Safety is one of, if not the, most important topic in the construction and engineering industry. Most commonly, issues with safety arise from a lack of knowledge or adequate information. This can have a direct impact on projects, as well as the company as a whole. It is important to mitigate safety risks, not only to ensure quality and progress on the job site, but more importantly to provide a safe working environment and prevent workplace injuries. We visited with HSE Specialist Jacob Walton to discuss three of the most common safety issues in our industry and the simple, but effective ways to avoid them.
1. One of the more common safety issues we tend to encounter in the construction industry is a lack of training. This issue can be present throughout all phases of a project and across all contractors, regardless of the size and sophistication of the contractor. If workers lack appropriate training, not only are they not fulfilling regulatory requirements, they are also missing out on important knowledge. Training plays a vital role in operating a safe project, as it provides the foundation of knowledge for workers to know right from wrong regarding safe work habits. One of the more successful ways we have mitigated this issue is requiring subcontractors to provide documented proof of specific training prior to the relevant activity beginning. We have also had success in this area by assisting subcontractors in finding suitable training if they do not have it or know where to get it.
2. Lack of planning is a safety issue that can be present, not only in construction and engineering, but also in virtually any other industry. In the construction industry, it becomes a more prevalent issue when a closing project schedule and budget are pressuring contractors to go as fast as possible. This can result in workers not putting enough time or thought into their next steps. Impacts of a lack of planning typically include not having the right equipment on hand (especially safety equipment) and workers who are less conscious of their surroundings because they are in a rush or hyper-focused on a specific task. One effective tool to mitigate lack of planning issues is an activity hazard analysis (AHA) or site-specific safety plan. An AHA tracks safety hazards that could potentially occur and what controls are going to be in place to prevent them. It is updated as the project progresses or conditions change. Either an AHA or a site-specific safety plan must be completed prior to beginning work and will require all involved parties to think through the various steps and scenarios to safely perform their scope of work.
3. Often stemming from a lack of planning, taking short cuts is another serious safety risk in the construction and engineering industry. Contractors don’t begin a project wanting to take short cuts, but it can become prevalent later in the construction process when doing things correctly starts to seem too monotonous, costly, or time consuming. Shortcuts also become a risk if a contractor starts to fall behind on schedule and is feeling pressured to make progress. One of the best ways to prevent this issue is to continuously review safety measures so that workers complete their scopes in an approved and appropriate way. It’s also important to discuss the correct plan of action with employees and subcontractors on how to safely complete each task, before starting the work and throughout the task.
Anticipating these basic and common safety risks allows us to better prepare for issues and more impactfully coach and educate workers on safe practices. The ultimate goal of every project is to exceed our customer’s expectations, while maintaining the safest possible job site. For more information on safety in the construction industry, check out www.osha.gov/construction and www.nsc.org/.