9 Active Worksite Safety Tips You Can’t Afford to IgnoreArticle published on Apr 06, 2018
Warning signs surround most active construction sites, and for a good reason: active construction sites are rife with potential hazards.
There’s a reason you see so many liability lawyer commercials on television - worksite incidents are one of the leading causes of worker injury in the U.S. And while a project’s construction is an essential aspect of any construction project, the safety consciousness of your workers is even more critical.
All businesses have safety standards they need to meet. However, as a contractor or construction manager, there are more risks involved in your line of work than in most. You need to take proactive, comprehensive steps towards creating as safe of a worksite as possible.
Here are nine tips for creating and maintaining a safety conscious worksite.
1. Develop Site-Specific Safety Plans
It is up to business owners and worksite managers to develop site-specific safety plans, as well as to make employees aware of those plans and their requirements.
When you are putting together your plan, take note of worksite injury statistics so that you can share them with your workers. The more aware people are of the potential outcomes of risky behavior, the more likely they are to avoid it.
Another way to reduce construction worksite injuries is to a cue from your Psych 101 class in college: provide incentives for employees who demonstrate proper worksite safety behavior.
Incentives can be something as simple as a cup of coffee in the morning or a shoutout during an onsite meeting. When people understand that good behavior is rewarded, they are more likely to act with good behavior.
When you are developing your worksite safety plan, keep in mind that your plan should cover two areas of health and safety: environmental and physical.
It is important to make sure you are protecting the area around your worksite, as well as the safety of your workers. Work with a safety coordinator to come up with a plan that takes into consideration the terrain, weather, and any special environmental concerns of your worksite.
To certify that your worksite complies with local, state and federal guidelines, look at OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines.
2. Build a Well-Trained Workforce
Numerous studies have shown that worker behavior significantly impacts the number of worksite injuries and incidents that occur. The more safety training a crew has, the lesser the odds of an incident occurring are.
Before you begin work, mandate safety orientations for all employees. These orientations should be two-way exchanges of information: communicate risks and regulations to your employees and give them the opportunity to ask any questions they might have.
There are six specific safety areas your crew should be appropriately trained in before setting foot on to a worksite: environment, lifting techniques and posture, taking regular breaks, tool and machinery use, safety equipment, and hazard awareness.
EnvironmentEmployees should always be aware of the hazards specific to the site they are working on. For example, urban construction crews need to be aware of heavy pedestrian traffic near their worksite. Make sure your employees are aware of their surroundings and how to handle any potential risks that could arise due to the environment.
Lifting Techniques and PostureLifting, transporting, and installing heavy objects is par for the course in the construction industry. If someone lifts something incorrectly, rushes, or twists the wrong way when he or she is picking up an object, it can lead to severe injuries.Train your employees in appropriate lifting techniques to mitigate injuries. When lifting heavy objects, people should lift from their legs, not with their backs. When carrying heavy objects, people should never stoop or twist. Make sure safety braces are available for your employees at all times. If something is almost too heavy to physically lift, encourage employees to take an extra minute to find a wheelbarrow, conveyor belt, forklift, or crank. It is better to take a couple of extra minutes in the moment than rush and risk an injury from carrying a too heavy object.
Taking Regular BreaksParticularly during inclement weather - severe heat, extreme cold, rain, or snow - it is vital for workers to take regular breaks. Breaks help people check-in with themselves. They are opportunities for people to stay hydrated, handle any minor injuries, and refocus. More importantly, regular breaks help people stay alert and aware while they are on the job.
Tool and Machinery UseYour employees should be trained in the use of any tool they need to complete a job before using it on a worksite. The first time an employee uses a jackhammer should not be the day they need to use it for a job. Check-in with employees, especially new ones, to make sure they know how to handle the equipment they are using correctly. It is also important to make sure the right tools are being used for the right job. No one should ever use scaffolding in place of a ladder or a hammer instead of a screwdriver. Shortcuts like these are what lead to the majority of worksite injuries.
Emergency EquipmentThe moment an emergency happens isn’t the moment your employees should be finding out where to locate the safety equipment they need. Confirm your employees know where all eyewash stations, first aid stations, and other safety equipment is located before beginning work. The difference between a minor incident and serious injury can be seconds - knowing where safety equipment is located can be that difference.
Safety ReportingWorksite supervisors are legally obligated to ensure a safe working environment for their staff. That said, it is impossible for one person to constantly be aware of every single potential hazard within a worksite. Train your crew to report any potential hazards or risks to their supervisor. This will help your worksite supervisor be more aware of risks, which will help them remove or neutralize a greater number of risks.
