Remember these old safety slogans? Better safe than sorry! Safety first! A spill, a slip, a hospital trip! Well, there’s a reason there are so many sayings about safety: safety is important. And if you’re the owner of a construction company, safety is crucial.
The authority on workplace safety and health is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the U.S. Department of Labor. We’ve consulted OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction, an extensive document useful for building a detailed safety program, and have distilled it into this list of construction safety best practices.
This quick reference should get your wheels rolling (seatbelts fastened for safety, of course). However, to ensure you’re in compliance with safety regulations, contact OSHA, your state health and safety entity, and/or an attorney. And remember, OSHA requirements vary based on company size, industry, and location.
Best Practices in Construction Safety
Construction companies know it is critical to protect workers. But when the pace picks up, safety is often forgotten. This lapse can result in serious injuries or death. These 6 construction safety best practices can help you keep safety at the forefront of your business: lead, collaborate, communicate, educate, inspect, control, and adapt.
1. Lead. As a leader, you impact the culture of your entire organization. When you build a work environment that promotes the health and safety of your employees, it sets the tone for the rest of your team.
- Make safety a core value of your organization
- Establish safety guidelines and expectations
- Supply adequate resources to support your safety program
- Be an example and follow your own safety rules
2. Collaborate. To build an effective construction safety program, you’ll need buy-in from all parties. Your workers, office staff, and management will be able to provide valuable insight. And employees who work in the field will know specific hazards first-hand.
- Get workers, contractors, and temporary workers involved
- Ask for input in establishing goals, reporting hazards, and investigating incidents
- Ensure that workers know they will not be retaliated against for reporting hazards
3. Communicate. You must let everyone know that your organization takes construction site safety seriously. Without reminders, workers can get busy and distracted. So be sure to communicate clearly.
- Post your written safety policies and procedures
- Ensure workers, suppliers, vendors, visitors, and customers see safety policies
- Consider all workers’ native languages and provide multilingual documents
- Provide documents such as Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), injury and illness data, etc.
4. Educate. To ensure all your team members understand the importance of construction safety, you should implement ongoing training. This education should be offered to managers, supervisors, workers, subcontractors, contractors, and temporary employees.
- Train on how to perform work safely and how to avoid creating hazards
- Cover methods for identifying, reporting, and controlling hazards
- Consider group meetings, on-the-job training, peer-to-peer training, onsite demos, etc.
- Include workers’ rights under OSHA
- Consider the unique safety training needs of field workers, managers, and supervisors
5. Inspect. Not only are there everyday hazards associated with construction, but there can also be immediate, unique hazards that arise due to the fast pace and evolving needs of construction projects. Inspecting for hazards can help ameliorate these construction risks.
- Document expected hazards
- Inspect frequently to identify new or unexpected hazards
- Investigate any incidents to identify and prevent root causes
- Prioritize safety hazards so they can be addressed
6. Control. Once you’ve trained your employees, enlisted their help in safety planning, and inspected your site, it’s time to prevent and control safety hazards. Without the help of your team, this task would be impossible. Use their specialized skills when you control for risks.
- Get workers with specialized jobs involved in monitoring within their skillset
- Refer to OSHA standards and industry standards for control measures
- Consider hazards related to the job site, work processes, materials, and equipment
- Hold emergency drills
- Evaluate the existing safety plan and adapt as necessary
- Conduct routine maintenance
7. Adapt. Above all, remain willing to adapt. If you create a core plan that is strong yet flexible, you’ll have a more enthusiastic team and a continuously improving safety program. Be willing to take advice from all team members – after all, they are among your greatest assets.
- Track injuries, illnesses, hazards, concerns, and incidents
- Verify that your safety procedures are being implemented at all job sites
- Compare results across other sites or with other companies and across the industry
- Survey workers, supervisors, managers, and stakeholders on hazards and safety
- Make adjustments and correct any problems with your program