Construction Safety Week was started in 2014 when 40 national and global construction firms joined forces with one goal: to inspire everyone in the industry to be leaders in safety (Construction Safety Week). Today, Resource Options joins with more than 70 national and global construction firms to continue striving for this goal.
In honor of Construction Safety Week, we spoke with our Operations Manager, Greg Kerr about what construction tradespeople need to know about their safety on a construction job site and throughout their construction career.
The philosophy of safety on a construction site has evolved significantly over the years. In the past, much of what you would have heard was to give employees good Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and they are off and running. However, significant safety practices have emerged that shed new light on best practices to prevent injury. This safety philosophy, which looks at the Hierarchy of Controls, is something that Resource Options, Inc. has fully adopted and is reviewed at every safety committee meeting.
According to Kerr, “This safety philosophy is shared with all internal employees and new hires. The concept – the old way of thinking - give them a hard hat, safety glasses, and gloves and they are good to go. The thinking was ‘You’re not going to get hurt on the job site.’ That mindset was flawed, and they were actually more prone to accidents believing accidents will not occur. ’. .. You’re not eliminating the hazard; you’re not taking measures to replace or find ways to do things smarter. We’re focused on changing that mentality. PPE is certainly a part of the process but is actually the least effective measure for preventing injuries.”
Construction Statistics in 2022
Being aware of and identifying safety hazards is the most important first step in risk management. Many work-related injuries are predictable and can be prevented. For example, understanding that younger workers are more likely to sustain on-the-job injuries can create an awareness for those new to the industry and show the importance of following safety guidelines and focusing on basic safe work practices.
ROI Core Values: Hierarchy of Controls
When considering how to reduce the risk, there's a certain order you should follow. This is called the hierarchy of controls. By following the hierarchy shown below, rather than starting with the easiest control measures, there are safer worksites with fewer injuries.
While the controls are listed in order of effectiveness, all five types of controls should be instituted. They work best in combination.
Resource Options, Inc moved away from emphasizing PPE to more of teaching that there are other ways for both clients and employees to rethink what safety really is and how to be safe on a job site.
With the Hierarchy of Controls, there is less reliance on the physical. We put more emphasis on eliminating, removing, and/or replacing hazards. Finding different ways of doing the same job is something that we constantly look at from a safety perspective. A lot has changed in our philosophy regarding what works and what is actually more effective. – Greg Kerr
Elimination VS Substitution
It is always best to eliminate a hazard. Substitution involves replacing the material or process with a less hazardous one. Consider these options:
- Are there safer ways to perform the task? For example, if falling is a hazard, eliminate the risk by storing stock at lower heights. This way workers do not have to climb ladders to reach stock.
- Is there something less harmful that I can use? For example, if industrial, chemical-cased cleaners are a hazard, consider substituting cleaners made of vinegar and water mixed with salt, borax, or baking soda. Always ensure that the substitutions do not create new hazards.
Engineering & Controls
When elimination or substitution are not options, engineering controls are the next best thing. Engineering controls involve using work equipment or other means to prevent workers from being exposed to a hazard. They are physical changes to the workplace. This may include equipment guarding, guardrails, traffic control lanes and barriers between vehicles and pedestrians, and many other options.
For example, guardrails are an example of engineering controls. When there are situations that require working at heights, guardrails can be installed to prevent falls.
In construction, administrative controls involve:
- Identifying safety processes
- Implementing safe work procedures so your workers can perform their job duties safely.
The findings of your risk assessment form the basis of these safe work procedures. Prohibiting the use of mobile phones while workers are driving is an example of an administrative control.
Using personal protective equipment (PPE) is another important control to protect workers. PPE alone is a great start, but following the hierarchy of controls, it is the least effective if done without the previous steps. The most benefit comes from following the entire process.
Resource Options, Inc. provides PPE for all our construction tradespeople. This PPE includes:
- Head and hearing protection
- Eye and face protection
- Respiratory protection
- Hand protection
PPE must be worn at all times to ensure working safely on a construction job site. For example, head protection is essential, particularly on construction projects, not only to protect the wearer against the hazard of falling material but also to guard against accidental bumping.
The use of hard hats at work is encouraged at all times, throughout a construction career.
Slips and Falls
Keep the floor clear and clean. Remember to keep hoses, and electrical cords out of walkways and clean up grease, water, and other liquids, immediately. Install non-skid mats in walkways and handrails in stairways.
Climbing and reaching high places will increase your chance of falling. Use appropriate gear for tasks in these cases.
Preventing Cuts in the Workplace
Wear PPE, including eye protection, gloves, and long sleeves. Use the proper tool for the job at hand and replace dull blades when necessary. A dull blade means a worker has to exert more force when cutting, increasing the risk of an injury.
Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface unless it has been secured to prevent displacement. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
Many injuries are the result of not paying attention, improper training, construction tradespeople rushing or taking shortcuts, failure to wear proper hand protection, and missing or improperly adjusted guarding equipment. Accidents can be prevented if we discipline ourselves to think carefully about consequences before acting.
When we THINK safety, we act safely.
The construction safety tips Greg shares above are crucial to everyone in their construction career. Construction safety week recognizes and shares the best practices, tools, and resources to stay safe on every construction job site.
RESOURCE OPTIONS, INC. (ROI) is a full-service construction, design, environmental services staffing, and emergency response firm. We provide customized staffing solutions to clients servicing the built and natural environment. Recognized on five different occasions by Inc. Magazine as one of “America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies”, ROI was founded in 1998 by a group of experienced industry professionals. Our proven ability to deliver highly qualified candidates in a timely fashion has earned us the reputation as a true and lasting business partner with both clients and candidates. www.resourceoptions.com