Google “construction safety” and you will get nearly a billion results. With all the information at our fingertips, you would think we’d all be experts at keeping workers safe, yet the construction industry leads the nation in workplace fatalities.
So why does the construction industry fail at creating a safe work environment? Mindset. Take a look at the majority of the resources available, and they all provide great tips on working safely. You can find out how to properly set your ladder, how to inspect electrical cords and so on. The common link in all these resources is that someone has to take the initiative to make sure these steps are followed. That requires action on the part of the worker. If you want a safe construction site, you have to develop a safety mindset in the workers on the site.
When it comes to the human mindset, perception is reality. For example, if you go to a new restaurant and the restrooms are dirty, what is your perception of the place? Not good right? Now, think of how the staff feels about the place. If they come to work in a dirty restaurant every day, will they care about keeping things clean? Even though the staff may be trained in proper food safety, without a proper mindset they are not going to follow the rules. The same applies to the workers on a construction site.
Change the mindset of your workers and you change the safety of your worksite. How do we start changing the mindset of a construction site? By providing a safe work environment so that everyone’s perception is a safe one. The following tips will help change the look and feel of your construction site so that everyone’s impression is, “This is a safe place to work.”
Set up proper communication plans and techniques to alert everyone on your project site of potential hazards and safety procedures. Create a single page Safety Outline sheet that explains the rules of your site (i.e., PPE required) and who is in charge of the site. Require everyone to check in with someone when visiting your site so that they can be briefed on any current safety concerns before entering the site.
2. Planning and Organization
A safe project starts long before the first shovel hits the dirt. Proper planning of the project site and work areas can help keep the site safe and neat. Create a project logistics plan that outlines the organization of your construction site. Note where materials should be stored, safety rally points, emergency contacts, and other pertinent information. Keep this logistics plan clearly posted on the site and follow it.
Nothing can take the place of providing adequate training to your workers. You cannot expect someone to go out to a site and work safely if you have not educated them on what safe work looks like. There are thousands of resources available to provide workers with proper training. Many suppliers and vendors will provide training free of charge.
4. Proper Personal Protective Equipment
When workers are wearing the proper safety equipment it helps to keep safety on their mind. When I walk onto a site and see everyone in a reflective vest, hard hats, and safety glasses I get an automatic sense of the importance of safety on that project. Workers get that same impression. Make it a requirement that all workers, visitors, and managers on your sites wear the required safety equipment. No excuses.
5. Change The Question
Too often, the question that workers ask themselves is, “Can I do this without getting hurt?” That question results in workers constantly taking chances and allowing others around them to take chances as well. To make your sites safer, get your workers to ask a different question like “Would I let my daughter do that?” When people look at things from a different perspective they will make better choices.
6. Morning Meetings
This is one of my favorite tools for managing a safe construction site. Why? Because it not only helps me keep the workers safe, it helps me run a more productive worksite. Each morning, gather all the workers for a quick briefing. During the briefing, you can point out critical safety concerns on the site, what is planned for the day, and what everyone needs to be thinking about.
7. Posters and Signage
This tip ties several of the other tips together. Proper communication requires notification of hazards. Be sure that you post signs to alert everyone of job site hazards. Make sure your workers have the proper signs and barricades needed to keep your site safe and people informed. Basic warning signs will help, but you can step this up by providing even more signage and posters that speak to people. Using posters like the one discussed in Tip #5 will help keep safety on the minds of your workers.
An easy way to get people to take notice of their surroundings is to provide a checklist that will trigger them to look for certain things. Use this technique to create checklists for your project sites that get workers involved with checking the site for hazards. These simple reminders help keep safety on everyone’s minds.
Remember the example of the dirty bathroom in the restaurant? How do you feel when you walk on to a dirty and cluttered work site? Do you feel like safety is a priority? I know I sure don’t. Keep your projects clean and organized. Plan daily clean up and stick to the logistics plan that you created for the project.
Get everyone on your site involved in the safety of the site. Create a sense of teamwork in the safety effort. There are many ways to spur teamwork and cooperation among workers. The problem has typically been that the focus of these efforts has always been towards increasing production. Production is important, but safety is equally important. Create some programs, like Safety Bucks, that help increase everyone’s participation in making your site the safest in the industry.
Creating the reality of having a safe construction site starts with changing the perception of your site. Use these tips to supplement your current safety efforts and there is no doubt you will see improvements to the safety on your projects. In addition to making your projects safer, these efforts produce another result: They show people you care about them. The beneficial byproduct of that is boosted morale, which is proven to increase productivity. So start improving your bottom line by developing a safer mindset on your projects.