Safety is always on everyone's mind when it comes to the job site. The pain, delays, and costs of safety failures are far too expensive for both manpower and projects. Here are some practical strategies to ensure your job site safety.
1. Organization is Key and A Good Housekeeping Program is Often Overlooked
Slips, trips, falls go away if the workplace is organized. How does organization occur? With a good housekeeping program. There is a place for things and things go in their place.
Effective organization looks for:
- How is trash disposed of? Where is it held until it is hauled away?
- Traffic lanes/egress is free from hazards
- Working with other trades there needs to be a clear hand-off with good communication when more than one trade is in the same space
- Control of work. Prior to work being conducted, everyone gets together and designates where and when workers would be located on the job site.
If there are changes in procedures, then there should be a pause to reconfigure. For example, in regards to COVID-19 safety, reconfiguration had to occur with the need for vaccinations, social distancing, staying at home if you are showing symptoms, and daily screenings.
2. Orientation Matters
Orientation is a big part of getting everyone on the same page and ensuring job site safety. Orientation procedures can help across any job site from a solar plant to a construction site.
One paragon of safety displays a rack prominently upon entering the job site. This rack showcased hard hats, safety glasses, and vests on hooks. To the left, there was a prominent fire extinguisher with a nearby eyewash station and first aid kit. All of the tools were organized to ensure that everyone knew where to access important items throughout the day. This rack also sent a message to anyone entering the job site that safety is a top priority because it was the first thing they saw.
And reminding people with this great saying helps, too.
"Never put your feet where your eyes haven't been."
-Jesse Gomez, Safety Advocate
3. PPE is Critical
PPE isn't just in regards to COVID-19; PPE is the number one thing that a project manager should be looking out for. Managers should acknowledge the presence of the equipment but also the correct use and good condition of the equipment. For example, awareness that tradespeople are actually wearing safety goggles (instead of them being propped on a worker's hardhat), and googles that are free from major scratches and able to see through clearly.
While the specifics of PPE may change with the trade, a focus on having every worker using complete PPE that is in good condition is a priority for safety.
4. Taking Breaks When Necessary
Job site safety isn't just about the site itself, but also how the workers are doing. Fatigue has to be monitored...workers are more likely to make mistakes at the end of the day rather than at the beginning. Extended hours (and completion pressure) can increase the risk of safety hazards.
Ensure that workers take micro-breaks where they step away from the job for 15 minutes. Especially when working with wire overhead on a ladder or in a cramped space where muscle fatigue can set in, even simple jobs with repetitive motion can produce fatigue. Mindful breaks can take just a moment to change visual focus to refresh the eyes and to help them to relax. The contractor should help monitor this, but a culture of self-policing should occur with the workers.
5. Avoid Confirmation Bias
Temp workers or those new on the job may be eager to impress their bosses but do so at the risk of themselves or others. Oftentimes, there are shortcuts that are taken that may not be dangerous per se, but it can end up in confirmation bias.
This means that if a tradesman operates a forklift in an unsafe manner like stacking beyond its load capacity but does not get caught, and they see that it helps to make time, it may establish a confirmation bias. They can conclude that since they stacked the pallets faster, they don't need to worry about the load max. But eventually, this confirmation bias will result in damage to the forklift (or even worse).
The mental formation of shortcuts that bypass safety boundaries can occur in almost every trade activity, and reminders and monitoring go a long way to avoid these harmful ways of thinking about work.
6. Being Trained and Retrained
Something as simple as not knowing the location of shutoff switches is the reason training and orientations exist.
Just because a worker is certified in a forklift doesn't mean he is certified to work on a particular job site or operate the new model of that equipment. Local contractors and their staffing partners are responsible to ensure that contracted workers have the right training and certifications to keep the job site safe. In the hiring process, the tools and certifications that are needed should be spelled out in advance to ensure that when the worker shows up to the job site, they know what to do.
A good staffing agency will ask about these important details and ensure that the talent they place is prepared to use equipment or ask for training.
And it's important that remediation training occurs if someone demonstrates improper use of equipment, or if there has been an accident or a near accident. Refresher training depends on OSHA requirements, however, some companies require more frequent training to ensure safety.