There is plenty of talk about safety in construction. While many safety efforts aim to reduce costs, people are also discussing the greater benefit of reducing pain and suffering.
The industry is incentivizing builders 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’s viability. Try these nine strategies to improve your safety outcomes.
Strategy 1: Get an On-Site Safety Consultation
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now offers safety consultations to help you find your safety risks. These are free and confidential, meaning no reports, citations, or penalties.
Consultations also help you improve any existing safety and health program and can let you qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections. Because of the pandemic, some areas use videoconferencing for consultations. Here’s how to find the consultation office nearest you.
Strategy 2: Set Up and Use a Safety Program
Besides reducing human suffering and deaths, the rewards of a safety program include lowering the direct and indirect costs of injuries. Direct costs include medical treatment, worker absences, disability settlements, costs to manage the cases, and increases in your workers’ compensation experience modifier. Indirect costs include the time to process claims, the costs of substitute workers, productivity losses, overtime, investigation time, documentation costs, rework, and hits to your company’s reputation.
Strategy 3: Adjust your Safety Program to Match the Risks Faced by Each Employee Population
Each demographic faces different risks. Between 1992 and 2017, the number of working people 55 and older doubled, according to the recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in 2017, older workers were 56% more likely to die from job-related causes than in 1992. If you are a self-employed contractor 55 or older, you are 2.3 times more likely to die from work-related causes when compared to the group of workers 54 and younger. If you are a construction manager 55 or older, your group is 1.5 times more likely to die from occupational injuries than younger managers.
In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that approximately one in four construction workers fit the immigrant category. That’s a significant risk percentage, and language barriers further amplify it. Try showing—instead of just talking—about safety. You can also improve outcomes by confirming people understand safety requirements.
Strategy 4: Adjust Your Safety Program to Account for the Unique Risks of Your Specialty
Incidence rates show the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers. For instance, construction overall has an incident rate of 2.8. The rate varies considerably between different construction specialties, with framing contractors recording a rate of 4.5 while finish carpentry is 2.2. You can even get into the details about the sources of injuries and the events leading to the injuries, illnesses, or fatalities.
Knowing the risks, and level of risks your workers face, helps you focus on the factors contributing to those risks as you customize your safety program.
Strategy 5: Work on Reducing Musculoskeletal Disorders
Start looking at your work practices to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). While caused mainly by overexertion and bodily reaction to forces, you can use ergonomic assessment tools to discover the activities most dangerous to your workers.
Across all industries, overexertion and bodily reaction are the leading causes of injury and illness resulting in missed work. Besides pain and suffering, injuries contribute to the nation’s problem of prescription pain medication dependence and overdose.
Businesses can make a difference in this national health issue by addressing the problems behind MSDs. MSDs come from repetitive motion, working overhead, bending over while lifting, and working in awkward positions for extended periods.
People most frequently injure their backs, followed by the hands. Shoulder injuries and knee injuries come in third and fourth. Although injuries from overexertion and bodily reaction have declined over the years, they still remain the most common nonfatal injury type.
Strategy 6: Increase Safety Emphasis With Temporary Workers
Construction, like many other industries, is relying more and more on temporary workers. Whether the workers come from a staffing agency, state or local program, or as a direct hire for a short-term project, it’s best to assume they won’t be familiar with the hazards and how to avoid them.
Work closely with the staffing agency so contract workers get the safety training applicable to the job they’ll be doing. Training temporary workers in every safety aspect might require assigning someone to stick with them throughout a few days to guide them in the proper safety protocols and teach them about the hazards. When temporary workers aren’t fluent in the dominant language of the job, they need safety training best conducted in their native language.
Strategy 7: Get Some New Tech on Board
Since safety is such a high-profile issue nowadays, many tech providers are stepping up with tools that help improve safety outcomes. Today’s trend in safety tools is called ‘smart PPE,’ that is, smart personal protective equipment. This wearable tech can collect, monitor and report worker health markers. It can even provide alerts to prompt workers to change a behavior or avoid an accident.
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. It can also ascertain your swift response to safety incidents and accidents thanks to the data collected by the wearable sensors.
Strategy 8: Make safety the first thought.
There’s a lot of talk about creating cultures of safety. 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 always think before they act, 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.
Strategy 9: Adopt leading indicators.
Collecting and analyzing lagging indicators helps you respond to safety issues after the fact. However, when you collect and analyze leading indicators, you have time to be proactive about safety. Create leading indicators by reviewing the workplace hazards you’ve identified. By making them specific, measurable, accountable, reasonable, and timely, you end up with a program that can prevent accidents.