Health and safety in construction has come a long way over the last 100 years, but it’s still not quite there yet – and this is something that seriously needs to be addressed for an industry that deals with so many potential risks on a daily basis.
Here at Cornerstone Projects, health and safety is a big priority and concern for us. The very basis of our business is rooted in providing underground utility reports, which in turn protects workers from the dangers of striking buried utilities.
We’ve spoke about this topic in multiple articles before, and even created a series of articles about the main risks workers face on-site, but we find ourselves taking another look at the subject in order to determine what needs to be done going forward.
Before we can spark change across the industry, we first need to break down what can be done to change our current culture and make construction safer for everyone.
Make safety priority
We know that in an industry as competitive as construction, everyone’s mind is usually focused on costs, deadlines and productivity – but none of this should be coming before safety.
Putting health and safety before all else is absolutely crucial for any company in the construction sector, and a mentality that needs to be companywide. From the front-line workers to the CEO of the company, everyone needs to have the same core values when it comes to safety – effectively a cultural shift!
Prioritising safety can actually lead to a reduction in costs and a more productive workforce, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to look after workers. Accidents on-site can lead to costly delays and even potential fines and lawsuits, so why aren’t we all that we can to avoid them?
It should really go without saying, but sufficient health and safety training for every member of staff is absolutely essential in order to keep everyone safe and aware.
Like the previous point, this is something that needs to apply for everyone in the company, even those who aren’t working on-site on a regular basis. A basic understanding of health and safety should be required, not optional.
It’s not as simple as train people once and that’s it either, as efficient training needs to be an on-going thing. Regular training keeps health and safety fresh in the mind, and instills correct procedures for all – where a lack of frequent training might allow these to slip.
Health and safety regulations are always changing as well, so keeping up to date with any changes keeps your company compliant and risk free from a HR point of view.
Whether it’s on-site training or the use of online training courses, there are lots of great ways to keep workers sharp and clued up.
Daily site inspections and safety meetings
No matter how safe a site was the previous day, daily site inspections and safety checks always need to be carried out before any work commences the next day.
You might have left a site in a perfectly safe state, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Before work starts, all equipment should be tested to check for any potential hazards and sites should be thoroughly inspected to identify any causes for concern.
In a similar fashion, safety meetings should be held every morning, and all tasks that need to be done that day should be discussed and safety precautions gone over. During this meeting, make sure that all personnel involved are fully aware of the correct procedures for each task, and are fully confident in doing the job.
Holding daily checks and briefs like this is a very efficient way of keeping health and safety priority.
Hold everyone accountable
Safety shouldn’t just be a concern for the safety manager or whoever is leading the project, but every single worker across the whole team.
If every member of staff knows that they are responsible for any accidents or incidents, you’re going to see a much safer working environment.
It needs to be common knowledge to all workers that unsafe practises not only put themselves at risk, but everyone around them as well. One person’s mistake can lead to a lot of people getting injured and put in harm’s way, so it’s down to everyone to co-operate and work together in a safe manner.
Workers should be encouraged to speak up and report any unsafe conditions or anyone failing to adhere to health and safety procedures. If your company doesn’t operate an open-door policy, now is the time to fix that.
Get workers involved
With everyone being held accountable for health and safety, it’s important to get all workers involved in the process.
Assembling a safety committee that includes employees from all levels of the business to oversee health and safety is a great way to bring the team together and really enforce the idea that the responsibility of safety is down to everyone.
This committee can review and update procedures, as well as identifying risks before a job is done.
Get advice from the people that are actually out there doing the work. Let workers identify any areas that they think could be improved and anything that would make it easier for them to complete tasks. You need to do what you can to create an engaged workforce that is keen to work together with the same goal and focus in mind.
Anyone that feels like their voices are being heard and ideas considered will ultimately feel more invested, leading them to take health and safety more seriously.
You are going to get a lot more from a team that has contributed to the cause rather than simply being told “here are the rules, now follow them”.
In order to maintain the high level of health and safety management that we’re aiming for, there needs to be consequences for those who continually fail to comply or put others in danger.
Dealing with equipment that has the potential to do some serious damage if misused needs to be taken seriously, and the punishment for failing to do so needs to be severe. For first time offenders, there should be retraining and advice. For habitual reoffenders, there should be disciplinary actions as part of the general process.
If a worker continues to fail to meet safety standards and have gone through the formal disciplinary process, then they need to go. It might be tough to lose a member of the team, but it needs to be done to keep everyone safe. Failure to follow strict regulations shouldn’t go without consequence, and putting health and safety over someone’s job is so important.
No single member of the team is above the whole team’s safety.
Motivate with incentives?
Keeping a high standard of health and safety should be expected from your team, but offering incentives and rewarding good behaviour isn’t a bad idea either.
This can range from buying everyone lunch to a paid day off for the team, and can work as a great motivation for prioritising health and safety on-site.
We must warn you that this isn’t something that should be relied on, but it’s not a bad idea to offer incentives to get everyone on-board with health and safety.
By implementing the steps into our daily work life, we can slowly but surely create an industry that is able to tackle health and safety head on and be safer as a whole.
What do you think the main areas for improvement are as far as health and safety is concerned? What do we need to be doing as an industry to promote a safer work culture?
Get involved in the conversation and tweet us @utilitysearches to let us know your thoughts.