How to optimise safety culture in construction industry

How to optimise safety culture in construction industry
Photo: Gfadel, Bigstock

Workplace-related accidents create unease among workers and headaches for the HR department. However, in construction industry, accidents on sites can potentially be fatal. Rated among the most dangerous professions, on-site construction work carries many risks.

It is the duty of the employer to minimise the safety hazards to construction workers, but the workers need to keep in mind as well, that much of their personal safety depends on them following the guidelines when working in hazardous environments.

Here are eight ways construction firms can increase the safety on their sites.

Raise awareness

Regardless of their role or experience level, before any worker enters a construction site, they must be fully introduced to possible hazards. Unobservant workers are probably the biggest hazard and liability in any industry, but when talking about construction sites, their mistakes and disregard for personal and collective safety can put everyone at risk.

Enforcing a lasting state of alertness is probably the safest and way to prevent accidents, as is making sure that everyone involved understands the perils on the site.

Invest in training

Although construction workers gain most of their skills on the site, safety is a skill best learned in a classroom.

State occupational health and safety agencies offer various resources that help businesses train their new employees on standard safety and security practices through training videos, worksheets, brochures and sometimes even on-site training sessions.

Experienced workers are also expected and encouraged to refresh their knowledge of standard safety procedures by attending regular yearly training programmes.

Promote communication

It has been determined that accidents are more likely to occur when workers are not sure what they should do. Direct and unambiguous communication of the day’s goals and activities will eliminate potential unclear and dangerous situations that can cause accidents.

Contracting companies should invest in equipping their workers with CB radios or smartphone headsets, which allow for quick and efficient vertical and lateral communication.

Prepare documentation

As with all industries, construction firms have to meet certain legal standards before they can begin to build. To that effect, it’s essential that all proper registrations have been filed and licences obtained before work can begin.

Labourers and supervisors who are in charge of especially difficult and complex tasks, like blasting, wrecking or crane work need to provide evidence of their certification prior to their employment on the job site.

This practice not only prevents accidents due to incomplete training, but also protect the contracting firm from lawsuits and bad publicity.

Procure proper equipment

Construction firms need not only take care that all machines and tools are well maintained, but also that they are ideally suited for the current job. Apart from personal protective equipment such as hard hats, steel-toe boots, goggles and gloves, the contractor needs to anticipate collective safety equipment.

If the workers on scaffolding work near utility or public transport power lines, installing an insulated fibreglass scaffolding screen is the best way of keeping them safe and assured that the presence of high-voltage doesn’t put their lives at risk.

Improve supervision

In an ideal scenario, workers would fully understand the risks of unsafe practices and do their best to improve overall site safety. However, in reality, every construction site benefits from a strong supervisor who is capable and willing to enforce safety procedures with no exceptions.

This position befits an experienced foreman who has to monitor all employees during the work day and correct those who fail to carry out the safety regulations.

Support innovation

If not for construction firms willing to devote resources into pioneering new safety practices, the accident rate in the industry would be even higher than it is today. The research and development of new practices aimed at increasing security should always be supported and companies should refrain from speaking out against legislative bills directed at improving safety standards. Through constant innovation in this field, maybe the construction sites of the future will become 100 percent safe.

Bring out transparency

Any attempt of cover-up is the worst thing a construction company can do for its reputation. Not only does hiding accidents from the press and the public damage the public image of a single project, but it harms the construction industry as a whole.

It’s understandable that in high-risk professions accidents happen, but as long as the managers are doing their best to create a safe environment for their workers, any accidents that happen and are dealt with transparently will only speak for the urging need to strengthen the current safety principles.

Constructing a prime safety culture is not an easy task. Getting a positive response form the employees demands a vertical approach, starting with the executive officers. Safety instructions mean little unless put into the foundation of the company on all levels.