The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released best practice guidelines for health and safety management in the construction industry—its first such update in nearly 30 years.
While the announcement doesn't contain any changes in legislation, it does provide important and useful insights safety managers can absorb and disseminate throughout their workplaces.
Helping the most dangerous industry
Construction employees face dangerous working conditions regularly no matter the site. In fact, 1 in every 5 workplace deaths can be attributed to what OSHA calls "Construction's Fatal Four." These scenarios include:
- Struck by object.
- Caught in-between.
OSHA estimated improved education about safer methods and procedures involving the above injuries would save over 500 lives every year. The workplace safety organization aims to accomplish that goal by providing companies with tips on what they find as six steps, or pillars, to achieving well-functioning health and safety management programs that have a proven track record.
One business in Ohio already implemented these findings before being released to the public, and the return on investment was astounding:
- Fifty percent reduction in the number of injury claims.
- Eighty percent decrease in expenses paid for workers' compensation.
It's clear these new methods and procedures can have a profound impact on the workplace in a number of ways. But, where do you start? We've compiled a quick reference guide according to OSHA's recommendations, which outlines a six-step process that you can follow.
1. Manage leadership
The mark of an effective health and safety program is buy-in from top to bottom. OSHA reported that first and foremost, C-suite executives should relay to employees that worker safety is a top priority. Make sure everyone understands improvement will be continual and require constant open communications between all levels of the organizations.
Getting started: Draft a formal safety policy and make sure it's visible and transparent. Commit to weekly talks to collect feedback on what works, and make sure that no matter what positions they hold, all workers are accountable for adhering to workplace safety procedures.
2. Obtain worker buy-in
Employees shouldn't just be told what to do. Ask what safety goals they see as important, what types of hazards commonly pop up and gauge how they'd be able to track progress in safety improvement. Encourage workers to approach and collaborate with safety managers to develop innovative ways to combat dangerous instances in the workplace.
Getting started: Develop a process for workers to report injuries and also near-misses. With OSHA reporting regulations changing, it makes sense to adopt a health and safety management system to allow for digital injury report submission.
"Work to actively identify employee dangers."
3. Identify workplace hazards
Safety managers should actively work to identify root cause of common or rare employee injuries. By reviewing data and finding connections, organizations can quickly address any concerns and remediate them much faster than taking a wait-and-see approach.
Getting started: Injury reports are full of data, but companies often don't have programs that can help them analyze it. Leverage your health and safety system to group together similar incidents in an effort to uncover commonalities. Be sure to administer regular worksite checks for hazards as well.
4. Prevent dangers before it's too late
Employees and management must work together to identify and develop tools and procedures that effectively mitigate any risks. OSHA reported these factors should be tiered, with engineering solutions holding the most importance and urgency, followed by safer work practices, administrative controls and personal protective equipment.
Getting started: Develop a plan that identifies who's responsible for reviewing these protective controls and implementing them in a timely fashion across all operations.
5. Hold training sessions
Every worker at each level of the business should receive regular training for not only recognizing dangerous situations and employing safe procedures, but also regulation changes and workers' rights. Consider leveraging a health and safety system that provides real-time updates on industry developments and targeted educational materials.
Getting started: OSHA recommends offering the 30-hour construction safety course to all employees, but be sure to allocate time throughout each year for every worker to receive training on topics they want to learn more about and issues that are important to overall company safety.
6. Evaluate your program
Nothing is ever set in stone. OSHA reported organizations must continually evaluate their efforts in accordance with injury report data to understand how to improve. Doing so could very well lead to insights that you may not have seen the first time around.
Getting started: Create a process that allows safety managers to take time at the end of each year to thoroughly review data in association with improvements the company has made and assess what works.
For construction companies that employ contractors across multiple worksites, OSHA suggested taking the time before each project to spot any potential hazardous safety conditions and take action to mitigate any potential risk. While managing employees in various areas can be a challenge, excellent communication can help overcome it.
Evaluate your health and safety program and see where OSHA's guidelines fit into your plans.
How has your organization built its health & safety process in the construction industry? Let us know by leaving a comment.