Tips for Construction Safety – Revisited
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 21% of private industry worker fatalities in 2018 were in the construction industry. Though worker deaths are down in America, on average, there is a lot of work to be done to improve safety, especially in the era of COVID-19.
John Meola updated the top ten construction tips to reflect safety best practices in 2020 in an For Construction Pros article. Meola focused his tips around long-term strategy, emphasizing the construction safety is more than just following rules. Safety and health programs need to constantly evolve and change to fit current needs.
Meola says that the three elements that are key to a strong safety program are leadership, employee engagement, and continuous improvement:
- If leadership is engaged in safety programs from the top down, it sets a tone for a safer construction site.
- When employees are more engaged, they are more empowered to suggest safety improvement and to take pride in their work.
- Asking “what can we do better” on a consistent basis leads to more consistent and improved safety efforts.
One tip offered by Meola is to avoid having a compliance mentality.
“Being able to say “we comply” is no longer good enough,” says Meola. “In fact, it’s a sign of an early fail! If you are content with achieving regulatory compliance, you’re missing the safety boat.”
A minimum level of compliance is not enough, he continues. Most contractors are now requiring safety plans that go above and beyond OSHA standards, including new standards like managing heat stress and employee wellness.
Meola also emphasizes that confirmed accidents are the only safety issues that need to be reported. He encourages construction firms to report close call and near miss scenarios as theses can often be indicators of larger safety issues. This is particularly important for highly repetitive jobs as the same mistakes are likelier to occur over and over again, with potentially worsening consequences.
As with all safety plans, Meola shares that preparedness is key, even in areas that were once seen as a “paper exercise,” such as pandemic preparedness. All construction projects should have a written preparedness response and management plan for a number of potential situations.
“If we had sheltered in place and wore face coverings a month earlier, there could have been a fraction of the losses,” says Meola of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specific to the pandemic, Meola recommends that the construction industry needs to re-evaluate any existing pandemic response plans and make sure they cover key points, such as how health information will be communicated to employees, what personal protective equipment (PPE) will be made available, and how social distancing can be integrated into work sites.
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