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Five Tips for Safer Construction and Remodel Projects

Creating impactful safety guidelines and reporting systems not only help construction companies save money, but most importantly they help save lives. It is estimated that 1 in 5 deaths among workers in the U.S. happens in the construction industry. Nearly 67% of construction workers feel there are higher standards for productivity than for safety. Companies that prioritize safety can actually see a reduction in their costs while increasing productivity. In 2019, the average cost of medically consulted injuries was $42,000 and the average cost per death was $1.2 million. OSHA estimates that for every dollar invested in health and safety programs, companies can save $4 – $6 in injury and accidental death costs.

Although robust at-risk work safety guidelines are in place to minimize the risk of accidents, there is always the risk of injury if the project doesn’t follow proper safety protocols. Organizations who create plans to address issues before they arise as well as properly communicate and train their staff significantly reduce the chances of an on-site injury. Sevan’s safety professionals train and document all safety incidents and near misses to address issues before they become serious.

Below are five best practices our safety specialists have developed to safely complete construction and remodel projects:

  1. Create job hazard analysis reports

Safety ChecklistA job hazard analysis (JHA) report is used to identify any potential risks associated with completing a task for a project. A project can consist of many individual tasks, which all have unique steps and requirements to complete each one safely. Effective JHA reports break down each task and will evolve as the project changes. These reports might look different for each company that utilizes them, but the following information should always be part of a JHA:

  1. Define the scope of the project
    • What work is required and what tasks need to be done to complete the work
    • Be sure to involve all parties supervising and executing the work to create as thorough of a task list as possible
  2. Identify which tasks need to be analyzed to complete the project
    • Each task should be written out on the report. While it is important to cover all tasks, only cover the ones that have safety implications to make the report more effective and easier to read
  3. Create a hazard column in the report to identify hazards associated with each task. This section should include safety questions such as:
    • What could go wrong
    • What could cause something to go wrong
    • What other factors could contribute to an incident or injury
    • Could company or client equipment be damaged during the task
  4. Once task hazards are identified, control measures should be developed. Control measures are specific procedures put in place to mitigate the risk associated with a task hazard. Write down all the possible controls for each of the hazards identified in each task. Controls include and should be implemented in the following order:
    • Engineering/Design: Can hazards be reduced or eliminated from the scope based on the planning phase of the task
    • Administrative: Can policies be put in place to modify conditions to mitigate exposure to the hazard
    • Safety Equipment: If exposure to hazards can’t be fully addressed during the planning phase, proper safety equipment must be provided to operate safely while completing a task
  5. When the tasks, hazards and controls are set, determine what training should be done to educate workers on how to safely complete each task
  6. Once workers are properly trained and have reviewed the JHA, supervisors should conduct a Safety Task Analysis and Risk Reduction Talk (STARRT)
    • This step occurs on the job site before the work begins to make sure workers understand the hazards facing them and how to navigate the task safely
    • Workers should fill out forms identifying the risks on site. Forms should be updated if the scope of the task/job changes

The JHA should always be reviewed and updated when new information is presented.

  1. Implementing a near miss reporting system

Near missJHAs are most effective when new safety information is added. Unfortunately, many updates are made after a safety incident occurs. A great way to update JHAs before safety incidents occur is by implementing a near miss reporting system. A near miss is an unplanned event that almost resulted in illness, injury or property damage. Reporting on these incidents helps Safety Managers update processes and JHA reports to ensure those conditions do not reoccur.

A successful near miss reporting system captures sufficient data for statistical analysis, correlation studies, tending and performance measurement. To capture that data, anyone involved in the near miss needs to feel enabled to report on the incident without being punished. As long as the incident didn’t occur due to gross negligence, the reporting system must be non-punitive and, if desired by the person reporting, anonymous. An investigation of the near miss incident helps identify the root cause and weaknesses in the system that caused the circumstances leading to the near miss and improve future safety procedures.

An effective near miss reporting system should include the following information:

  1. Identify the task that was being performed
    • The form allows for a clear description of the nature of the near miss incident(s)
    • Photos/sketches may be added to help describe the conditions, circumstances or incorrect actions considered to be the primary cause of the near miss
  2. What steps need to be taken to avoid a near miss
    • It is important to take the necessary steps to avoid another occurrence in the future
    • Evaluate what happened, recheck the processes, review training, consult with experts and focus on prevention and protection
  3. Update control measures
    • Understand which type of control measures need to be updated to prevent similar near misses
  4. Communication
    • Report to management and staff
    • Leadership is responsible for establishing an open reporting culture that reinforces safety and provides the opportunity to share and contribute observations and concerns
    • Communicating through discussions, bulletin board postings and safety meetings is necessary to ensure all parties involved are aligned
    • Provides a convenient opportunity for everyone to participate, creating a successful safety management system

Being able to recognize and report a near miss incident can greatly improve overall safety and enhance an organization’s safety culture.

