5 ways to ensure safety on a construction site
The construction industry can be dangerous, and people who work within it need specialized training to minimize the danger. Some kinds of construction accidents are so common and life-threatening that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refers to them as the Fatal Four.
According to the organization’s Fatal Four statistics, the leading causes of private-sector construction worker deaths in order were:
- Getting struck by objects
- Being caught or compressed by objects
OSHA also says that eliminating Fatal Four-related deaths would save the lives of 582 workers per year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups construction workers into a category called Natural Resources, Construction and Maintenance (NRCM). The BLS found that people in the NCRM group had one of the highest rates of time away from work due to injuries than the average across all job categories. Moreover, people in the NCRM group had more than 80 more days of time off work due to injuries than the average.
How Can Construction Companies Respond?
Keeping people safe from work-related fatalities should be a priority at any construction site. However, it’s also crucial to safeguard them from injuries that require taking time off from work to recover. When people can’t work due to injury, it may take them longer than expected to recover. Plus, any time away from work could negatively impact the overall productivity of a team.
A variety of things can cause accidents to happen at construction sites, or make the Fatal Four more likely to happen. For example, some people may not be fully aware of their surroundings and end up walking into the path of a moving vehicle. Or electrocution could occur when a worker starts handling a live wire because someone else forgot to cut off the power source first.
What can construction site managers and people tasked with keeping workers safe do to make OSHA’s Fatal Four less likely to cause problems?
1. Make Ongoing Safety Training Mandatory
OSHA has training-related requirements for many industries, including construction. Construction companies should keep detailed records that list when a worker received training and what the information covered.
Representatives should never assume a person has the required training. It’s also crucial that people get periodic training updates. Those let people know what’s changed and which new things they can do to stay safe.
2. Create a Strong and Evident Safety Culture
It’s not possible to completely remove all factors that could cause accidents and associated injuries and fatalities. However, making safety a primary part of the workplace culture is an excellent place to start. For example, people need to learn how to perform safety checks on all the equipment they use and know how to report any problems that they find.
Safety begins when starting to use a new piece of equipment for the first time. For example, following the manufacturer’s assembly instructions for putting up a scaffold ensures that people don’t miss a crucial step that could put themselves or others at risk for falls. It’s a great practice to make these materials widely available or post them near machinery for easy access.
Maintaining a safety culture means promoting an atmosphere where people are not afraid to speak up about unsafe practices or potentially faulty equipment. Construction companies should encourage transparency, even if resolving an issue delays the workday. Along with that, people should get recognition for consistently following safety procedures.
3. Don’t Overlook the Importance of Planning
Many workplace mishaps happen because people are under the impression they’re short on time and need to rush. Problems can also crop up when the respective individuals working on a project or overseeing it don’t take the time to plan.
Planning takes many forms. For example, managers must determine the minimum number of people needed to do the job safely and then schedule at least that many on a given shift. Plans may also center on sectioning off a part of the job site where a certain task will take place, then stocking it with the tools, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other things employees need to complete the work safely.
For example, OSHA has a fall prevention campaign, and it mentions that people working at least six feet above a lower level are at a higher risk for severe falls. Thus, employers must provide the appropriate fall-protection gear and equipment to keep them safe. So, planning, in this case, means taking the time to select the proper things for a particular job.
4. Invest in Technology That Could Increase Safety
Construction businesses should also consider budgeting for emerging technologies that could make their job sites safer than before. One possibility is a recently developed computer vision system that uses machine learning when surveying a site to check for possible safety hazards and flag issues to prevent accidents.
Or, many companies have developed virtual reality (VR) modules for construction workers to go through for training. Such content could make the information especially immersive and easy to remember.
5. Understand the Current OSHA Regulations
OSHA has numerous work stipulations that the organization deems as essential for keeping people safe. Staying familiar with those can help companies understand how to operate in ways that prioritize safety. Moreover, knowing the rules makes violations less likely to happen. That’s important since OSHA raised its employer penalties in 2019.
Fighting Back Against the Fatal Four
Keeping people safe from OSHA’s Fatal Four accidents requires a team effort, as well as a commitment from people at a company’s executive level. The suggestions mentioned here will help too.
Written by: Holly Welles, BOSS Contributor
Holly Welles is a real estate writer who covers the latest market trends in everything from residential to commercial spaces. She is the editor behind her own blog, The Estate Update, and curates more advice on Twitter.