Safety is crucial in any industry, but it’s particularly important for the construction sector. Hazards abound on construction sites, yet the pressure to finish projects on schedule and industry-wide delays can make it easy to overlook critical safety steps.
In light of these risks, every construction leader — regardless of their years of experience — should regularly review their workplace safety strategy. Here’s everything that should include.
The first step in ensuring construction site safety is understanding why it’s so important. That starts with recognising this industry is far more dangerous than many others. The fatal injury rate in construction is roughly four times higher than the average across all sectors and the nonfatal industry rate is almost double the average.
In addition to threatening workers, these injuries have tangible effects on your business. You may have to make employer’s liability payments for employee injuries, and will likely have to pause construction and suffer lost productivity as a result, too.
All told, these losses cost employers £7.6 billion annually. High injury rates may also lead to higher employee turnover and a loss of client trust, further harming your business.
Construction work is inherently dangerous, so firms must account for their employees’ risks on the job site. While each project presents unique risks, every construction team’s safety protocols should cover the following six concerns.
Awareness is the key to workplace safety in any context, so all construction teams must identify hazards they’ll face before beginning work. Some general risks like falls from heights, lifting heavy objects, noise and working with heavy machinery apply to all work sites. However, each project can pose unique hazards teams must account for.
Some sites may use materials that emit hazardous fumes or other airborne contaminants. Others may be in busy metropolitan areas, introducing risks to and from passing cars or pedestrians. The record-breaking temperatures in recent years may also pose additional overexertion threats to projects in warm weather. Site managers should review all these risk areas to identify specific safety steps they’ll need before anyone sets foot on site.
Training is the next crucial area to cover. Many safety issues arise from simple mistakes, so ensuring everyone on-site understands the safety protocol they must follow is essential.
This training should include knowledge of all job site hazards, including risks unique to the specific site. Each employee should also have thorough knowledge and experience with any tools or equipment they’ll use, including any personal protective equipment (PPE). Company-specific steps like responding to and reporting incidents must also be part of every worker’s training.
Construction firms must also ensure everyone has appropriate PPE. Some contractors may have their own PPE — like helmets and work gloves — but if not, you should provide them with all the safety equipment they’ll need. Ensure all this equipment is in good condition and workers know how to use it properly.
Fall prevention systems, work boots, helmets and high-visibility jackets are crucial for all construction sites. Some jobs may have unique PPE needs, too. For example, any project dealing with explosives may have to provide blast mats, ear protection and respiratory protection. Reviewing site-specific hazards will help you know what specific PPE your team needs.
Construction equipment outside of PPE is also crucial in on-site safety. Safe equipment management starts with selecting the appropriate tools for the job, including any specific voltage, emissions and physical space requirements. Teams must ensure all machinery is in good condition to prevent dangerous malfunctions. To ensure a seamless project execution, it’s essential to find the best construction tanks that meet both durability and efficiency requirements.
Safe equipment management also includes protocols for knowing who was in charge of each machine at what time. Institute a lockout/tagout procedure to shut heavy equipment down when not in use and record who used it last. These steps will provide visibility to make responding to incidents and holding workers accountable for hazardous mistakes easier.
Communication is another important but easily overlookable part of construction site safety. People can’t avoid or mitigate hazards they’re unaware of, and effective responses to safety incidents hinge on their timeliness, which requires efficient communication.
A lack or delay of information is responsible for 16% of construction delays, making it one of the most common reasons. That same miscommunication can hinder workplace safety, so teams should have clear communication protocols, including reliable methods for informing others of crucial updates, and guidelines for when and how to report them. This communication should include reviewing hazards, reporting newfound risks, injury reporting and updates about new safety protocols.
Similarly, construction teams must document all safety considerations and procedures. Having a formal, written record of your safety protocols helps enforce these guidelines and can prevent miscommunication. Establishing specific actions to take when someone breaks these rules will assist further by holding employees accountable.
If an accident does happen, you also need a formal process for recording it. This documentation will ease any regulatory processes you must follow and can provide insight into where your safety procedures can improve.
Every construction project should cover these six safety considerations. However, teams can go beyond these minimums. Here are a few additional best practices to maximise construction site safety.
Internet of Things technology can provide many safety improvements. These real-time data tracking devices can monitor equipment locations and conditions, track workers’ vital signs, and watch for emerging hazards to ensure you can address safety issues as they arise. Using artificial intelligence to analyse this data takes these benefits further by turning information into actionable insights you may otherwise miss.
Regular review can also help. After every project, go over any incidents, where they arose from, and how they impacted worker safety and project timelines. If trends emerge, they may reveal areas where your safety strategy falls short. You can then revise your protocols and continue monitoring safety indicators to see if your improvements worked.
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries, but it doesn’t have to be as risky as it seems. If more firms understood these critical safety factors and best practices, the sector could become a far less dangerous place to work.