Construction workers can sometimes feel like Merle Haggard singing the Working Man Blues, “working as long as my two hands are fit to use.” But as committed as laborers and technicians are, even the hardest working employee can stumble into disaster if safety precautions are not being closely followed on the jobsite.
In some ways, danger is an inherent part of a job that requires working at great heights and operating powerful machinery. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in five worker deaths in the U.S. is in construction. However, supervisors and businesses are responsible for keeping workers safe by lowering risk whenever possible. That’s why it’s so concerning that while safety best practices are widely known throughout the industry, few of those precautions are systematically adopted by the majority of contracting firms.
These issues are outlined in a new report from Dodge Data & Analytics and The Center for Construction Research and Training. After analyzing hundreds of contractor responses from two surveys, the results indicate there are changes construction firms can make that will foster a culture of safety and encourage greater conformity to safety best practices. Let’s take a look:
1. Providing Safer Equipment: Contractors should make every effort to acquire the safest tools and equipment possible. Take noise exposure as an example: the research shows 65% of contractors either do not purchase low-noise equipment or could do a better job of acquiring such machinery. Midsize firms are especially behind, with only 29% of contractors saying their company does a good job acquiring quieter equipment. The failure to provide safer equipment correlates with safety on the worksite, as less than half of contractors use low-noise equipment at least half of the time, with 21% of trade contractors reporting they never use quieter equipment. By providing safer equipment, contractors increase the chances their workers use that equipment and stay safe.
2. Providing Safety Resources: Contractors tend to understand safety best practices, in theory, but often are low adopters, indicating they may not truly understand the full set of benefits or may need more education about how to implement best practices. That’s where safety resources come in. Most contractors do not take advantage of online tools, but those who do access those tools find them to have high or very high value. By accessing online safety resources from groups like OSHA, CPWR, NIOSH, and AGC, contractors can more fully understand the benefits of safety practices and how to implement them.
3. Leadership and Mentorship: A whopping 82% of contractors say that a foreman’s leadership skills have a very strong or extremely strong relationship with a jobsite’s safety climate. Supervisors should be committed to encouraging crew members to actively participate in safety practices. Good construction leaders should also make sure subcontractors understand safety standards. Interestingly, while large firms think small companies need the most help conducting job hazard analyses (JHA) and accessing safe equipment, small companies themselves say they most need printed materials on site-specific safety hazards and toolbox training resources.
4. Lean Construction: This strategy eliminates wasted time and materials, lowers costs, and speeds up build-time by streamlining the building process through increased planning, scheduling, and communication, while establishing key performance indicators and bottom-up accountability. Having defined expectations keeps worksites clear of excessive personnel, machinery, and debris, which decreases the danger of collisions, distractions, and other accidents. And, in general, less time on the jobsite will naturally equal fewer opportunities for disaster.
By focusing on safety throughout the organization and investing in lean construction, firms can foster a culture of safety that encourages workers to follow already well-known safety practices. With a greater emphasis on safety, laborers and technicians will maintain their health and be able to work “as long as my two hands are fit to use.”
About the Author
Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.