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How to Improve Construction Safety Standards

Image of a group of contractors thinking about safety standards

Written by: Holly Welles, The Estate Update

Published: January 7, 2020

What does your business's safety culture look like, and what can you do to improve it? Every construction company needs a strategy to protect and advocate for worker wellness. Without employees, there'd be no progress. When your staff knows you care about them, they show pride in their work and loyalty toward the brand.

Jobsite safety consists of many moving parts, and they're all necessary for building a comprehensive safety plan. In this article, you’ll learn seven things you can do to make working conditions better for your employees.

7 Steps to Improve Worker Safety

1. Plan ahead.

Careful planning is an integral part of any project. Knowing who's on each task will eliminate confusion and make operations run efficiently. Identify the right tools for the job and procure them in advance. As a result, workers will spend less time searching for equipment—a major distraction that tanks productivity.

Delineate specific zones, so everyone can perform their tasks without injuring others. Give everyone a refresher on safety protocols before starting projects, and encourage them to review guidelines regularly.

2. Avoid overworking.

Long hours are typical among contractors, especially in areas where skilled individuals are scarce. Fatigue can do a number on one's concentration and coordination. It's akin to driving while intoxicated. Even though you may feel good enough to hit the road, your body is miles behind in response time.

Construction fatalities are particularly high among small businesses. One study revealed companies with between one and nine workers accounted for 47 percent of all deaths in 2017. Be vigilant about your team's wellness, and avoid assigning too many hours to any one person.

3. Prepare for the weather.

Proper safety protocols are even more important when extreme weather comes around. Ensure your company's plan contains guidelines for hot and cold weather, such as taking more breaks, getting adequate hydration, and wearing proper clothing. Teach your workers to look for signs of heat exhaustion or hypothermia in colleagues.

The weather doesn't only affect employees. Your machinery, such as forklifts and plows, will require extra care, too. When the icy winds come, inspect tires, and lubricate fluid compartments before each use. Charge the batteries throughout the winter, and run the machine before use to keep the engine warm. Maintaining your equipment through every season leaves less room for accidents.

4. Supply quality PPE.

As a business owner, you're responsible for providing all workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and teaching them how to wear it. Eye, face, and head protection are necessary, as are reflective vests.

One second of unprotected work can lead to hefty fines and fatal injuries. Replace all equipment once it starts to wear down. Items should fit well without impeding movement. Always have extra PPE on hand in case someone needs a replacement during the workday.

5. Perform inspections.

Worksite inspections enable everyone to review current safety practices and identify what's working. Though these checks sound time-consuming, conducting them is straightforward. Hold daily reviews before the day starts to evaluate yesterday's good practices and mistakes. Go over the project specs and duties for the day, and ensure every worker knows the safety procedures for their given task.

Do a walkthrough at the end of the workday to inspect the jobsite itself. Bring up any concerns—like improper scaffolding or scattered tools—for workers to improve on the next day. Accountability will be necessary for adhering to safety standards. Encourage workers to inform you of any near-misses or errors, whether it's their actions or someone else's.

Recently, some New York construction sites have faced surprise inspections in a widespread effort to prevent employee injury. Contractors who already implement regular checks on the jobsite can avoid fines and make sure their team is in compliance.

6. Implement regular training.

Every job requires training, but some professions operate on continual re-education. Frequent sessions help workers learn more about their roles and the accompanying requirements. Regular reinforcement allows concepts to stick in employees' minds, making it easier for everyone to follow procedures. Continuous training also shows a commitment—on your part and theirs—to learning and upholding the company's safety plan.

7. Employ chemical protocols.

Whether you expect to work around hazardous chemicals or not, it's good to know the proper protocols. OSHA recommends having a Material Safety Data Sheet on site for all the chemicals and toxic materials you may encounter.

This document tells you chemical composition, proper usage, first-aid measures, and storage procedures. Have workers familiarize themselves with the appropriate first-aid plan, especially for substances you work with often.

Make Your Jobsite Safe for All Workers

By creating a safe work site, you empower employees and make them feel confident about coming to work every day. They'll face less stress worrying about injuries and have the headspace to put toward tough tasks. When people are satisfied with their jobs, the entire company benefits.