The Health and Safety Protocols in Construction
The construction industry plays an essential role in society, but it is also one of the most dangerous. Nearly one in five workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry in 2021, with a third of those deaths attributed to slips, falls, and trips. This highlights just how important health and safety are within the field, as small risks can have fatal consequences.
Fortunately, every site manager, foreperson, and even entry-level employee can prioritize safety protocols on site. Learn more about how to create a safe work environment and who is responsible for these important measures.
Overview of Key Health and Safety Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides several pages of information on health and safety regulations. These are broken into a series of seven steps that cover a variety of dangerous elements and how to protect against them. For example, step one covers safety best practices related to preventing falls, using ladders, and navigating stairways. It also has information about scaffolding, the use of electrical wiring, excavation, and motor vehicle safety.
OSHA makes these protocols in direct response to workplace injuries. OSHA noticed an increase in trenching deaths in 2022, which led them to highlight their trenching safety best practices so these fatalities can be reduced or avoided altogether.
In most cases, the OSHA guidelines are meant to increase job site safety without interfering with the ability of the workers to do their jobs. Wearing hard hats and visibility vests are two examples of this. These key elements of work uniforms make people easy to see, which can prevent workplace accidents.
Enforcing Safety Protocols: Who’s Responsible?
OSHA is the main regulatory body that provides guidelines for workplace safety. Following these rules is not optional. Nearly every American employee comes under OSHA’s jurisdiction, with the exception of self-employed individuals, transportation workers, public employees, and miners — who have their own safety organization.
It is the role of site managers and anyone in a leadership position to create a safe work environment for employees. OSHA has a whistleblower protection program for employees who report unsafe working conditions, which means their employer cannot fire them or retaliate in any way. Businesses can face steep fines for violating OSHA guidelines, which is why it is in their best interest to follow safety protocols.
Through regular site inspections and the use of on-site safety officers, companies can stay OSHA-compliant and, more importantly, create a safe workplace for their team members.
Collaboration With Unions and Safety Advocates
There is still room for improvement when it comes to safety on American job sites and union leaders are often on the front lines advocating for better regulations. Union members bring issues to their leadership teams, who then work with governing bodies and regulators to implement new safety protocols. They serve as a voice for the people ensuring safety measures.
Workplace democracy is protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, which empowers workers to seek better and safer working conditions without fear of retaliation. This act gives OSHA the power it has today.
On-Site Fuel Storage and Management
One key aspect of workplace safety is fuel storage and management. Not only are many fuel sources highly flammable, but they are also toxic to the environment. This is why it is so important to handle and store them correctly. Here are a few best practices when storing construction site fuel:
- Always store fuel in DOT-approved storage containers on level ground. This will prevent leaks and spills.
- Do not store fuel in an area with extreme temperature fluctuations and avoid storing it directly in the sun.
- Limit access to the fuel. Keep it locked at all times.
- When fueling, always remember to replace the cap. If water gets into your fuel, it could ruin your equipment and create a safety hazard.
These are just a few best practices to follow. There are additional guidelines for proper ventilation and placing your fuel storage tank at least 50 feet away from any ignition sources. Additionally, make sure you follow safety guidelines related to routine checks, proper labeling, and emergency protocols to prevent fuel accidents.
Fuel Usage Protocols
While storage is a key part of fuel safety, you also need to establish on-site safety protocols for using fuel. Consider who can access the fuel tank, how fuel is transferred, and when it should be used. Establishing these best practices can create a safer environment, while also increasing your fuel efficiency and lowering your costs. A few things to consider include:
- Only use approved equipment to store, handle, and transfer fuel.
- Maintain clean fuel storage areas. Any spills or leaks could be highly flammable.
- Develop safety best practices when refueling.
- Train your team on the different types of diesel fuel and when they should be used.
Even the diesel delivery process can have safety guidelines to determine who needs to be present and how fuel can be added to your storage tank safely. Everyone, from your vendors to your contractors, deserves a safe work environment.
Training Staff in Proper Safety Practices
One of the best ways to keep your team safe is with continuous training. Safety training isn’t a one-time activity for your staff. Construction personnel should have regular access to safety resources along with enough time to review them properly.
If you’re trying to vet reputable training resources, turn to OSHA or the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). Both of these organizations have training materials or can recommend reputable resources to use.
Incorporating Technology for Safety Training
One thing to consider is using modern technology to improve your safety training process. Engaging apps, online games, and even virtual reality can enhance the safety training experience and make it more enjoyable for employees. This means that your team members are more likely to remember the material covered.
If the training process is more engaging, your team members will also be more willing to attend the learning sessions or pay attention to the information. This creates a safer work environment for everyone.
Preparing for Emergencies: Proactive Safety Measures
You can’t prevent every emergency, but you can take steps to respond in an effective way. Oftentimes, every minute counts when there is a crisis, from an employee injury to an on-site fire. Along with managing workplace safety, develop and practice your response plans in the event of an emergency. Everyone should know how to respond and who to call when there is a problem.
Work with your team to help them understand emergency evacuation routes, train them on emergency equipment, and run drills to simulate crises. Everyone needs to participate in these activities. That way, even if one team member forgets what to do during a crisis, another can step in and use their knowledge to help out.
Addressing Potential Mental Strain
Construction is an intense industry, with many people experiencing mental strain and fatigue as a result of the work. This can create additional workplace safety hazards when your employees aren’t able to perform at their best.
Evaluate the types of psychosocial hazards that your staff might encounter and how hazards could affect their ability to work. For example, if your team works at night, consider how these hours affect their ability to rest and spend time with their families. Providing resources and dedicated measures to address these challenges will create a better and safer work environment for everyone involved.
Maintaining a Continuous Commitment to Safety
Safety isn’t a one-time training session or on-site review. Companies that are committed to workplace safety make it a key part of their daily activities. Each employer and manager is responsible for acting in a safe manner and reporting potential issues before they cause an accident. Make sure you treat workplace safety as an ongoing practice that is constantly updated and improved.