No matter what line of work you’re in, there are a few basic principles of safety that always seems to get overlooked. It’s never on purpose. People don’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll create a dangerous safety hazard for my crew to deal with today.” Unless you’re a villain from some superhero movie, then your job is to hatch evil plans all day. We get it.
Chances are that safety managers and supervisors think they’re taking every safety precaution they can. There’s a problem with this kind of thinking. The second you feel like all the bases are covered is the exact moment when things get messy.
Here are a few tips to remember every time you get a little too comfortable on the jobsite.
1. Evaluate Your Jobsite Often
Jobsites are never static. That means that yesterday’s jobsite doesn’t need the same safety precautions that today’s site will, or even tomorrow’s. Heck, some days the jobsite may look completely different after lunch than it did first thing in the morning. If you want your crew to be safe, you have to account for these changes – sometimes on an hourly basis.
Want a few examples?
Think about a construction site – the foundation and subfloor is laid, the wall studs are up, and you’re just laying the joists for the second floor. Well, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the second floor just added a few more safety concerns to the list. Now, you need to worry about opening in the floors and walls, because falling to a lower level is probably not on your workers’ to-do list. Hopefully, you planned for this and have fall protection procedures in place. Or man, that’s just gonna cost you time and money to think about now.
Still not convinced? Ok. What about the electrician that just ran some wire while the drywall crew was on lunch? Now it’s live. Do you have a plan for communicating that to the rest of the workers?
This is why it’s important to regularly evaluate your site for safety risks. Each stage of a project is going to have unique risks that you need to account for. It’s never set-it-and-forget-it. And, you gotta make sure there’s a plan for how that information is going to be documented and communicated to your workers, guests, and subcontractors.
2. Address the Hazards You See
Here’s where I’m going to tell you that you need to have a plan addressing hazards you spot during your site assessments. You’re probably thinking that’s common sense. Well, the reason why it’s so overlooked goes back to the fact that jobsites are always changing. Even if you are the safety king or queen of your industry, there’s always something that can be missed.
The easiest way to make sure that nothing gets missed is to have documented procedures. Whether you eliminate risks completely (which isn’t always practical), you use engineering controls to protect workers, or you provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) – you need to have a plan.
By having clear and documented steps to follow when addressing hazards you can feel pretty good about your jobsite safety.
3. Stay Up-to-Date on Regulation Changes
This is where a lot of safety programs fall short. And it’s not only compliance issues and fines that you need to worry about. If you don’t know the recent safety changes in your industry, you’re risking much, much more. Over the past few years there have been several updates that impact worker safety and employer responsibility. So, keep your eyes peeled and your head on a swivel when it comes to researching safety information that relates to your industry.
Here are just a few recent regulation updates:
- Silica – OSHA rolled out a final rule on respirable crystalline silica in 2016. The rule will better protect workers from some of the dangerous particles they encounter everyday. It addressed the common industries that respirable silica is found: Construction, General Industry, and Maritime.
- Confined Space – We know confined spaces can be one of the deadliest places a worker can encounter. It’s even deadlier when workers aren’t protected with the right safety equipment. Make sure you're up to speed on the recent updates that joined the construction standard 29 CFR Subpart AA 1926.1200 with the existing general industry standard 29 CFR 1910.146.
- Walking Working Surfaces – In early 2017, OSHA made changes to CFR 1910 Subpart D that helps create consistency across both general and construction industry. The updates include changes to rules concerning rope descent systems, ladders, stairways, dockboards, scaffolding, training, and inspection.
So, let’s just say you aren’t an evil villain scheming to take over the world. These are some handy tips to remember when it comes to job site safety. Am I right?
The thing to remember is that no matter what the jobsite is – factory, construction site, refinery, or mechanic shop – it’s rarely static. And those daily or hourly changes can create unique safety risks. Just take a minute and think things through. Assess and reassess the risks, address the hazards, document, communicate and just stay informed. And ask for help when you get lost. That’s all there is to it.