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  • Writer's pictureRalph Isenberg

How To Enact Safety And Health Programs In Construction

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

OSHA is broad and far-reaching, and construction sites are immensely varied. We have compiled a set of guidelines on how to start making certain your site is safe, and better overall.

What do you have to gain from it?

Enacting a quality safety and health program may seem ponderous, but it has many rewards.

  • Better safety. This one should be pretty obvious. Your site will be safer, which means less injuries and less destroyed material and equipment. This will translate to lower costs.

  • Improvements in quality and production. Indirect costs such as work stoppages and investigations can be avoided. The keen eye that OSHA demands, will in turn be applied to quality of construction and attention to detail. Workers who are more observant and careful will not only be safer, but do better work.

  • Better morale. With better construction, safety, and attention to detail, morale improves. Employers who are willing to go the extra mile (or even do what’s required) for safety are viewed better by their employees. People will be happier working for a commercial contractor who is concerned for their safety, and takes actions to improve it.

  • With lower injury, better compliance, better production, and everything listed above, your company’s image will improve. Using — and sticking to — health and safety guidelines will help your company stand out above the other construction contractors. This applies not only to potential clients, but also potential employees.

Safety and compliance is company-wide

You may think that ensuring health and safety is a top-down requirement, but it’s actually something the whole company needs to participate in. Managers and owners can ensure that safety guidelines are followed from the top-down. They can be the ones giving direction, supplying PPE, and letting employees know what to do when they are unsure in a situation.

Employees need to have a “find and fix” approach to problems as well. Even a site that is dedicated to OSHA compliance will have trouble making sure every single thing is right. Construction sites can be huge endeavors with thousands or more moving parts. No manager can handle every single detail on his/her own. Employees should actively be on the look for problems, and know that they can report them without fear of repercussion. Problems can be anything from unsafe areas to improper use of PPE.

When contractors (employees and employers) work together, they create a culture of continuous improvement. This not only makes the company safer, but better in other ways as well.

What management needs to do:

1. Management must communicate its commitment to a safety and health program

  • This involves communicating to all parties. Part-time, full-time, and contract workers must know. Others include: suppliers/vendors, temps, staffing agencies, and subcontractors, visitors, customers, and other adjacent businesses (if they are in the same building).

  • Consider safety and health in all business and operational decisions. This includes bidding and estimates on costs, choice of vendors/subcontractors, and including safety designs in construction processes.

  • Be visible and transparent in all operations. This sets an example of safety and transparency being paramount at your organization.

2. Define the scope and goals of your health program

  • Have clearly defined goals for your safety program. For example: ensure that everyone uses properly-maintained PPE. Welders’ hoods get spattered by metal sparks and can become difficult to see out of after some use. Ensure that the plastic screens are replaced and/or cleaned regularly. Have a set time when they should be replaced, and a regularly-scheduled inspection for them.

  • Management should delegate. Ensure that individuals and groups are assigned specific tasks to better perform the predefined goals.

3. Resources

  • Ensure that enough resources are allocated to accomplish the goals set by step 2. If our example of welding hoods holds, then there needs to be something for cleaning them, as well as replacement screens available.

4. Stay on top by continually assessing performance

  • Management should continually encourage open discussion on health and safety.

  • One person should be assigned to lead the safety program effort. This should be someone who works in the field, and sees the front lines of a construction site up-close and personal. This person should have regular communication defined to help those in charge implement and maintain safety performance.

  • Ensure that people are held accountable for their performance. Not only does it include negative reinforcement, such as punishment for safety failures, but also positive. Make sure to give incentives to workers who point out safety lapses, and who meet or exceed the safety goals. Examples include rewarding: attending training, reporting near misses, performing inspections, reporting issues, etc.

  • Establish clear and open communication. Management and employees should be able to talk about and report safety issues without fear.

Employee responsibilities:

1. Encourage worker participation

  • Acknowledge or reward those who actively participate.

  • Maintain a policy of clear and open communication so workers feel comfortable reporting issues.

  • Ensure workers have the time and resources to participate in the safety program.

2. Encourage workers to report issues regarding safety and health

  • Have a simple and well-defined process for workers to report safety issues. These include close calls and near misses, hazards, illness, and more.

  • Respond to reports promptly.

  • Make sure that workers know that safety reports will only be used to improve job site safety. Reports will not be used to retaliate or punish workers who report safety lapses.

  • Ensure that workers can suspend work or request a shutdown/suspension in the case of serious safety concerns.

  • Make sure that workers are involved in finding solutions to reported problems.

3. Ensure workers have access to safety information

  • SDS (safety data sheets)

  • Injury/illness data

  • Chemical manufacturer safety data

  • Equipment and vehicle inspection reports (job site)

  • Incident investigation reports

  • Job hazard analysis (JHAs) and jobs safety analyses (JSAs)

  • Ensure any personal or sensitive or personal data from that listed above is kept private.

4. Involve workers in the entire program

  • Provide opportunities for workers to participate in:

    • Developing goals for the program.

    • Reporting hazards and solutions.

    • Define and document safe work practices.

    • Train current coworkers and new hires.

    • Evaluate and look for ways to improve performance.

5. Remove barriers to participation

  • Ensure workers can join the program regardless of age, seniority, sex, etc. All workers are a part of safety.

  • Frequent and regular feedback should be provided from management on employee reports.

  • Ensure everyone has time and resources for safety training.

  • Ensure your program protects workers from retaliation due to reporting.

Use a construction contractor who you know is on top of safety

If you are looking for a quality contractor with a knack for quality and safety, look no further. Reliable Commercial Construction has been in this business for over 35 years. Our team of over 200 is a testament to our good treatment of our employees, and our keen eye for safety and detail. Contact us today for a free quote.


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