“Safety doesn’t happen by accident”
When it comes to a construction work site, there are various ways workers can be injured, or worse, that must be mitigated so that we can all enjoy a safe work environment. Unfortunately, for many companies, the adage that ‘time is money’ takes precedence over safety.
Project managers and field supervisors are put under tremendous pressure to meet deadlines within a budget and schedule, and the result can be that safety is ignored for the sake of expediency. The construction industry is growing in this country, so finding the right people to do the jobs is presenting a challenge. Add to that is the fact that there is a reasonable amount of turnover in construction staffing, which opens up the risk of safety concerns when people are hired who have less experience.
“In a perfect world, industry across the board would have a zero injury rate. It’s a reality however that construction in particular is a physically demanding industry where long hours, large machines and dangerous situations are all part of the package.”
During National Safety Month, there is a focus every week, for organizations to concentrate on:
Week 1: Hazard Recognition
Week 2: Slips, Trips and Falls
Week 3: Fatigue
Week 4: Impairment*
A huge part of maintaining a safe work environment is by planning ahead and making sure that all employees see safety as not only a priority but a fundamental part of the business structure, a part of the core values of the organization. Each employee must be held accountable for safety and good work practices, never assume it’s the next guy’s issue.
In excavation, for example, it’s important to remember that cubic yard of soil weighs the same as a mid-size car and even a small project, like digging out a foundation, can result in serious injury or worse, if proper precautions aren’t taken.
Indeed, it’s not the size of the job that dictates the likelihood of injury but on larger worksites, with more people, equipment and activity going on, the importance of safety processes being taught, and reinforced constantly, can’t be overstated. Regular safety meetings and ‘toolbox talks’ are a good way to ensure that errors are reviewed, and safety procedures are known by everyone on the site. Toolbox talks don’t have to be long and exhaustive, but they do have to be regular and consistent. Every job site work task or phase involves a written pre-task planning meeting with the entire work crew. The information communicated to the entire crew happens at lease once per day, based on the work plan/task being executed for each part of the scheduled work.
“Safety needs to be a value, not a priority.” ~ Steve Wiltshire, Safety Director at Associated Builders and Contractors
Safety starts at the top
As with all management styles, company missions and values, the drive for organizations to put safety first comes from the top, and flows down. It takes a willingness to look at work practices to see what changes can be made that will benefit everyone and make those changes part of an ongoing work culture. After all, there is no such thing as ‘good enough’ when it comes to injuries and fatalities. The goal of zero injury needs to be part of the fabric of the industry.
Organization leaders, as well as project and site managers, set the tone for how seriously the rest of the team will take safety procedures. It’s a question of ‘walking the walk, not just talking the talk’. Beyond that, each worker has a responsibility to ensure that they, and those around them, are operating as safely as possible.
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” ~ Grace Hopper, Rear Admiral, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
At OE, we take safety seriously. We train and support the STOPTM program on every job site: Safety Training Observation Program. This includes weekly safety meetings, OSHA and other safety topics in classroom and hands-on training on a regular basis and on the job site, regular job site safety audits, weekly job site safety meetings and daily pre-task planning by everyone on the job site. Remember, “Safety doesn’t happen by accident”.