How Construction Companies Can Make Jobsite Safety a Priority
Safety is a concern in all environments. But whereas at home you might stub a toe and at the office, you might drop some toner on the carpet when you trip–hazards on a construction jobsite can lead to significantly more serious injuries. Definitely worse than toner stains.
Of course, jobsite safety is a major concern in the entire construction industry, and multiple factors today threaten that safety across the board. As EHS Today reports, “Although the skilled labor shortage has been consistently identified as a major challenge facing the industry, it is now reported by 80% of contractors to be having an impact on worker and jobsite safety.”
Moreover, “the Q3 report found that a lack of skilled workers was cited as the No. 1 factor impacting increased jobsite safety risks by 58% of the contractors.” Doubtless, it comes as no surprise that amidst a labor shortage, companies are more likely to hire less-qualified workers increasing danger for the entire jobsite.
So, should construction managers wait on the edge of their seat to only manage a potential issue head-on if and when it occurs? While addressing safety issues at the moment is critical, a more long-term and proactive defense strategy will have a significant impact in improving jobsite safety on the whole.
It turns out that top technology and processes can help lead to both a productive and safer site. But just what are those processes, and how can you implement them in your own company? Below, let’s take a look at three crucial approaches today.
3 Strategies to Improve Jobsite Safety
1. Capture Predictive Jobsite Safety Data
Evaluating construction incidents after they occur is no longer enough. A proactive approach is required to predict issues before they happen. Luckily, that’s not as impossible as it might sound. In fact, some researchers are hard at work analyzing workplace health and jobsite safety data–required by law from every company employing more than ten people–and compiling it into meaningful messaging for building organizations.
“Recommendations suggest that construction professionals and academics transform the discussion of leading indicators into predictive indicators and use data analytics for future incident forecasting and injury prevention,” the abstract of one paper says.
Other sources demonstrate that we can predict injuries at rates of almost 100%, just by monitoring and analyzing jobsite data. That data includes both an analysis of current site conditions and historical construction data–e.g., weather patterns, previous incident reports and more.
Of course, that data is unique to each company, so to put it to use requires companies to create their own system for gathering, collating and assessing data. It requires consistent reports and inspections of existing work conditions, near-miss reports and incident reports. Furthermore, setting up standards to define, benchmark and measure data is key to moving towards a predictive model for jobsite safety. Only that way can you gather the data you need to make a smarter, safer workplace.
2. Invest in Employees
Employees are ultimately the driving force behind maintaining jobsite safety. No manager or owner, trustee or shareholder in the world has the power to enforce jobsite safety if the employees aren’t aware of its benefits and on board. Meaning, it’s critical to invest time and money in training. It also means getting the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for each worker and site, so that employees have the tools they need to obey the rules–without which they’re just doing their best and hoping nothing untoward happens.
First, training. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned an employee is if they don’t know how to operate a vehicle, institute an emergency shutdown, put on their gear correctly or respond in a crisis. Not only does a lack of training endanger each worker, but it also puts colleagues and the entire project in harm’s way. Training should constitute one of the first boxes each new employee checks, and companies should provide follow-up training at regular intervals–even when not required to do so. Not only will this keep projects in compliance (and therefore preserve your eligibility for insurance payouts), it will dramatically reduce jobsite safety violations.
Think you do enough in this arena? Maybe not. A full 80% of respondents of a recent survey reported being concerned about jobsite safety, while “Respondents also said that the most impactful actions contractors could take to increase their cultures of safety were more safety training for all levels of employees (67%).”
Obviously, safety gear is critical on a jobsite. That means protection for the head, hands, feet, back, eyes, ears, body and for whatever else the job function or task impacts. It also means PPE that not only functions but fits. For instance, women often have no choice but to wear ill-fitting gear designed for men, which can impede their movement and make them less effective at their jobs as well as more likely to experience mishap.
It’s also essential you provide regular PPE inspections and refreshes, including training employees on how and when to use them. Never assume that employees “must remember what we taught them last year” or that “surely they received the same training at their last job.” Those probably sound like clichéd famous last words, but they’re far more common than you think.
So break the mold: Don’t say them. Do invest in safety gear and, and once again, hold regular jobsite safety training to reinforce its usage.
3. Choose the Right Tools
Technology is your friend. Now that we’re well into the 21st century, and now that digital has officially exited its infancy and is thoroughly ingrained in everyday life, there is no excuse to ignore the massive wealth of jobsite safety tools available to you today.
Communication and Data
In a survey by Crucial Conversations, 93% of employees reported that their team was currently at risk from a safety issue that was not being discussed. First, it’s time to improve communication and data to improve jobsite safety at its root. Enhanced communication helps prevent jobsite accidents and issues from occurring, and also helps prevent the mounting safety hazards that occur when people keep mum about potential issues. Collaboration technology helps ensure the whole team is on the same page so that everyone takes the same measures and reports the same problems.
Also, when everyone is using identical technology, you have a much easier job capturing critical safety data that can help you prevent an issue down the road. Because there’s always an up-to-date and accurate view of the work and conditions, the jobsite is safer.
Technology also ensures improved designs, ensures systems are built more safely in the first place and reduce mistakes–and, as an added perk, you do much less rework.
Lastly, document management and collaboration technology that facilitates work in both the office and the field reduces the dangers of paper. When you rely on paper, workers must literally go through more steps (yes, they must walk farther) to get any work done, which increases timelines, cost and risk. While it seems like a simple concept, less traveling around on a jobsite does equate to safer work conditions. Paperless, digital construction platforms help mitigate the dangers of such an antiquated system.
Sensors and wearable technology make it much easier for workers to collect data and adhere to safety protocols. It’s difficult for a worker to attend constantly to safety and data collection, after all; having to do so consciously would disrupt their workflow and hamper their productivity.
However, with a wearable device such as a wristband, they can do both while focusing wholly on the work in front of them. Haptic feedback takes safety to the next level, using touch to increase the efficacy of safety alarms and other alerts. Wearable technology can also help:
- Alert workers to environmental hazards
- Deliver proximity warnings
- Track worker locations for emergency purposes
- Boost signals in hard-to-reach jobsite environments
- Use alternate communication/detection methods (such as sonar or RFID) to deliver information in extreme environments
But with all the technology solutions available, how do you choose the right option? When thinking of new technology in which to invest to improve safety, consider what has the highest ROI and what won’t add additional risks to implement. Bonus: Implementing certain technologies may also enable you to lower your insurance premiums, and who would say no to that?
Jobsite Safety: A No. 1 Priority for Construction Today
For obvious reasons, safety carries its own weight as a priority to which humans, in general, should give their utmost attention. However, although it’s slightly mercenary to point out, laser focus on jobsite safety is also critical for any company that wishes to grow, attract clients, land big projects and survive the rest of the 21st century. Contractors that ignore it in favor of timelines or cost will do so to their detriment, as many have discovered before and many have yet to discover.
Don’t be that company or that contractor. Make safety your No. 1 right away, and save the toe-stubbing for home.