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By Duane Craig
May 8, 2017
More than ever before, you have the power to reduce construction injuries and deaths.
Imagine having hundreds more employees actively looking for and fixing safety issues and logging good safety practices. With the help of today’s technology, this is no longer just a dream.
It really is possible, but first you have to lay the groundwork, and then invest in the appropriate solution that allows you to track observations. From the start, there is no substitute for making sure people are trained to look after their own safety.
Training people to be safe is not just a one time event. There are countless aspects to it. For most construction employers, safety training for their employees includes at least the OSHA 10-hour course.
While this is a good start, there are variables across different jobsites that come into play. The employer who works across multiple geographies for example could have some employees exposed more to heat dangers, while others are exposed more to cold dangers. Some sites are more prone to wet conditions, while others might have an unusual amount of earthwork required. The dangers associated with building using structural steel are different from those using lumber. Therefore, safety training must also take into account the particular project and the particular site the project is on.
But, there are additional challenges for safety training. Dangers can change across the site from one activity to the next, and even from one hour to the next. You might have a worker performing a task on one part of the jobsite who then moves to another part of the jobsite to perform the same task, but faces different dangers at the new location. They might even face new dangers moving between the two locations. But it’s impractical to hold safety training each time a person changes locations. Therefore, a major part of safety training has to focus on awareness. It is up to the employee to be aware of changing conditions and changing dangers, but it helps them to know in advance the full range of dangers. Once they understand that, they have new knowledge that can make them more aware.
There’s plenty of evidence that shows that consistent training for both supervisors and workers helps keep people focused on safety. For particularly dangerous situations, like those conditions that exist that can lead to death or injury from the fatal four – falls, caught between, struck by object, and electrocution – having specially trained people at the location can improve safety outcomes.
These temporary safety supervisors need to have specific safety training and experience working at these high-risk types of jobs, like roofing and erecting steel.
People need refreshers from time to time, or when they're changing from one jobsite to another. That's why many construction firms today are including safety advisories in their work packages. When the foreman or supervisor on that particular task receives the work package and instructions to proceed, they also receive the appropriate safety briefing and safety guidelines. This includes the engineering controls that should be in place and if any personal protective equipment is required.
As with safety, building a team effort in managing quality requires people to understand what the quality requirements are. Whether you hold meetings, include quality criteria in work packages, or provide quality requirements to supervisors and foremen, you are effectively telling people the quality standards expected. In many cases, it is not enough to simply state that the work must meet generally acceptable quality. There are many aspects to today's complex construction projects where specific quality outcomes are the norm. The more specific your quality expectations, the greater the chance that people can meet the quality specifications the first time. This eliminates rework, reduces punch list items, and helps to prevent clashes with other activities.
Once people understand the quality requirements, know about accountability, and are trained in safety, you’re ready to invite them to the quality and safety team and give them the tools they need to stay involved.
Hold a meeting to announce the initiative and involve supervisors, foremen, and others as advocates. Explain the rewards and how they can participate. Then, encourage everyone to observe the quality they are building into the project, and to report on that quality.
The same applies to safety. When you encourage people to observe and to report on safety, you empower them to help manage safety. You could set up your own processes based on email or messaging, but to make it most effective, consider tying it to your project management functions.
If you use a cloud-based quality and safety solution, your entire team will be empowered to perform anytime, anywhere. For people who are responsible for managing aspects of quality or safety, there is an option where they can assign responsible parties and due dates. The appropriate people can use the punch list tool to help sort the observations to make sure quality issues get handled well in advance of substantial completion.
People can also identify items related to their observations like RFIs and change orders, and leaders can even schedule automatic overdue emails to go out to those people responsible for correcting issues. Observations about safety issues, either current or expected, as well as observations about where safety is on the right track, all fit in easily, and in context with their places in the project.
When everyone from project manager to those people on the front lines of the work is properly trained on safety, informed on quality, and accepting accountability, they all become part of an empowered team, out to make a difference.
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