According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of injuries in the private construction industry per 100,000 workers was 9.7 in 2019. The BLS also reported 1,061 fatalities in the industry that same year. Indeed, the threat of injury is a real part of the construction industry.
The most infamous hazards that may cause mishaps are called the OSHA Focus Four Hazards. As listed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these hazards include: falls, struck-by hazards, electrocutions, and caught-in or between hazards.
Employees in the industry are well aware of the danger. According to a 2019 poll produced by 360training.com, construction workers are 27% more likely to worry about being injured on the job on a daily basis compared to other industries.
For students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety, this data should inspire them to work toward a more effective culture of safety, especially in industries such as construction or manufacturing where safety concerns are high. Fortunately, there are strategies that occupational health and safety professionals can deploy to create safer environments.
Construction Site Safety Checklist
Creating and monitoring checklists are essential components to building and maintaining a safe work environment for construction professionals. Checklists can help strengthen a project leader’s ability to take a proactive approach to safety and eliminate hazards before they have the chance to wreak havoc.
The checklists typically serve three fundamental purposes.
- Identify potential jobsite risks
- Initiate routine tool and equipment checks
- Establish employee safety protocols
A wide range of safety checklists are available online that project leaders can use to build a safe environment. These lists are compliant with federal OSHA regulations, and some of the lists drill down to state-level OSHA requirements. Regardless of where the lists originate, they can all help project leaders significantly reduce the risk of injury or death on a construction worksite.
Construction Site Safety Plan
A proper construction site safety plan can keep construction teams fully aware of the measures taken to ensure their safety. This plan typically provides information on a company’s policies and practices relating to site safety. It also points out potential hazards on a work site, which can provide workers with an extra layer of proactive protection.
Writing and implementing safety plans are not required by OSHA. However, they are an essential component of a construction site’s safety strategy, as they provide project leaders with a playbook that can govern a cohesive strategy.
5 Tips for Construction Site Safety
Creating a construction site safety strategy can be an intimidating task. However, there are a few elements that project leaders can use to establish a solid foundation of safety on their job site. These elements include the following.
- Communicating clearly: When putting together a safety plan or giving instructions to employees, it is vital to use language that is clear and leaves no room for misinterpretation or ambiguity.
- Creating job-specific strategies: No two construction jobs are alike, and neither are their safety threats. While safety plans have common elements, it’s important to note and manage the singular factors that may pose a unique safety threat to workers.
- Collaborating with employees: It can be important to gather feedback from employees about any potential hazards they may encounter during the job. This can help prevent risks that may have been missed at the project’s beginning. It also can raise awareness of new potential risks as they emerge during the project.
- Implementing routine evaluations: Since a construction site’s environment changes during the project, so do the safety hazards. It’s important to perform regular site assessments to spot new or potential problems, and adjust a site’s safety plan accordingly.
- Leading by example: Those in leadership positions should adhere to the rules and regulations within a site’s safety plan at all times. Any lax behavior here may be mimicked by other employees, which could potentially increase the chances for unsafe practices and disastrous outcomes.
Striking a Balance Between Safety and Productivity
Companies have a responsibility to produce results, meet deadlines and deliver products or services. As a result, safety requirements are often considered secondary to productivity. But many companies are beginning to realize that safety and productivity are two parts of the same well-oiled, efficient machine.
Leadpoint Business Services, a consulting organization specializing in workforce solutions, presents a manufacturing model based on the image of a three-legged stool.
- The productivity leg: Any major increase in productivity, or any addition of new technology or manufacturing methods, makes the productivity leg grow. As a result, the stool becomes unstable until the other legs can adjust to the change. If safety and quality suffer because productivity increases, a company will not survive.
- The quality leg: As a business expands and implements new services, employees will need to be trained and new quality standards enforced to ensure that productivity doesn’t overreach its capabilities. Quality can slip if safety and maintenance standards are not continually managed.
- The safety leg: Additional production capabilities, expanded training programs and a changing business model require new safety measures. Without the proper safety guidelines, a manufacturing enterprise could be in danger of closing because of safety violations or production of unsafe products.
While production deadlines and quotas may seem to be more urgent than safety issues, the opposite is actually true.
“Businesses that cut corners to save time and speed up production can often seem productive and profitable,” according to “Is Safety Productive?” as reported on the website SafetyLineLoneWorker.com.
“In the long term, these environments can also be unsafe, leading to increased downtime. While safety programs often require an initial investment, they also have a positive impact on employee health. Because healthy employees are more reliable and productive, they’re also good for the bottom line.”
Downtime caused by safety incidents can severely affect productivity, especially in the construction business. Occupational health and safety consultants frequently explain to their clients how a better overall safety culture can help companies be more productive.
Fostering an Effective Safety Culture
Workers often share management’s views of productivity vs. safety. In fact, many employees are resistant to working safely, according to the HR Technologist article “Balancing Productivity and Safety at Work.”
“The company should build a safety culture,” the article explains. “For this, it needs to move away from the mindset that safety measures are a ‘time-waster’ and must promote safety adherence even at the cost of slower work. Safety goals should be tied into managers’ targets, to be able to integrate it truly in the way of life at work. Employees too must act as proponents of safety, immediately reporting safety lapses and encouraging each other to practice safety measures.”
Cultivating a safety culture at a business, particularly in fields that deal with heavy machinery and dangerous situations, cuts down on safety incidents and downtime. It can also improve employees’ outlooks toward their job, making them happier with their work and more engaged while on the clock.
Taking proper care of equipment can also be vital to cultivating this safety culture. Safe equipment is also well-maintained equipment. Better maintained equipment is easier to use and more effective at whatever it’s designed to do.
A good safety culture also includes better training for workers and improved employee retention. Better training leads to more productivity, which can lead to promotions, raises and fewer workers’ compensation claims.
The growing concern with occupational health and safety in the United States means that more safety specialists will be needed to ensure workplaces are safe and productive for everyone involved, from employees to customers and end-users.
Here is an additional thought. Safety as it pertains to the construction industry goes well beyond its workers. Homes and buildings that are erected by engaged and focused construction professionals are safer for the companies and employees who will eventually populate them and work in them.
Gain Advanced Skills in Occupational Safety
Eastern Kentucky University’s online bachelor’s degree in occupational safety program is designed to enable students to identify safety risks and potential areas of improvement in construction and manufacturing businesses.
Industry-experienced safety professionals guide students through occupational safety courses that cover modern trends in employee engagement and the establishment of a safety culture in the workplace.
Learn more about how the Eastern Kentucky University Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety program can help you develop the skills to advance your career.