3. Conduct Regular Safety Checks
Your worksite manager should conduct regular safety checks to detect, remove, and neutralize any potential worksite safety hazards.
While conducting safety checks, your worksite supervisor with both potential worksite hazards and also the habits of the crew. The more familiar your supervisor is with the behaviors of their crew, the better they can correct any risky behaviors.
Identify the weak areas of your worksite and crew, and develop safety procedures that take proactive, corrective steps to mitigate risk.
4. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Employees should always wear the correct safety equipment for a given task. This can include safety goggles, vests, gloves, full-face-masks, ear plugs, hard hats, or earmuffs.
It is your responsibility to make sure all of your employees have access to PPE and make sure they are using it at all times.
5. Be Vigilant with Electricity and Mechanical Equipment
Every construction site in the world requires the use of electrical equipment. Particularly, lifting equipment typically requires the use of electricity.
While workers are using electrical equipment, they should be extra cautious.
Examine electrical equipment before it is used to look for any signs of wear and tear, and be sure always to follow the safety procedures provided for the equipment.
If someone is not sure what the safety procedures of a particular piece of equipment are, he or she should ask for help from the site manager or a co-worker who is familiar with that piece of equipment.
6. Encourage Hazard Communication
Communication is key to preventing worksite injuries.
When workers are near a potential hazard, encourage them to shout out their location and what they are doing to make everyone else on the worksite aware of what’s going on.
For example, if workers are near a hole, they should communicate that to people nearby to prevent being bumped or pushed towards the hole.
7. Safeguard Fall Protection Procedures
Any employee whose work involves fall risks must complete fall protection training on a regular basis. As an employer, you are required to provide these training sessions.
Fall protection training sessions should help employees identify fall hazards and familiarize themselves with fall protection equipment and devices.
Before beginning work, fall protection devices must be installed.
It is important that each fall protection device - harnesses or nets - is inspected before every single use, and also inspected annually to make sure the device is in proper working order. Otherwise, these devices must be replaced.
8. Teach Scaffolding and Ladder Safety
Scaffolding and ladders are unique hazards on construction worksites. It is not uncommon for workers to assume a piece of scaffolding or a ladder is safe before mounting it, and that assumption can lead to serious injuries.
Make sure your employees are aware of the hazards specific to both scaffolding and ladders.
Employees should also regularly inspect ladders for signs of wear and tear on the steps, feet support, side rails, or hinges.
9. Be Aware of Weather Conditions
Inclement weather creates unique hazard considerations for construction projects. Precipitation can increase the likelihood of slips or falls, and extreme cold can cause tissue damage to workers hands and feet from frostbite.
Be aware of any weather specific safety considerations before beginning construction, and take appropriate steps to mitigate those risks.
Icy Scaffolds and Ladders
Just like bridges, ladders and scaffolds freeze quicker than the buildings and roads around them.
Why? Because they are elevated and open, allowing cold air to circulate around them and causing objections to “ice over” more quickly.
Appoint someone on your crew to be a ladder and scaffold inspector, and mandate they conduct scaffold inspections throughout the day during cold weather months. Just because a scaffold was green tagged in the morning doesn’t mean it’s safe to be on it in the afternoon.
Your crew should periodically check ladders and scaffolds to make sure ice has not accumulated.
If you notice ice forming, remove it or require your staff to dismount the ladder or scaffold. Climbing up or down a structure when wet or icy is extremely dangerous. Even a light frost can create a slippery situation.
Snow on Roofs or Structures
Ask any child who’s ever had a snowball fight or built a snowman - even the lightest, fluffiest snow becomes heavy when compressed.
While a finished structure might be able to hold up to large amounts of snow, a structure under construction may not be. Check-in with the architects of your construction site and make sure the roof of the structure can withstand excessive snowfall while the site is being constructed.
Staying hydrated is just as important when it’s cold outside as it is when it’s hot.
Extra layers of clothing and the work your body does to stay warm cause our bodies to dehydrate very quickly. Make sure your workers are taking regular breaks and staying hydrated.
Your crew should be on the lookout for signs of dehydration in their coworkers, too.
The signs of dehydration are: perspiration, followed by fatigue and dizziness, and eventually severe cramping.
If you see an employee experiencing any of these conditions, encourage them to take a break and take a drink of water.
Do you run retail locations as well as worksites? Check out our guide to Retail Crowd Control and Safety.