The latest initiative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is focused on the commercial construction industry, specifically those who are in the business of building and improving infrastructure. Dubbed the “Safe and Sound Campaign,” the project calls on construction workers and those who supervise and manage them to make workplace safety the top priority.
“Workplace safety and health incidents hurt workers and their families, and they cost businesses’ capital better invested in growing their business and creating jobs,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s Regional Administrator in Kansas City, according to a press release on the initiative. “By identifying and controlling job-related hazards that can lead to injuries and illnesses, businesses can improve their safety and health programs, save money and improve competitiveness.”
OSHA is concerned with ensuring the safety and health of every American worker, in any occupation. However, it’s clear that workers in the construction industry face more health and safety risks than the average employee. Working high above ground, around heavy machinery and performing complex tasks has never been easy or 100 percent safe. Unfortunately, OSHA has reported an uptick in construction workplace accidents that may have been prevented with proper tools and planning in place.
To combat common accidents in and around construction sites, OSHA recommended a three-pronged approach that emphasized cooperation between workers, contractors and clients:
- Prioritize leadership in management: Supervisors and anyone overseeing construction work must take an active role in promoting a safe work culture.
- Worker participation: At the same time, workers must be willing to identify safety problems and assist with developing effective solutions.
- “Find and fix” approach: The key to preventing workplace accidents is preparing for and preventing them. When teams work collaboratively to accomplish these goals, safety becomes second nature.
Fall protection planning
Although other types of accidents saw a significant increase in the last year, OSHA still acknowledged that fall protection is among the most important safety focus areas. This is particularly true in trades like roofing construction and repair. In 2014, OSHA found around 40 percent of fatalities in construction were the result of inadequate fall protection, according to Construction Dive.
Protecting workers from falls requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, involving a close relationship between managers, clients and the workers themselves. Construction Dive noted five key aspects of OSHA’s fall protection and prevention rules:
The most basic step toward preventing fall injuries is setting uniform requirements across all projects. OSHA rules mandate that fall prevention tactics must be in place in any instance when workers are operating more than six feet above ground. There are also strict requirements for when and where safety devices like harnesses, netting or guardrails should be in place.
Once again, maintaining open communication across and within teams ensures better safety outcomes. OSHA recommended teams always hold a meeting prior to the start of a project to go over safety procedures, and allow time for practice. Updating and reminding workers of these procedures before the start of each work day is also considered best practice.
According to one industry expert who spoke to Construction Dive, an all-too-common situation exacerbating fall risks involves team leaders not fully understanding the necessary equipment. As a result, their employees don’t know how to use it correctly, either. Employers must know the correct protocols for fall prevention and train employees accordingly.
OSHA strongly recommends managers work with laborers to make constant improvements to safety measures throughout the duration of the project. Adjustments and modifications often need to be made to ensure everything works smoothly and safely.
Retaining skilled workers
Finally, one of the most challenging yet pressing concerns for construction managers is retaining workers. Particularly in regard to safety, Construction Dive remarked that it’s essential to “close the revolving door” of temporary construction employment. Instead, managers should work to retain employees as much as possible, since this cuts down on safety risk and lessens the need for retraining. The ultimate result is not only a safe project, but an efficient and well-coordinated one as well.