With increasing pressure to meet quick deadlines, construction safety best practices can seem like a waste of time and money.
In fact, the opposite is true. According to OSHA, every dollar you invest in safety and health training can save you $4 to $6 in costs related to workplace injuries and illnesses.
It all starts with you taking the lead. Check out these four fundamental construction safety tips to help workers get home to their families safe and sound at the end of the day.
1. Establish a positive safety culture
Whether you’re starting a safety program for the first time or renewing your efforts, it’s tempting to think that creating standards and training procedures is enough.
But if you don’t prioritize building a safety culture, your efforts will be wasted.
Culture is a “set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” It’s the internal motivations and external habits that unite your team.
Culture develops even if you don’t try to shape it. If you neglect its importance, you may end up with a negative safety culture.
If you want your crew to think of safety as more than a list of dos and don’ts, safety can’t just be something you do. It must become a core part of who your team is.
To proactively build a safety culture, you need a vision. Think about the four areas of culture:
- Attitudes: How do I want my crew to feel about safety initiatives?
- Values: How can I show that safety is a priority?
- Goals: How can we tangibly improve our safety program and reduce incidence rates?
- Practices: What routines can we establish to consistently ensure safety?
Once you’ve decided on your desired attitudes, values, goals and practices, you need to communicate that safety culture to your team.
The words you use are powerful. If you talk about safety standards as a burden — “I don’t like it either, but we have to” — your crew will view them in a negative light.
Instead, focus on the benefits your crew can gain from safety. Emphasize that you want everyone to get home safe to their families. Instill a sense of responsibility for the safety of other people on the job site.
Communicating a safety message once isn’t enough. You need to consistently drive home the importance of safety to your team.
2. Make use of safety training resources
Only you can shape a culture of safety for your team. But when it comes to sharing safety practices and training, you don’t have to start from scratch.
OSHA offers online, state-specific safety courses that your workers can complete. The courses are available 24/7, so you don’t need to rearrange your work schedule around them.
But while safety training is essential for new hires, even the most experienced workers can benefit from refreshing their knowledge throughout the year.
Giving a toolbox talk every day during a group stretch is a simple way to remind your crew of construction safety tips. These activities are also a great way to spark discussion and build camaraderie.
You can find free toolbox talk topics online. Here’s a list of toolbox talks that are available from OSHA:
- Personal protective equipment
- Hazard communication
- Fire protection and prevention
- Portable tool and equipment safety
- Ladder safety
- Basic electrical safety
- Basic scaffold safety
- Trenching and excavation safety
- Fall protection and prevention
- Biohazards and infectious disease prevention
Finally, don’t forget about equipment-specific training. Follow all the manufacturer’s guidelines and check if your distributor has equipment training available.
3. Invest in the right gear and supplies
If you want your workers to follow safety practices, you need to equip them to do what you’re asking.
Workers who don’t have the right safety gear and supplies are at risk for injury. Here are some general resources that contribute to worker safety and why they’re important:
- Communication devices (smartphones, hand radios, etc.): Awareness of what’s happening on the job site is key for preventing accidents. And if a safety incident does happen, you’ll want to know about it as soon as possible.
- Proper personal protective equipment (PPE): High-quality and high-visibility PPE can mean the difference between life and death. It never pays to cut corners in this area.
- Safety signage: Signs clearly communicate safety hazards to workers and anyone else who may visit the job site.
- Emergency response materials: Plan and document how you’ll handle injuries, illnesses and other safety emergencies so you’ll be ready when they happen.
- Water: Staying hydrated is just as important in cold winters as it is in hot summers.
- Rest areas: Reserve spaces where workers can warm up, cool off or stretch away from job site activity.
It’s also important to properly maintain all equipment and gear. Malfunctioning equipment can be a safety hazard of its own.
4. Enforce your safety program
Finally, you need to follow through on the safety standards you’ve established.
Enforcement starts with you, but it doesn’t end there. if you’ve prioritized building a safety culture, you’ll empower your team to hold themselves accountable.
Here are some tips for ensuring construction safety remains a priority:
- Encourage workers to speak up. Your crew members should feel comfortable approaching you when they have a safety concern without fear of how others will respond.
- Provide employee feedback. Approach improvements in a constructive way, putting the focus on unwanted behaviors instead of the individual person.
- Supervise closely. Supervisors must be willing to enforce safety standards and promote accountability among crew members.
- Investigate and record incidents. Make sure to follow OSHA laws for reporting and recordkeeping.
Leading by example is perhaps the most important safety tip. Show your workers you’re invested in their safety by following your own safety guidelines, and reward those who demonstrate good safety behaviors.
If they know you’re truly committed to job site safety, they’ll be more inclined to trust you and follow your example.
This article was originally published on September 17, 2018. It was updated and republished on May 5, 2021.