Are You Unknowingly Putting Your Construction Crews at Risk?

November 12, 2019 Matthew Ramage

Safety on the job should be the top priority for every organization. But in the construction industry, it’s particularly urgent. The sheer number of potential hazards combined with the variety of individual workers and crews on construction jobsites give safety a whole new level of importance. 

These characteristics contribute to the industry’s less-than-stellar safety reputation, making workforce safety concerns and violations an ongoing worry. According to OSHA, of the 4,674 worker fatalities in private industry during 2017, 971 or 20.7% were in construction. Of these deaths, 366 (or more than one-third) were the result of falls to a lower level, making falls the leading cause of death in construction. Additionally, between October 2018 and August 2019, OSHA issued 2,345 citations for improper ladder usage, 3,671 for problems with hazard communication, and a sobering 6,010 for violating general requirements for fall protection. 

 

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These numbers are disheartening for the construction industry’s Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) managers who are responsible for ensuring their workers’ safety day in and day out. But that’s not to say EHS managers aren’t doing their jobs. They carry a heavy burden to ensure every one of their workers makes it home at the end of the day. Keeping track of changes to local laws and OSHA’s myriad of updates to regulations – along with maintaining a watchful eye on how well workers comply with and carry out safety standards – is an enormous task.

Furthermore, in many cases, they’re doing the best they can without the benefit of the latest methods and tools. Many of the challenges EHS managers face today are only exacerbated by manual and outdated processes for access control and attendance. They lack visibility across their workforce and jobsites, which further limits their ability to monitor workforce activities and ensure safety standards are being met. This is despite better tools being available. 

 

The Imperative to Improve

The construction industry as a whole has an opportunity to shift and improve its safety record, and it starts with individual construction companies modernizing their workforce management systems and tools. 

It goes without saying, the rewards for improving workforce management – and as a result jobsite safety – are significant. According to OSHA, eliminating the Fatal Four alone – falls, getting struck by objects, electrocutions, and getting caught-in/between – would save 582 workers’ lives per year. And while some headway is being made, with a 2% drop in construction deaths in 2017, resulting in 20 fewer deaths that year, there is still more to be done. 

To help you identify areas where your current tools and processes may be making matters worse, here are three ways you may be unnecessarily and unknowingly putting your construction workers at risk.

 

1. Unauthorized people on the construction site

If you’re still keeping paper-based attendance records and using security guards to control access, then you’re introducing the possibility of human error into your workforce management process. Security guards can’t be everywhere at once, and it’s difficult for a manager with a clipboard to know if every worker on the site at any given time is authorized to be there. Even if you use digital tools that require manual inputs, the accuracy and completeness of attendance records is difficult to validate.

When you don’t have a reliable, automated method of controlling access, each entry and exit becomes a point of vulnerability. Unauthorized jobsite access creates the potential for safety and security incidents that put your workers at risk, including the potential for construction equipment theft or tampering by unauthorized personnel, both during and after normal operating hours. At the same time, it puts members of the public who may be trespassing in danger and increases your company’s liability for any accidents that might happen. All told, unauthorized access is an expensive problem, not to mention a potentially life-threatening crisis just lying in wait. 

 

2. Improperly trained construction crews

OSHA violations often come down to construction workers who are either improperly trained, don’t yet have the right training under their belt, or haven’t maintained current safety qualifications. Because safety hazards abound on construction sites, workers who are ill-prepared, misinformed, or really don’t know what they’re doing put themselves and others at a heightened risk of bodily harm or even death. Workers who lack the right training also put your company in jeopardy, since an accident on the jobsite can expose the company to serious and costly legal concerns.

 

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When you don’t have an efficient way to conduct training and onboarding, document worker credentials, or ensure they’re complete and up to date, you run a greater risk of jobsite compliance violations. In addition to mandatory training on OSHA standards, there are specialized certifications many workers need. And since there is no single, catch-all certification, you can see how keeping track of each individual requirement for every worker turns into an administrative nightmare. Serious compliance issues aside, not being able to effectively monitor worker credentials can ultimately lead to accidents, injuries, or worse.

 

3. Poor workforce visibility

If you can’t verify who’s on your jobsite and where they’re located, you may be unable to communicate with workers in the event of bad weather, a sudden structural or equipment hazard, or any type of emergency situation. Even more concerning, if a worker is involved in an accident and needs medical attention, you could waste valuable time trying to locate them and respond appropriately, making a bad situation that much worse. 

A lack of visibility across the jobsite can make your workers sitting ducks to any number of incidents. And should an incident occur, it hinders your ability to quickly muster your onsite workers and ensure everyone is accounted for. Even if the day is uneventful, and hopefully it is, your lack of workforce visibility makes it almost impossible to know if anyone is still on the jobsite when working hours are over. When you’re unable to know for sure that only the right people are in the right places, you expose your workforce and your company to additional risks.

 

Improve Construction Safety with Better Tools

Construction is a dangerous industry and the potential for accidents and injuries on the jobsite is all too real. In many cases, EHS managers are doing their best despite having to rely on outdated ways of doing things. Without the advantage of better tools and processes, any potential lapse in practice or judgment, however large or small, can inadvertently put the health and safety of workers at risk. 

Relying on manual methods and human resources alone is only perpetuating the already shaky state of construction safety, not to mention multiplying the risk that your company or workers may be the next statistic. Just like you wouldn’t use a hammer when you could use a pneumatic nail gun to do the job better and more efficiently, you shouldn’t settle for outdated and ineffective methods when it comes to ensuring your workers’ safety. 

 

To learn about how you can use convenient automated tools to improve construction site safety and workforce management, get the eBook.

About the Author

Matthew Ramage

Matthew Ramage is Trimble's Segment Manager for Asset Management and the MEP Global Marcom Director. He leads a new marketing approach for his team, specializing in inbound and content-centric marketing.

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