The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the construction industry’s efforts to improve safety and health are making a difference. It’s important to prevent complacency. One death, of course, is one death too many.
The good news is that the construction industry has come a long way since the 1970s. The year 1970 saw an average of 38 worker deaths per day. In 2019, 5,333 construction workers died on the job. This computes to about 15 deaths per day, a big drop from 38. Nonetheless, OSHA reports the construction industry continues to account for 20% of all worker fatalities in a calendar year.
For a long time, the construction industry’s “Fatal Four” construction hazards have been responsible for 60 percent of the fatalities. The Fatal Four include falls, struck by an object, caught-in or between equipment or objects, and electrocutions. Focusing on eradicating the Fatal Four would save hundreds of lives.
While the Fatal Four make up the largest cause of deaths, everyday injuries occur far more often. Preventing worker injury and illnesses has also dropped from what it was five decades ago. There were almost 11 incidents of worker injuries and illnesses per 1000 workers in 1972. That number shrunk to almost 3 per 100 workers in 2019.
Unfortunately, the numbers are most likely higher than these. Almost one-fourth of construction workers responding to a Center for Construction Research and Training survey indicated they had a work-related injury and didn’t report it. Some say that the injury was too small to report or that injuries are the nature of the job, and they shouldn’t complain.
Construction industry occupations are one of the top five with the largest number of injuries according to National Safety Council. No doubt, you want to ensure every workday ends with zero injuries. Considering the shortage of qualified construction workers, it’s more challenging to find replacements to ensure the project stays on schedule. Therefore, it’s imperative to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce injuries and deaths.
It’s just the nature of working in the construction industry. Workers face dangerous situations every day. They deal with unsafe noise levels, injury risks from moving heavy equipment, and exposure to extreme temperatures. The construction site has a continuous flow of people, equipment, and materials coming and going. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate all the hazards.
What construction companies can do is document and follow procedures for managing tools, materials, and cables to prevent them from becoming hazards. Companies must enforce health and safety processes and policies to keep everyone cautious.
Here are the top five construction industry safety and health tips to minimize the risk of injuries.
1. Do a Health and Safety Risk Assessment
A health and safety risk assessment identifies the strengths and weaknesses in a construction site’s physical security, health, and safety protocols. It involves analyzing the movement of workers and visitors on the construction site.
Ideally, it’s best to work with a health and safety consultant to do the assessment. They know how to do the assessment correctly and efficiently. When a company tries to save money by having one of its employees do the assessment, they could end up missing something. When this happens, the company will pay far more for the risk than for the consultant. Doing the assessment, the right way with a qualified expert will save money as you’ll prevent accidents.
OSHA has a list of the 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violations in 2020. Use this list in your risk assessment and training.
The time to do a health and safety risk assessment is at the start of a new project. You want to identify potential health and safety gaps. The consultant will create a list of control measures for all the documented potential hazards and risks. It also needs to cover temperature and weather-related hazards. Even the simple act of leaving stuff around instead of tidying can create a dangerous situation.
Before the project begins, the company will present the risk assessment to the workers. It is critical for them to understand and accept the assessment. If necessary, hire a translator. A company that wants to create a culture of safety will make sure those who speak English as a second language understand everything related to health and safety.
2. Create a Safety Culture
All construction companies claim they have a culture of safety. There’s a difference when you ingrain safety into the culture by thinking holistically. They don’t just create processes and procedures that include safety checks. They weave safety into every aspect of the business.
Every single day, workers should do equipment safety checks when they start their work and at the end of the day when they shut down. Some equipment and tools have preparation and shut down steps that must be followed to optimize safety.
Companies with the most days without injuries have daily safety briefs, which brings up the next tip.
3. Conduct Training Every Day
Training is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut risk. There are all kinds of training. It could be doing demonstrations on how to prepare tools for work and how to inspect equipment. Model the correct way to prepare, use, and shut down tools and equipment. Instruct workers on which equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, and gear to use for specific activities. Don’t assume workers know. Assumptions are dangerous.
It’s better to overcommunicate on topics related to safety and health. Repetition is important because sometimes workers don’t catch the advice the first time or remember it when they need it. As the seasons change, workers will need seasonal-related training. For example, many workers don’t know the signs of illness and hypothermia. The early signs may be ignored. The earlier a worker catches signs, the faster the recovery.
Many hazards can be avoided. Workers are your best resource for catching potential problems. “If you see something, say something,” says Onsite Safety. It should be a rule of thumb in construction. If a worker sees something wrong, they shouldn’t be afraid to report it to their supervisor or OSHA.
Just like you want to ensure your workers understand the safety and health risk assessment, you want to make sure they understand the training. Bring in a translator. It may be wise to have a translator on staff if you work with many people who don’t speak English well.
4. Add Tips for Mental Health
The construction industry mostly focuses on physical health. However, as the pandemic has shown, mental health is equally important. According to a PBC Today article, a report from Constructing Excellence South West (CESW) says one in 10 construction workers admit to poor mental wellbeing. It’s not only the workers who struggle with mental wellbeing.
PBC Today references a survey by the Association for Project Management that says 9 out of 10 project managers believe their work has affected their mental health.
While you may not see symptoms of mental health issues, they’re as harmful as a sore throat and broken arm. To guarantee their safety, construction workers must be fully focused on their tasks. If something on their minds is distracting them, it could lead to injuries.
Include a section on mental health in your training. Let workers know what services are available to them and what signs to watch for in themselves and others. Give them the tools to get the support they need.
5. Monitor the Construction Site for Problems
You can do all these things as well as buy high-quality PPE and still have an accident waiting to happen. It could be the worker is not having a good mental health day. They forget an important safety step. Or a worker forgets to turn on the safety on a piece of equipment when they take a break. Bad weather can create new death traps and vulnerabilities. Unsafe situations can occur multiple times every day.
A cost-effective and powerful way to add a layer of safety is remote video surveillance. While it’s known for being a security tool, it can also be vital for helping lower health and safety risks. Video footage can check to see if workers are following the processes and procedures including preparing and using equipment and tools correctly. Analysts could even find out-of-place tools and equipment as well as potential OSHA violations.
Many falls are preventable. According to a BLR survey of safety professionals, human factors are responsible for over half of the slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. Video surveillance is a proactive tool when it includes video analytics and trained monitoring operators. They can watch the entire property simultaneously and effectively. This partnership of analytics and monitoring operators helps ensure the video surveillance technology identifies problems fast and has them fixed before something unfortunate happens.
The monitoring operator is not located on the construction site. Their lives are never at risk. You’ll could lower your safety and health risks with remote video surveillance. At the same time, you’ll enhance construction site security.
Video surveillance technology captures everything. You’ll have the footage you need to resolve criminal and liability issues. Stealth clients often use the recordings for training workers. You can save on costs and time with security cameras because they will help reduce injuries and deter crime.
Security companies like Stealth get results by customizing remote video surveillance for your business. To learn more about construction security, download your free copy of the construction security and safety best practices guide or contact us.