  1. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and monitor conditions

PPEPersonal protective equipment, or PPE, is the last line of defense against workplace hazards. PPE is essential to help at-risk workers to perform their jobs safely. All PPE has a shelf life, the length of time for which an item remains useable. Several factors can affect the life span of PPE including the material, the amount of usage and the level of exposure to external hazards such as chemicals and dirt. To make sure safety equipment is properly maintained and accounted for, it is imperative to have an equipment condition checklist for each article of PPE used for a job.

An appropriate equipment conditions checklist will include the following information:

  1. All appropriate PPE needs for a job
    • Before the job starts, the employer should perform a hazard assessment of the job site to identify and control safety hazards and create a list of necessary PPE to mitigate the risks of those hazards
    • Before starting a job on the worksite, specific tasks and the associated PPE must be assigned and explained to help ensure safe completion of all work
  2. Initial and daily equipment inspections
    • PPE inspections should be conducted before entering the worksite each day of work
    • A predetermined set of conditions criteria should be developed to conduct PPE inspections. PPE conditions ratings can be determined by using a combination of data points from manufacturer recommendations, MSDS information and internal quality control standards
    • If any equipment fails the inspection, contingency plans should be in place to either work around the missing PPE, repair the PPE or order new PPE before starting work
  3. Monitor Equipment before and after each use of a project
    • The employer must periodically review, update and evaluate the effectiveness of the PPE
    • Make sure the equipment is in working condition
    • Replace any defective or damaged PPE

PPE prepares workers for any health and safety risks and provides extra protection against the event of an unfortunate occurrence.

  1. Keep job sites organized

organized site

Safety threats can present themselves during any stage of a job, but many things can be done to mitigate these risks. A crucial step to creating a safe work environment is ensuring the job site stays organized. If tools, equipment, materials and any other components of a worksite are not properly placed in a designated area after a shift, the risk for injury rises considerably. Outside of safety concerns, organized job sites help speed up the construction phase since there is a uniform process to locate necessary tools and equipment.

Creating equipment stations with check-in and check-out logs is a great way to keep the worksite organized. These stations help construction managers record who is using the equipment and where they are located. This system also helps create accountability and holds each person responsible for returning the equipment. Implementing this system will considerably mitigate the chances of injury and help keep the worksite much more organized.

 

  1. Communication

worksite communicationAny safety initiative a company tries to implement will not be successful without a great communication plan. Safety doesn’t become engrained in a company’s culture if it is not communicated from the top-down and touched upon frequently. Having proper communication initiatives greatly helps to mitigate worksite safety incidents.

Below are several key communication initiatives that can be used to promote a safe workplace:

  1. Conduct safety meetings
    • Safety meetings can be conducted daily, weekly or monthly and are an effective method to consistently address safe behaviors
    • These meetings may also be known as toolbox talks where safety messages are used to address hazards, share best practices and reinforce safety requirements prior to the start of the workday
    • Creates a positive impact on safety at the worksite
  2. Implement safety checklist stations
    • Safety checklist stations should be set up to help anyone who visits a job site understand the safety risks they may encounter while on site
  3. Conducting training/testing on OSHA hand safety signals
    • Each worker is trained in accordance with the OSHA requirements
    • Training obligations include instruction on the recognition and avoidance of unsafe acts and conditions, the proper use of tools and equipment and the OSHA regulations that align with the activities conducted on-site
    • Trainings on hand safety signals should be conducted to provide an alert system for use in noisy conditions, when appropriate
  4. Defining the safety chain of command
    • The safety chain of command is a valuable component that assigns responsibilities to safety management contacts
    • A designated emergency response coordinator and a backup coordinator are responsible for on-site operations, public information and ensuring that outside aid is called, when necessary
    • The safety plan should include a project overview, scope of work, safety representation, first aid, medical services and site-specific safety requirements

These proactive steps are all ways to help incidents be predictable and preventable, resulting in a healthy and safe environment for everyone. Understanding how to properly identify risks before they happen, navigating potential issues while work is being done and reporting on new information for future use can help reduce the number of safety incidents that occur. Safety is a major building block of Sevan’s DNA and is one of our core tenants. Our Safety Team is dedicated to ensuring safety standards are upheld for our company and our clients. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands like Walgreens and BP and others to help them implement company-wide safety standards for their development and remodel programs.

If you are looking to implement safety standards and reporting for your company, Sevan can help! To learn more and contact us, visit https://www.sevansolutions.com/contact/.