The construction industry relies heavily on key safety measures to protect workers and to achieve compliance. Common safety measures include the use of PPE (e.g. hard hats, respirators, etc.) on construction sites, lockout tagout controls before equipment maintenance, and fall-arrest systems to protect against fall hazards. These are all key ways construction companies can mitigate safety hazards and promote employee and worker safety. Implementation of OSHA standards for compliance, protective systems, and general safety practices on construction job sites are critical to positive business outcomes.
A worksite can be incredibly dangerous, which is why safety remains a core focus of the construction industry. Safety measures and safety best practices evolved as the industry learned how these impact worker well-being. Modern safety training and safety plans look much different than they did a year ago due to increased compliance demands.
OSHA’s Report on Leading Indicators
A major shift in construction safety began in 2019 with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releasing a report entitled “Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety and Health Outcomes”. This document highlights proactive, preventive, and predictive measures to identify and quantify the effective performance of an organization’s safety and health activities related to construction safety.
“Leading indicators can play a vital role in preventing worker fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, as well as strengthening safety and health outcomes in the workplace. Employers that use leading indicators as a tool for achieving these goals have a substantial advantage over their competitors. By taking deliberate and measured actions that can prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, these employers demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a socially responsible workplace that values workers. By strengthening key elements of their safety and health programs, they also can improve their overall organizational performance.”
The principles behind good leading indicators are based on Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Reasonable, and Timely (SMART) principles. Companies realized improved outcomes with the inclusion of these safety planning principles. Some examples of these include employee health screening, accident reports, inspections, and safety training.
A major trend in construction safety involves how companies can manage COVID-19. Social distancing, off-site construction, extended use of PPE, and a larger remote workforce impacted how the construction industry looks today. Safety protocols are now more important than ever, and construction companies must adjust.. (See: Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 in the Construction Industry)
Addressing the Top Four Causes of Construction Fatalities
Nearly half of construction-related fatalities occur from either falls, blunt force impacts, electrocutions, or trapped workers under or between objects (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2019). The construction industry is constantly rethinking the way these safety issues are addressed. For falls, a combination of guard rails, fall protection/arrest systems, body harnesses, safety nets, and more help to improve job site safety. The use of PPE and aerial lifts for powerline or electrical work also helps improve safety on a construction site. Safety professionals in the construction industry need to constantly improve safety, especially regarding to these four safety hazards.
Construction safety issues have always been prevalent, however, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the safety landscape rapidly. Construction companies must go beyond ensuring that employees have the tools and training to be safe on-site, but workers must self-report symptoms, while companies validate COVID test results, and more to mitigate the pandemic-related dangers.
Technology has changed how data is used to promote safety and adherence to safety standards by construction workers and subcontractors. On a job site, real-time reporting and monitoring help to identify safety issues early – for example, personal protective equipment logs and inspection reports can identify equipment that must be replaced or decommissioned and ensures that supplies are replenished and kept in good working order. Similarly, logging and tracking attendance at safety meetings and validation of a worker’s understanding of safety procedures helps ensure that workers understand job site safety requirements and maintain a safe environment.
Construction worksites adapt to changes in technology – the inclusion of smartphones, mobile apps, and more reshapes the implementation and execution of safety programs. As leading indicators are a critical component of safety management, assessing indicators in real-time, or near real-time, enable responsiveness to safety issues quickly and efficiently. The apps included in the GoCanvas platform can improve job site safety, especially when using lead indicators in collecting and analyzing data.
Employee Screenings for Safety Training and Meetings
GoCanvas apps for employee screenings can check on whether employees are up to date with safety training and attendance at safety meetings. Responses and results in safety assessments and evaluations included in employee screenings ensure that all workers on a job site understand the importance of safe work practices in construction projects, and verify that they are incorporating best practices in construction site safety into their jobs.
While many accidents are avoidable with proper safety precautions, when an accident occurs, real-time reporting helps ensure that an appropriate response is dispatched to promote worker safety and well-being and to reduce the chance of future accidents occurring. This informs establishing and developing future training programs, while providing an opportunity to reduce liability as errors by construction workers are documented at the time of an accident, with images, GPS coordinates, timestamps, and other key data points validating the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Construction Equipment Checklists
On a construction site, various types of equipment are often used. Failure of equipment not only causes delays and cost overruns on a job but can also cause serious injury. Equipment failing in a confined space can cause obstructions; trenching equipment not properly maintained can lead to cave-ins, and other failures can be equally disastrous. Using GoCanvas checklists for construction equipment ensures that companies can more effectively track maintenance, detect problems before they become serious, and trace problems to either operator error, or equipment failure. This, in turn, shapes future purchasing decisions, as well as methodologies in training workers in using equipment, ultimately creating cost savings while promoting worker safety.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now a new element to construction safety and overall workplace safety – this involves employee and worker exposure to COVID-19. The GoCanvas COVID-19 toolkit can help construction companies minimize the impact of this safety hazard by enabling employees to self-screen for symptoms and exposure, ensure temperature checks are taken onsite, and collect data related to worker exposure for contact tracing to minimize downtime and prioritize worker health.