Safety managers have several important responsibilities that are integral to the success of a construction project. Chief among these professional duties is overseeing jobsite access. Safeguarding restricted areas, and effectively ensuring jobsite safety and security, is no small task.
In the day-to-day operation of any given construction site, the last thing you want is to inadvertently permit unauthorized entry to a potentially dangerous area. A mistake of this nature almost always has legal and safety repercussions. Whether due to confusion or criminal activity (fingers crossed it isn’t the latter), unauthorized jobsite access is an all-too-common mistake that your construction company simply can’t afford.
Advancements in Jobsite Safety
First and foremost, safety needs to be the top consideration of any construction project, and minimizing risk exposure is the responsibility of everybody on site. The burden of a safe working environment certainly doesn’t fall solely on safety managers, but you are held accountable for keeping people safe.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “[The construction industry] experienced statistically significant declines in the TRC (total recordable cases) rate of occupational injuries and illnesses in 2016.”
This decrease of workplace injuries is an indication of advancements in construction technology and resulting improvements in safety manager efficacy. But, there is still a lot of room for improvement — especially when it comes to reducing accidental, or intentional, jobsite access by unauthorized individuals.
How Unauthorized Access Affects Worker Safety
As a safety manager, one of your basic job responsibilities is to ensure workers are outfitted with the proper safety equipment according to area requirements. Items such as protective gloves, goggles, fall protection equipment, and hearing protection are the safeguards between construction workers and irreparable harm.
According to OSHA Standard 1926 Subpart E, adequate safety equipment is required in any and all instances of environmental, chemical, or radiological hazards as well as mechanical irritants “capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.”
And yet, in the day-to-day shuffle of a busy construction site, accidents happen. For example, the CDC reported that — despite ever-increasing focus on jobsite safety — nearly half of construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise. Of that population, a startling 31 percent were reportedly not wearing hearing protection at all.
In fact, BLS found that, when it comes to occupational hazards, exposure to a harmful environment has increased 22 percent in recent years. These figures stand as proof that improvements regarding jobsite access are in order. Ensuring workers have the correct safety equipment before entering a restricted area is a basic, but important, step toward reducing the frequency of jobsite injuries.
The Growing Frequency of Trespassing
Unauthorized access by a worker is one thing, but what about a burglar? Or a child? Or any other non-employee entry? It happens a lot more often than you might think, and it’s not always accidental.
According to the New York Times, the frequency of breaking and entering crimes for construction sites is increasing. They say this is due, in part, to the high value of construction materials and finishes such as plumbing fixtures. Experts estimate that the annual cost of theft for the construction industry has reached $5 billion.
However, trespassing isn’t always a result of criminal intent. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but when it comes to construction sites, curiosity violated the OSHA standard. Children or teenagers see an area fenced-off or covered with restrictive signage commanding them “Do Not Enter.” So, what’s their first thought? “I need to go in there,” of course.
Young people might not realize the danger of unauthorized construction site access, or maybe they simply don’t care. But you should. Especially considering that a breach could compromise your project, your team’s safety, and cost your company in fines.
Legal Ramifications of Unauthorized Access
When a worker without the proper training, certifications and clearance enters an unauthorized area, they are not only putting themselves and others in harm’s way— they are breaking the law. In fact, an unauthorized breach will result in plenty of blame to go around and can involve several people on the project — not just the unauthorized employee. The legal consequences of unauthorized jobsite access are far reaching and legislation attaches blame to many individuals.
According to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations of 2015 — the legislation which governs how construction projects operate — an instance of unauthorized access can implicate contractors, safety managers, and even the client who hired the construction company in the first place. A simple oversight in jobsite access can have serious legal repercussions and forces culpability on many, seemingly innocent, parties.
Prevent Unauthorized Access Through Jobsite Technology
The most reliable way to prevent unauthorized access is to improve site entrance security. This means requiring identification to be cleared for site entry — ensuring that no one without the training and documentation may enter any restricted jobsite areas.
This initiative can be streamlined with the help of labor management technology. Through this technology, worker access records can be batch uploaded, and then associated with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) badge to protect entry-exit areas, hard access control gates and open access zones for vehicle entry. This way you can control entry points and avoid costly or dangerous unauthorized access incidents.
To prevent intentional security breaches, such as climbing the fences, consider after hours security guards or automated security cameras which trigger on breaches, set off alarms, and notify the security manager.
Don’t let unauthorized access compromise your construction project. It’s your job as safety manager to promote a safe and secure work environment, so equip yourself with the tools you need to do your job right.