Pictured: Members of our team receiving certification training for confined space rescue in 2013.
When you look deeper into the true meaning and possible repercussions if ignored, safety is more than just a word.
Safety is a cultural mindset that has to begin with every individual on your job site. In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recorded 3,945 worker fatalities in private industry, 775 or 19.6% were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on a construction site were falls, struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. OSHA refers to these as the “Fatal Four”, responsible for nearly 3 out of 5 construction worker deaths in 2012. This data from OSHA, that we are still experiencing construction worker fatalities in this day and age, is shocking.
So, what is the best way to change this statistic? The answer may be as simple as educating and focusing on our workforce. It is our duty to provide a safe work environment for the workers as well as changing the culture in which safety is implemented on job sites. The first step is to identify any hazards to the scope of work and address the appropriate safety measures needed prior to the start of work. Once safety measures are identified, it must be communicated clearly to the workers. It is very important to verify any training requirements or certifications needed in order to perform the work in compliance to OSHA 1926 guidelines.
Setting a goal such as “Zero recordable injuries” is a great way to establish the safety culture for the project before work starts. How many times have you and co-workers heard this as a goal on a construction project? The answer is probably a lot. If this is a common goal in our industry, then why are there still worker fatalities? Complacency seems to be the root cause for most accidents on a construction site. The mindset for example of “I don’t need to tie off, I have done this a thousand times.” needs to change. In order to change this mindset and culture the workforce must be fully committed to safety. Safety begins with each individual on site and should expand to the entire Project Team.
A successful approach to change the safety culture on a job site is to develop a Safety Team. The Safety Team is assembled with at least one worker from each contractor currently placing work on site. The Safety Team Member should be a worker, not a Foreman or Superintendent. Their main focus is to review work areas to assure they are safe to perform work. Each Safety Team Member is empowered to have a voice for themselves as well as their co-workers. This creates ownership of safety at the level where it is most important, the worker.
The next time you are on a construction site and hear safety mentioned, remember what it really means: Stop Accidents From Ever Traumatizing You.
Article by Jim Kephart, CQM
Site Operations Manager