How Construction Can Reduce Accidents in 2020

November 20, 2019 Matthew Ramage

For years, construction has been the industry with the most workplace fatalities. In 2017, we lost 971 construction pros on the job, which is far too many. By the end of 2019, many more of our fellow workers will be gone. 

The worst part of this situation is the fact that most of those deaths were completely preventable. After all, “the ‘Fatal Four’ leading causes of private sector working fatalities in the construction industry are falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in something or between two objects. These accidents are responsible for 59.9 percent of construction worker deaths.”

In many of those cases, lives could have been saved with appropriate fall protection or other PPE. Equally important, better training and more effective management of the jobsite could also have made a difference. 

As we head into 2020, let’s focus on some practical, realistic ways that construction can prevent safety hazards, improve training, and reduce accidents on the site. 

 

Preventing safety hazards on the jobsite

While it’s vital for safety managers and their teams to be prepared to handle emergencies and security issues that come up, the better option when it comes to safety is to prevent the accident or injury in the first place. 

That doesn’t just mean less workers getting hurt, it also means a lot of money being saved. According to the National Safety Council, construction companies can save about $32,000 for every medically consulted injury they avoid. To that end, let’s cover some clear, practical tips to help remove common safety hazards on your jobsite and make sure workers are equipped to do their work safely. 

Slips, trips, and falls

  • Staff adequate clean-up crews to regularly remove waste and/or clean up spills throughout the workday

  • Select the appropriate scaffolding, ladder, or other equipment for the job at hand, and ensure it’s erected correctly to maintain stability

  • Provide guardrails, railings, and appropriate safety gear, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFASs) for any worker working more than six feet off the ground and make sure they’re using it correctly

  • Extend the side rails of a ladder three feet above the roof edge

  • Supervise scaffolding construction and inspect the finished product before approving its use 

Learn more by visiting The National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction

 

Keep your Jobsite Safe, Download

The Essential Guide to Construction Workforce Management

 

Electrocution

  • Comply with and follow all OSHA (29 CFR 1926 subpart K) and NFPA electrical safety standards (NFPA 70E)

  • When using temporary electric power on construction and renovation sites, be sure to properly plan for the system and utilize ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).

  • Know the location of overhead and underground power lines to avoid accidental contact. Contact utility companies to de-energize or maintain a safe distance of ten feet or more from overhead power lines.

  • Use lock-out/tag-out practices to ensure that circuits are de-energized before servicing equipment.

  • Ensure that all electrical equipment is properly grounded or double insulated.

  • Inspect tools prior to use and check extension and power cords for wear and tear. If damaged, remove the equipment from service.

  • Disconnect the plug on any power tool or machinery before inspecting or repairing.

  • Keep metal objects away from live electrical circuits/parts.

  • Take bad weather seriously: lightning is a serious hazard, especially for anyone working above the ground and those working with machinery

Learn more by visiting the CDC’s article, Preventing Electrocution of Construction Contract Workers.

 

Struck by / caught in injuries

To avoid any struck by injuries, one should:

  • Wear hard hats to avoid falling objects.

  • Stack materials properly to prevent sliding, falling, or collapse.

  • Always wear proper PPE (hard hats, safety glasses, goggles, and face shields).

  • Secure tools and materials so they will not fall on people below.

  • Do not work under cranes, hoists, or heavy machinery while in operation.

  • Inspect crane and hoist wire rope, lifting hooks, chains, etc. to ensure they are in proper working order.

  • Inspect tools to ensure proper guards are in place.

  • Never clean clothing with compressed air.

  • Verify where an employee is standing outside of a vehicle.

  • Maintain visual contact with a helper.

  • Always wear seatbelts inside equipment.

  • Have employees on jobsites and work yards wear high-visibility vests or shirts.

  • Keep vehicles well maintained.

  • Do not exceed a vehicle's rated load or lift capacity.

  • Do not carry passengers unless there is a designated passenger seat.

Learn more by reading Avoiding Struck by and Hit Against Injuries.

 

Improving safety training and establishing a safety culture

In addition to the practical jobsite tips listed above, improving your company’s safety training program can also pay excellent dividends when it comes to preventing accidents. Doing so will make your workforce more knowledgeable in best practices and refresh their memories on recommended procedures for various conditions. It can also improve accountability as coworkers become more unified in their attitude toward working safely. 

Once again, there’s a compelling financial argument for investing in a safety program, too. Studies show that a business can save up to $8 for every dollar spent on a quality health and safety program. 

Importantly, this doesn’t mean doing the bare minimum so you can “check the box” and call your company compliant with OSHA and other standards. This is about creating a safety culture for the company that makes safe work a constant priority. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Involve leadership to ensure a top-down approach where all levels of management fully support the program.
  2. Involve workers, who often have the best understanding of the conditions that create hazards and insights into how they can be controlled.
  3. Push for an adequate budget to support all needed safety equipment, signage, and training time and resources.
  4. Identify and evaluate options for controlling hazards, using a "hierarchy of controls."
  5. Use a hazard control plan to guide the selection and implementation of controls, and implement controls according to the plan.
  6. Develop plans with measures to protect workers during emergencies and nonroutine activities.
  7. Encourage accountability by all. 
  8. Recognize safe habits in action and correct unsafe activity.
  9. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing controls to determine whether they continue to provide protection, or whether different controls may be more effective. Review new technologies for their potential to be more protective, more reliable, or less costly.

Learn more at OSHA’s guide, Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction.

 

Keep your Jobsite Safe, Download

The Essential Guide to Construction Workforce Management

 

Reduce accidents on the jobsite

So, what can your company do to reduce accidents in 2020? For the most part, all of these tips are realistic for safety managers to implement at whatever scale is necessary to make a difference. Most of them are simple and straightforward, having little impact on the daily workload. Yet, putting them into practice can literally mean the difference between life and death. 

Dig deeper: Safety Pays — Chatting With the Safest Construction Company in America.

 

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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