Workplace safety in the construction industry has always been a main topic of conversation. Given its nature, it’s no surprise that construction is consistently noted as one of the industries that involves the most workplace hazards.
Between working out in the elements, operating heavy machinery, dealing with hazardous chemicals, and working from extreme heights, managing and minimizing the inherent risks on the jobsite can be an involved task.
When an accident occurs on the jobsite, there are numerous consequences to consider. If the injured party suffers significantly, it could dramatically hinder that person’s future career and health. The company itself could face legal or financial damages, and the team members most likely would be left shorthanded with a depleted morale and heavier workload until a replacement is hired.
With better technology and stricter regulations, the focus on workplace safety continually improves, but simply following OSHA guidelines shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. The regulations serve as a solid foundation, but to truly create a culture of safety, construction leaders need to take deliberate steps to emphasize, enhance, and enforce their dedication to workplace safety.
If you are interested in strengthening your construction safety strategy, these tips should help guide you in the right direction:
In a recent survey by the American General Contractors of America, the majority of contractors surveyed predicted that the current worker shortage will be the primary challenge regarding the safety and health of workers in 2019.
The labor drought has resulted in many stresses for the construction industry, but worker safety is a major one that poses immediate consequences.
With talent in short supply, workers frequently exhaust themselves trying to meet deadlines. Understaffing often leads workers to stretch themselves thin and cut corners to get projects done on time. Between the stress of meeting deadlines and the toll of being overworked, workers become less alert to noticing safety guideline breaches.
Additionally, the survey stated that firms were having a difficult time filling both hourly craft and salaried positions. If there is difficulty filling supervisory roles as well as hourly positions, safety will be further compromised by both understaffing and a lack of adequate supervision.
This is why finding and hiring construction talent is such an integral part of keeping the workplace safe.
While it is difficult in the current climate, utilizing construction search firms/staffing agencies, creating mentorship/paid internship programs, focusing on attracting more diversity to the industry, and targeting the younger demographic will help ease the weight of the labor shortage.
As mentioned above, the labor shortage is being felt around the country, and many employers aren’t able to find the staff needed to safely and efficiently complete construction projects.
Because there is such a desperation for workers, employers may feel forced to utilize workers who lack experience and thorough training, therefore further aggravating safety concerns.
On the surface, it may seem that investing time and money to create more stringent safety training and education programs will further hinder productivity, but it’s important to note that nothing halts productivity more than an on-site accident. In the long run, improving training standards will result in more qualified workers and a safer and more efficient work environment.
According to a previous survey by USG Corp. and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction, the majority of construction firms surveyed acknowledged the risk that the worker shortage poses to workplace safety and stated that they are working to enhance overall safety measures within their companies. They found that creating more vigorous training standards for employees at all levels has the largest impact on improving safety.
The same study showed that 80% of firms also experienced a direct competitive advantage when developing safety programs, including insurance savings and reduced liability.
Safety training and education programs are most effective when they are ongoing rather than a one-off experience. The more consistently that safety is both stated verbally and shown with direct action to be the biggest priority, the more that it will deeply be ingrained in a company’s culture.
The study mentioned above also stated that firms found safety programs were more effective when employees felt actively engaged and involved in their development.
When developing safety policies, it’s important to create a culture where every person on the jobsite is accountable and empowered to uphold safety standards. While supervisors may be responsible for enforcing and addressing safety issues with individual workers, make sure all parties understand that they are encouraged to report any issues or even stop work on a project if they feel an important guideline is being violated.
Before work starts on a project, create a safety plan that outlines all of the possible hazards of the specific project and the specific jobsite and what actionable steps need to be taken to mitigate any risks. If an accident does occur, every worker should be educated on how to safely respond and what actions to take to minimize harm.
Lastly, supervisors should hold routine safety meetings to remind all members of the team of their collective and individual responsibilities, and they should also make regular inspections to make sure everyone is complying. At the end of the day, any hazards noticed should be addressed and all positive observance of safety practices should be commended.
Modern technological developments offer promising outlets to making construction jobsites safer and more efficient.
One of the largest and most accessible forms of technology that construction firms are seeing the benefits in utilizing is real-time project management software. Safety managers are able to input data from inspections using the software rather than manually writing it down. This preserves the information and also saves time, allowing the managers to have more opportunity to engage with the workers.
Because it’s real-time software, it also allows for faster response time to accidents, as a notification can be sent directly to all team members if an urgent matter arises or if someone files a safety incident. Additionally, some forms of software allow for automated safety compliance reminders, helping to streamline the commitment to a healthy workplace.
Drone usage is also becoming widely popular on construction sites. Drones can help cut down on workplace accidents, as they are able to survey and collect data from high risk areas rather than requiring a person to carry about the risky task.
Wearables are an especially useful tool to have on the jobsite. They can be used to monitor workers’ vitals, alert team members of any environmental hazards in the proximity, and allow safety managers to find and locate workers in case of an emergency.
In a survey put out last year by Dodge Data & Analytics analyzing how technology helps to improve construction safety, 70% and 82% of contractors surveyed stated they saw tangible, noticeable safety benefits when using drones and wearables, respectively.
While adopting technology is still a slow moving process for the industry, it’s clear that employers and their workers can benefit immensely from making a plan to utilize more digital tools in the near future.
At the end of the day, workers are the construction industry’s greatest assets, and everybody wins when steps are taken to protect and enhance the safety of construction jobsites.
By focusing on properly staffing and supervising jobsites, enhancing current training standards, creating widespread safety accountability, and utilizing technology to minimize risk and automate compliance, construction leaders can create a culture of safety where workers thrive and productivity soars.
At S.R. Clarke Consulting Services, Inc., we understand better than anyone that finding the right employees is the key to allowing your brand to grow and thrive.
With over 30,000 successful placements and more than four decades of experience, our construction search firm knows exactly how to connect construction companies with the best talent in the industry. Our dedication to your success paired with our extensive nationwide talent pool allows us to efficiently help you fill your projects’ most vital roles so that you can continue to build the world around us.
To find out how we can help you with your hiring needs, get in touch today!