunching numbers. Your workers care a lot about their own safety, and they can tell you if there are aspects of the job site that seem unsafe. For example, you can confirm through inspections that your workers are wearing safety harnesses as required, but your workers tell you that they are engaging in unsafe activity that puts them at risk of electrocution.
CHECK IT OFF: Set up regular meetings, at least weekly, to allow workers to sound off about safety issues and ask any questions they may have. Take their concerns seriously—they almost certainly know better than you what safety hazards are out there.
5. Take Preventative Measures Against the ‘Fatal Four’
We already know what the most common causes of fatal accidents are on a job site, so that means you should be implementing preventive measures to keep each of them from ever happening. Specifically, you should focus on the “fatal four“: falls, struck by object, electrocutions and caught in-between. OSHA estimates that eliminating the fatal four would save 631 workers’ lives in America every year.
Falls: This is the most common of the four, making up 38.7 percent of the 991 total deaths in construction in 2016. Safety harnesses, safety nets, guard rails, handrails and protective equipment are key here.
Struck by object: This cause made up 9.4 percent of deaths. Safety glasses, face shields, securing tools and materials, always wearing a hard hat, avoiding being under suspended loads and staying out of the way of vehicles are the top ways to prevent these deaths.
Electrocution: Safety training to avoid electrocution hazards is key for this cause of death, which makes up 8.3 percent of fatalities. Good protective equipment is essential as well.
Caught in-between: Responsible for 7.3 percent of deaths, this happens when a worker is caught or crushed between two or more objects. Workers must be educated on pinch, sheer, wrap and crush points. Equipment must be shut down before repairs or inspections. And employees should avoid loose-fitting clothing, take off jewelry and keep long hair pulled up in a bun.
CHECK IT OFF: It’s not enough to implement these measures and assume everyone will remain safe indefinitely. Complete a periodic review of the above measures to ensure they’re being followed effectively.
6. Hold Regular Meetings With Employees to Discuss Accidents and Near-Misses
As you train your employees and conduct regular inspections of your job sites, you will undoubtedly come across situations that may be unsafe.
For example, you may find that workers are driving forklifts around blind corners at unsafe speeds. As you correct these situations, take detailed notes about what you saw—and have other supervisors do the same—so you can discuss them at a regular meeting.
CHECK IT OFF: Set up a monthly “accidents and near-misses” meeting with all of your employees. Go through each situation you or your employees observed, and talk about what was unsafe about the situation, as well as what could be done in the future to prevent it from re-occurring. Adjust your safety guidelines accordingly.
7. Provide Top-Quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is often the only thing standing between your workers and serious injury. Training can prevent the vast majority of accidents, but there is inevitably going to be an unsafe situation that arises that you didn’t foresee.
When that happens, you need your employees to have the best safety equipment—such as a harness system to prevent a potentially fatal fall, or the latest hard hats to save a worker from a falling object.
CHECK IT OFF: Conduct an audit of your firm’s construction equipment. Make sure it all adheres to this checklist provided by OSHA. If the equipment doesn’t meet these standards, invest in new equipment.
8. Use New Technologies to Improve Job Site Safety
You have access to so much more technology today than you did 10 or even five years ago, and this relatively inexpensive tech can boost safety on your job site immensely. For example:
- Wearables can be worn by workers to collect and transmit data, such as vital signs and their location in relation to hazardous areas.
- Drones can conduct surveys or inspections in areas where it would be dangerous for a worker to tread.
CHECK IT OFF: Read our review on some of the latest construction job site safety technology products and choose one or two that make the most sense for your business.
Next Steps: Start Improving Your Construction Safety Culture Today
The longer you wait to make your job site a safer place to work, the closer you get to a mishap that could devastate your business, either by throwing a critical project into chaos or by opening you up to a lawsuit that could decimate your firm.
The steps we recommend above are not difficult ones—they can be implemented right away, and they will have a huge impact on the safety culture of your business.
- Get comprehensive safety training for you and your employees right away.
- Hold a meeting with all of your employees to bounce around ideas on how to improve safety on your job site, and use that input to draft a list of guidelines.
- Start conducting inspections to hold everyone accountable to those new guidelines, and hold regular follow-up meetings to discuss accidents and near-misses.
- Invest in the latest personal protective equipment as well as new technology like wearables and drones to take your business’s safety culture to the next level.
- Explore our extensive construction software directory for options that can help you better manage safety on the job site.