There are several reasons to ensure that your construction sites are always safe. First and foremost, you owe it to your employees, subcontractors, and their families. Nobody should have to choose between earning a living and facing injury risks.
Another reason you must do all you can to minimize risks on your sites is that it is the law. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tells workers on its website: “Federal law entitles you to a safe workplace. Your employer must keep your workplace free of known health and safety hazards. You have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation.”
The website also lists other workers’ rights, including the right to receive workplace safety and health training, work on safe machines, be protected from toxic chemicals, etc. In short, companies cannot put workers into situations where there is a significant risk of harm.
Simply walking across a construction site comes with a degree of risk, of course. For example, you might trip, fall, and suffer a laceration on your hand as a result. Or you could step awkwardly on an uneven surface and sprain an ankle. An employer’s obligation regarding workplace safety is not to protect workers from all injury risks but risks that can be reduced or eliminated.
Jobsite Safety Starts with Education
Meeting that obligation starts with educating workers about safety in the workplace. While experienced construction pros may be familiar with worksite safety best practices, many workers are not. And all employees can benefit from periodic refresher training.
Below are eight tips construction company owners and supervisors should share with their team members to reduce the risk of injuries and improve safety.
1. Provide appropriate task training. Before workers ever set foot on a worksite, they should know how to perform their work safely. Employees may need a certain amount of on-the-job training specific to a particular task, but they should understand the basics of their job before they arrive at the construction site. Then, many construction companies will have weekly or even daily “stand-downs” to review safety procedures.
2. Explain the project and describe the worksite. In addition to ensuring workers understand their tasks, supervisors should give them a “big picture” overview of the project and worksite. Employees who understand site operations as a whole are less likely to get into situations that increase their injury risk.
3. Maintain a tidy work area. It takes time to store tools and equipment properly when they are not in use, remove debris, and generally keep a worksite orderly. But it is worth the effort. Countless injuries occur every year because a worker simply tripped over something that should not have been where it was.
4. Understand ladder and platform safety. Falls are a major cause of construction site injuries. You can reduce them by ensuring that workers understand how to use ladders, scaffolding, and elevated work platforms. That includes setting them up, accessing them, and breaking them down. In addition, workers should be careful when getting on to or off of equipment.
5. Wear the appropriate clothing and gear at all times. If you require workers to wear helmets or protective goggles, for example, they should have them on whenever they are at the construction site. Removing safety gear when taking an on-site lunch break, for instance, increases the risk of injury. Workers should put on task-specific equipment such as safety harnesses for working at heights before the activity begins.
6. Be careful when lifting and carrying heavy objects. Back injuries are common on construction sites. Workers can avoid them by using proper lifting techniques. These techniques include “team lifting” when appropriate and keeping their back straight and bending their knees to lift with their legs. Workers should also avoid twisting at the waist when lifting or carrying heavy items.
7. Understand how to render first aid and request emergency assistance. If a minor injury occurs, workers should be able to provide simple first aid. That includes that they should know where to find first aid supplies. With more severe injuries, people should know where the nearest urgent care facility or emergency room is to transport a coworker there if needed. If someone suffers a life- or limb-threatening injury, a coworker should call 911.
8. Report unsafe conditions. Ensuring that everyone on a construction site stays safe is a team effort. Employers should tell workers to report unsafe conditions if they see them. The more quickly an employer can address an issue, the less likely it is that an injury will occur. Supervisors should make it clear that pointing out problems protects others and, ultimately, the company.
Don’t Forget About Your Financial Safety
Accidents happen, even to construction companies that focus on safety. When an incident occurs, the associated cost can be high. Fortunately, there are small business insurance policies that can provide financial protection.
For example, workers’ compensation insurance helps pay for medical expenses and lost wages if a worker suffers an on-the-job injury. States require most companies to maintain workers’ comp coverage if they have employees or use subcontractors who don’t have policies.
Another crucial type of coverage is called general liability insurance. It can help protect a construction company financially if a non-employee like a client or delivery person is injured due to its negligence and sues.
Business owners will be glad to learn that small business insurance tends to be very affordable, particularly given the potential costs associated with not having insurance. Owners can typically get quotes for the coverage they need, buy and manage policies, and report claims online.
Construction Site Safety: It’s All About the Right Practices and Policies
Construction companies face many types of risks. But the good news is that there are proven ways to minimize those risks. Specifically, you can create a culture that rewards jobsite safety and have the right small business policies in place should an accident occur.
Then, you can turn your attention to keeping your projects on track and your clients happy.
About Rakesh Gupta
Rakesh Gupta is chief operating officer at biBERK, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company. biBERK specializes in commercial insurance for small businesses. In his role, Gupta focuses on simplifying the insurance buying experience using technology and process innovations that make it easier for small business owners to get the coverage they need.