Health and safety is a high priority in any industry, but most importantly in construction. Sadly, millions of workers die yearly from occupational accidents and work-related diseases. Due to the perilous environment of construction sites, it is essential that workers have health and safety procedures in place.
Here are some of our suggested steps to minimising the risk of on-site accidents:
Planning & Assessment
The biggest mistake most people make when trying to manage health and safety in a construction workplace is that they have failed to identify what they want to achieve from it. By determining what you want to accomplish, you can ensure that both you and your colleagues are on the same page. Identify and analyse the hazards in your workplace - their likelihood, how severe they are and what their impact will be. Follow these steps and you won't go far wrong:
- Plan ahead
- Identify specific health hazards on your construction site
- Assess likelihood of occurrence, severity and impact of hazards
- Collaborate with workers throughout
More often than not, the causes of accidents are a result of neglect. In most cases, these could have been prevented if continuous risk assessment had been in place. Construction managers should take a proactive approach when it comes to managing health and safety. This includes identifying and analysing the hazards that harbour the greatest risk potential for employees and defining measures to control them. It is equally as important to make sure that construction workers are kept in the loop with safety measures. This is because they have a great deal of on-the-job ‘intel’ and are therefore just as responsible for implementing control measures. At HSEDocs, we believe that everyone on site should be made accountable for their own safety and that of their colleagues. Some good practices that should be carried out include:
- Safety briefings (regularly attended)
- Making practical and actionable suggestions to improve safety conditions
- Adhering to company guidelines
A great way to ensure the health and safety on site for a construction project is to build a construction phase plan. Take a look at our article, ‘What is a Construction Phase Plan?’ to learn more.
Risk Control & Prevention
To make sure that you reduce the risk of accidents from happening on your construction site, you must take direct action. It’s pointless highlighting the hazards if you are not willing to take practical actionable risk control measures. These include:
- Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Anyone working on a construction site should be wearing a hardhat and safety glasses. Additional protective equipment can then be adapted to the individual situation, as the risks of the individual employees can vary depending on the work area. Reflective clothing and other job-specific clothing is also important as they help reduce the risk of accidents such as workers being knocked over by machinery.
- Training & Capacity Management of Construction Workers - Thorough health and safety training is essential in order to convey risks to employees and anyone in the vicinity. This knowledge and awareness allows workers to protect both themselves and others around them. Site managers can also take advantage of the latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) to make training fun, highly efficient and fast. Training should also include focus on mental health care.
- Enforce Regular Breaks - Construction sites can be very stressful environments. Fatigue can hugely increase the risk of accidents happening which is why construction managers should ensure that their staff are taking regular breaks so they can relax, unwind and ‘recharge’ before continuing to work.
- Use of Appropriate Equipment & Processes - Workers should be given roles based on their competencies, including their proficiency in handling the right type and size of equipment. They should also have a thorough knowledge of the task. Best working practices also include the use of warning signs and proper traffic control.
- Eliminate Hazards - Removing hazards from construction sites is vital to ensure that contractors are working in a safe environment. It helps prevent accidental injuries and property damage. This step should always be at the front of your mind. For example, manual handling such as moving or lifting heavy items can be replaced by automation. To find out more, take a look at our insightful article, ‘Avoiding Common Construction Site Hazards with Proper Health & Safety Documents’.
Review & Management
Whilst the previous step focuses on putting safety control measures in place, this step is used to ensure that they are working properly. As part of this process, you should:
Supervise Workers - The aim is to make sure that employees understand the risks associated with their jobs and that measures are put in place to mitigate such risks. The supervisor should be checking to see if workers are using the latest risk control strategies and whether they are being used correctly. Top tip - Supervisors should give special considerations to new recruits, young workers and inexperienced workers.
Spot-On Maintenance - Health and safety management exercises are not ‘set and forget’ schemes. They must be looked after. For construction sites, this includes making sure:
- All equipment is thoroughly looked after (maintained regularly at appropriate times)
- Measures are put in place for workers to report damaged or faulty equipment
- You equip and train equipment maintenance personnel adequately
- Maintenance activities are carried out safely. For example, flammable and toxic materials should be isolated properly
Always Monitor - It’s important to monitor all of your safety and health control measures for their effectiveness. Monitoring allows you to assess how well your preventative measures are at eliminating or reducing risks. Efficient monitoring also allows you to identify any areas of weakness in your health and safety management so that they can be caught early on. In many cases, monitoring includes:
- Workers’ performance audit
- Audit of program activities
- Risk exposure monitoring
- Health surveillance
Remember to take corrective action as soon as you discover problems. Revisit your plans and update any policies or procedures that are outdated. To learn more, take a look at our article, ‘Construction Health and Safety Documents’.
Additional Tips To Keep Your Workers Safe
On top of the steps already mentioned, here are some simple steps you can take to manage health and safety in construction:
- Lead By Example - Leading by example is crucial if you want to encourage greater health and safety engagement. For example, make sure that workers are using the correct tools as this will reduce the risk of an injury. It may sound obvious but it’s important for site managers to lead by example.
- Enforce Self-Responsibility - Anyone who fails to follow company guidelines should face the consequences. Online health and safety tools can help businesses manage training qualifications and stay on track of individuals who may not be compliant.
To find out more about this, take a look at our construction health and safety pack.