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By: Andrew Miller
Compared to most people, construction workers are more vulnerable to hazards. For example, falls account for 48.9% of fatal injuries in the private construction sector, according to 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Falls can also cost as much as $106,000 per employee, based on numbers crunched by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Consequently, it's important to implement fall prevention measures in construction sites. You’ll reassure your workers that their lives aren’t at risk, and you can be assured you won’t have to deal with troublesome legal issues.
To “fall proof” your workplace as thoroughly as you can, here are the 6 steps you must follow.
1. Plan, plan, plan.
Plan every aspect of your project down to the last detail, if possible. Determine the following:
- How many parts of the project need to be worked on from 4 feet and above? (OSHA requires the use of fall protection from this height in general industries.)
- How many people need to work from the aforementioned height?
- How much equipment do you need in order to provide adequate protection for everyone?
Write down a list of tasks to be performed for the day and stick to them. In the event that any of your workers need to deviate from the day’s task list, make sure they ask for (and get) written permission. Write down any previously unplanned tasks they wish to perform. This way, it’ll be easier to assign accountability where accountability is due.
2. Prepare your workers.
Aside from equipping your workers with the skills, knowledge and tools they need for their job, you should also brief them on basic safety protocols, such as:
- Work as close to the ground as possible.
- Clean and dry all surfaces where workers sit, stand and walk.
- Do 10 minutes of stretching before starting any work to prepare your body for a day on the job.
Also, encourage your workers to keep first aid kits nearby at all times. Teach them the basics of treating construction-related injuries. Ask them to put emergency numbers on their mobile phone speed dial. The more prepared your workers are when accidents happen, the better.
Additionally, encourage your supervisors and team leaders to attend training seminars on safety. By doing this, you ensure efficiency when it comes to monitoring and responding to accidents at your construction site.
3. Double-check all equipment.
Whether your workers use old or new equipment, it should all undergo a final inspection before it’s greenlighted for work use. Old tools may have undetected signs of wear and tear, while new ones may have factory defects.
Do a test run on every piece of equipment before your workers use it. Be alert for any signs of damage and purchase replacements as soon as possible. This procedure might take up more time than you’d like, but between that and having to pay for damages due to construction-related fatalities, the lesser evil is clear.
4. Give your workers incentives to stay safe.
Admittedly, there’s only so much you can do to keep all your workers safe. If employees disregard protocols because they have no incentive to do otherwise, your efforts to keep them safe will be in vain.
Therefore, it’s important that you answer this one question: What will make your workers comply with safety regulations, other than the somewhat remote chance they’ll fall to their deaths if they don’t?
To paraphrase Sharon Dunigan from TrainingIndustry.com, the best incentives are accessible, desirable and deliverable (ADD). In other words, if you want to encourage workers to follow safety protocols, they must receive something in return that:
- They genuinely want;
- They can have ASAP; and
- You have the means and resources to deliver to them.
For example, if a worker consistently checks every box on your safety checklist for a month, give them a monetary reward. If they manage to do the same for 6 consecutive months, give them an additional bonus at the end of the 6 months. You can also reward them with newer and better equipment in exchange for consistent compliance.
Get creative and think of other ways you can encourage your employees to make an effort to follow safety guidelines. Our examples might work for you, but there might also be something better for your specific team.
5. Use only the best safety equipment.
Aside from hard hats, construction workers should have all-around protection against falls, slips and other occupational hazards.
Rooftops, for example, should be decked with guard rails and skylight covers. Workers should also be encouraged to wear well-fitting clothes, plus high-quality shoes with rubber soles, to minimize accidents. Lastly, ladders should be checked for sturdiness and strength.
Also, active and passive safety systems should be installed. Active systems consist of equipment that require constant attention from users to work, such as lanyards, trolley systems and horizontal lifelines. Meanwhile, passive systems only require basic knowledge and installation to use, such as rails, barriers and gates. Determine which of these systems should be present at your construction site.
6. Comply with OSHA regulations “to the letter.”
Not sure where to begin as far as safety is concerned? Take a look at OSHA’s complete list of laws and regulations. Not only does the aforementioned list detail the standards you need to comply with, but it also saves you the trouble of having to come up with safety protocols from scratch. Of course, you can also create additional rules specific to your company, as long as they're consistent with the general OSHA standards.
Keep in mind, however, that OSHA regulations vary from one industry to another, so be sure to double-check each standard before implementing and applying it to your workplace. Also, it might help to hire an OSHA compliance officer so you can save yourself the trouble of decoding OSHA standards on your own and avoid legal liabilities.
These general tips on keeping your construction team safe are just the start to creating a strong workforce. Put your people’s safety first and they'll put your project first in return.
Need more help making positive changes for a safer work environment at your construction site? Contact a Dakota Safety expert for assistance.
Dakota Safety specializes in providing passive fall protection systems and safety products for clients all across America. They are based in Saint Paul, Minnesota.