Safety is foundational to construction. Even with all the focus put on budgets, timelines, and processes, safety still comes first. After all, safety can affect all these aspects of a construction project, and more.
When something is a top industry priority, there’s always room for improvement. Read on for 10 key ways you can improve construction safety, and set your team and future projects up for a safer, better end result.
10 Winning Strategies to Enhance Construction Safety
1. Improve Communication and Transparency
Communication and collaboration are a fundamental part of the process of building trust and relationships on a jobsite, as well as key aspects of a safe company culture. Being transparent and accurate in documentation contributes to good communication among team members. Therefore, both communication and transparency are vital components of construction project safety.
The safest construction companies always aim to create strong practices around documentation and control, typically by using cloud-based collaboration programs that enable the whole team to access up-to-date information when they need it.
Missing information and data can create hazards on a jobsite, and strong documentation practices reduce this risk. Plus, more information gives everyone a better understanding of what’s going on, so teams are always prepared for the day and throughout the project.
2. Simplify Reporting
Filling out construction reports and completing project checklists, whether for construction safety or quality inspections, can often be a tedious process. A typical OSHA safety checklist can include more than 500 items on just one list. However, project management tools can make navigating these arduous checklists easier and faster. When it comes to selecting and setting up software to simplify these processes, remember to:
- Standardize forms and checklists using software that allows you to set up and customize templates for Incident Reports or Safety Checklists.
- Stay consistent—especially when checklists and reports come in different formats and important safety issues or inspection items are likely to be missed—to improve documentation and transparency.
- Think mobile-first so software can be used in real time to capture issues and inspections, making it more likely to improve safety outcomes and accuracy. Adopt software platforms built for mobile that are easy and fast to use across devices, and that offer cloud access.
- Consider advanced issue tracking because details matter. The best project management software will allow teams not only to create checklists, but to also assign them to the right team members.
Looking for easy safety forms and checklists? Download our toolkit.
3. Build Safety into Your Culture
Many of the safest construction companies have an organization-wide understanding of and enthusiasm for safety programs. This means that every employee knows which safety protocols the company has and how they work. Safety is fully ingrained into the culture at these companies, and employees know that safety is a big part of their jobs.
One thing to remember is that this means prioritizing safety over efficiency—something that can be difficult to do. Instead of putting deadlines and budgets first, companies should always encourage employees that safety is the highest priority. This concept should also extend to a company’s partners, who should be vetted and trained to optimize construction safety.
4. Enhance Trust and Relationships
Employees and project stakeholders must feel secure and confident that company leadership has their backs in order for them to feel safe on a construction project and participate in safety initiatives, including reporting incidents and voicing their opinions.
In other words, companies must build trust and relationships among team members in order to do their part and look out for the rest of the team.
5. Choose the Right Tools
Make sure the whole team is on the same page with collaboration technology. When everyone is using the same technology, it’s much easier to capture critical safety data that can help prevent issues down the line. With an always up-to-date and accurate view of the work and project conditions, the jobsite is safer.
It can be hard for team members to constantly attend to safety and data collection without it disrupting their workflow and negatively affecting their productivity. Tracking technology, like sensors and wearable technology, make it much easier for workers to gather data and follow safety protocols.
Automation also plays a big role in improving the timely communication of design or fabrication changes, and dramatically reduces rework by having the right information in the right place at the right time. This can improve safety, while also maintaining predictability and enhancing profitability.
When considering new technology to invest in for improved safety, choose the solutions with the highest ROI that won’t add additional risks to implement. As an added bonus, implementing certain technologies may also allow you to lower your insurance premiums.
6. Invest in Your Staff
First, there’s training. An employee’s good intentions don’t matter if they don’t know how to operate a vehicle, institute an emergency shutdown, put on their gear correctly, or respond in a crisis. Inadequate training can put each worker in danger, and can also put their team members and the entire project in harm’s way. Training should be one of the first things an employee does, and companies should offer follow-up training at regular intervals–even when they are not required to do so. This will not only keep projects in compliance, it will dramatically increase jobsite safety.
7. Equip Your Staff with the Right Gear
Safety gear is an obviously critical component of a safe jobsite, including protection for the head, hands, feet, back, eyes, ears, body and whatever else the job function or task could affect. This also includes PPE that not only functions but fits well. For example, women often have no choice but to wear ill-fitting gear designed for men on a jobsite, which can impede their movement and make them both less effective at their jobs and more likely to experience a mishap. Women should have gear designed for them to fit their needs on a project.
It’s also essential to conduct regular PPE inspections and refreshes, including training employees on how and when to use it year after year.
8. Capture Predictive Insights
Investigating construction incidents after they occur is no longer enough. You must use a proactive approach to predict issues before they happen. Luckily, that’s not as impossible as it seems, as researchers are already analyzing workplace health and jobsite safety data–required by law from every company employing more than 10 people–and compiling it into meaningful messaging for building organizations. Some of this research shows that we can predict injuries at rates of almost 100%, just by monitoring and analyzing jobsite data.
To get these key insights, companies must create their own system for gathering, collating, and assessing data. This requires consistent reports and inspections of existing work conditions, near-miss reports, and incident reports. Moreover, by setting up standards to define, benchmark, and measure data, you can start moving toward a predictive model for jobsite safety.
There is also the field of predictive analytics, which is on the leading edge of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) applications. These capabilities are just now being explored to improve safety conditions and inspections in the construction industry.
9. Incentivize Innovators
Taking a proactive approach to safety isn’t always as easy as it seems. Sometimes this requires contractors to think outside the box to come up with solutions. Companies with excellent safety programs make sure that employees are incentivized to innovate when it comes to safety tools and protocols.
For example, Great Lakes Construction encourages just this kind of creative thinking from its employees. Because of this, one employee created a novel device that holds jackhammers in place.
“Because this device allowed our employees to work safer, with less stress on the body, we rewarded the employee with a $1,000 cash prize,” says Safety Director William Hocevar. This approach to innovation will lead to truly team-oriented, safety-first construction projects.
10. Explore Offsite Construction
Once considered difficult to get up to speed, challenging to apply, and tough to find labor skilled for, offsite manufacturing and construction is getting a fresh look by the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic may be encouraging companies to embrace offsite construction to increase productivity and safety. By reducing the number of people at a jobsite, offsite construction can lead to fewer hazards, more predictability, and generally more comfortable working conditions — all of which lower safety risks.
Safety Resources for Construction
In the new normal brought on by the pandemic, there are a number of resources available to help make your next construction project the safest it can be, including Downloadable COVID-19 Checklist Templates, OSHA COVID-19 Guidance for Construction, and AGC Coronavirus – Safety, Health & Environmental Resources.
From improving communication and transparency and building safety into your culture, to choosing the right tools and investing in your staff, there are a number of things you can do to improve construction safety, starting today. Make construction safety a top priority by taking the steps you need to make it the best it can be for your company and your team.