Every year people spill a lot of ink (or pixels) about safety in construction. Many safety efforts aim to reduce costs, but people are beginning to also discuss the greater benefit of reducing pain and suffering.
Increasingly too, there is an industry incentive to improve safety outcomes. Fewer threats to worker safety and health mean fewer regulations. At the business level, your project safety record is increasingly an indicator of your business’ viability. Try these strategies to improve your safety outcomes.
Strategy One: Set up and use a safety program.
Besides reducing human suffering, the rewards of a safety program include a 52 percent reduction in claims, 80 percent reduction in claim costs and 87 percent decrease in lost time per claim. You’ll also reduce the incidental costs of claims, such as the time it takes to process claims, the costs of substitute workers, and the loss or damage to equipment.
Strategy Two: Adjust your safety program to match the risks faced by each employee population.
Each demographic faces different risks. Those over 55 are more likely to suffer from slips and falls while those aged between 16 and 19 are more likely to be injured by contacting objects and equipment. Your foreign-born workers are more likely to die on the job. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that approximately one in four construction workers fits the immigrant category. That’s a large risk percentage, and it is further amplified by language barriers. Try showing—instead of just talking—about safety. You can also improve outcomes by confirming people understand safety requirements.
Strategy Three: Adjust your safety program to account for the unique risks of your specialty and region.
Incidence rates show the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers. For instance, construction overall has an incident rate of 3.1. The rate varies considerably between different construction specialties, with framing contractors recording a rate of 7.5 while finish carpentry—2.3. You can even get into the details about the sources of injuries.
If you know the average incidence rates in your state, you can see how your specialty risks compare to the averages in your area.
The incident rates from state to state are affected by differences in reporting and a host of other factors. If you know the average incidence rates in your state, you can see how your specialty risks compare to the averages in your area. Then, you can focus on the factors contributing to those risks so that you can help prevent accidents.
Here are a couple of examples. In Alabama, construction’s incidence rate for nonfatal injuries and illnesses is 1.5, with the highest rates in road and bridge construction (3.5). Meanwhile in Wyoming, the construction incidence rate is 4.3, with specialty contractors rating the highest (5.3). By focusing on the sources of injuries contributing to those rates, you get a roadmap of where to concentrate your efforts.
Strategy Four: Start looking at your work practices to find ways to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Construction has the third-highest rate of MSDs when compared to 10 other industries. These conditions are a major contributor to opioid dependence since people with MSDs often rely on prescription pain medicines.
Businesses can make a difference in this national health issue by addressing the things that cause MSDs, especially considering that MSDs cause 32 percent of the injuries that keep people from work. MSDs are largely caused by repetitive motion, working overhead, bending over while lifting and working in awkward positions for extended periods.
The part of the body most frequently injured is the back, followed by the hand. Shoulder injuries and knee injuries come in third and fourth. While injuries from overexertion and bodily reaction have declined over the years, they still remain the most common nonfatal injury type.
Here, you can tailor your efforts to match your region as well. OSHA publishes data on MSDs for each state. By knowing the most common types of injuries and their associated average days away from work, you can tailor your program according to the work activities that are most likely to cause specific injuries.
Strategy Five: Get some new tech on board.
Since safety is such a high-profile issue across today’s jobsites, many tech providers are stepping up with tools that help improve safety outcomes. For example, Honeywell’s Lone Worker Software and Safety Suite integrate with the business software you use to provide hazard information and aggregate safety data like worker use of PPE and worker training levels.
Since safety is such a high-profile issue across today’s jobsites, many tech providers are stepping up with tools that help improve safety outcomes.
Triax’ Spot-r technology brings safety down to the individual level. It uses a secure network and wearable devices to give you a view of worker attendance and locations. The data flows right into your cost code and time-keeping systems in Procore. You can also speed up your response times for safety incidents and accidents thanks to the data collected by the wearable sensors.
Strategy 6: Make safety the first thought.
There’s a lot of talk about creating cultures of safety, and many companies are well on their way, if not there already. When you have a culture of safety, you have everyone working on safety. They’re always thinking before they do, and they’re not afraid to stop and consider danger before diving in. You’ve got to make it an organizational thing where leadership sets the tone, pace, and example.
Consider joining the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. Safety Training Evaluation Process. Contractors who use it claim they’ve had impressive results in improving their safety and health programs over the long term.