It can be easy to forget that construction jobsites are dangerous places – especially if you’re around them every day. While there are plenty of obvious dangers, such as power tools, heavy equipment, and heights, there are plenty of not-so-obvious ones, too.
All of these dangers, whether obvious or hiding in plain sight, require respect and attention to keep workers safe.
"Jobsites are dynamic environments and a comprehensive safety program that embraces a Zero Harm mindset can help protect workers no matter where you’re working," said Matt Piper, Technical Manager for James Hardie Building Products
To help you improve your own commitment to safety and Zero Harm, here are five critical jobsite safety issues and solutions to consider.
Keep a Consistent Jobsite Setup
A disorganized jobsite can make every job seem like the first one. Your crew will have to hunt for all of their materials and tools, and have a new learning curve every time. This can lead to confusion, inefficiency, and accidents.
Yes, every job and physical location will be different. However, you can set up standard and repeatable processes that will feel the same at each site, and minimize distractions. As the owner or manager, you should consider:
- Mapping out on paper the most efficient site setup, then replicating that at each job as closely as possible. Remember, no detail is too small and you can almost always be more organized.
- Regularly reviewing with your crews the purpose of each station and what materials belong there.
- Assigning standard roles, and setting expectations for each crew member by talking through exactly who will be doing what.
Putting everything in its place at the beginning of every workday can help your crew make fewer mistakes and reduce the chances of accidents.
Positively Reinforce Safe Behaviors
Repetitive behaviors can be a source of danger on the jobsite. As your crew members get too comfortable with certain tasks (cross cutting planks, for example), they may start to overlook hazards, their surroundings, or even forgo safety protocols.
Repeatable behaviors are acceptable for certain tasks, as long as those behaviors are safe in the first place. Here are some actions to consider to fight complacency on the jobsite:
- Improve the habits of your team members by creating and regularly reviewing checklists for each role or responsibility. Be sure to couple them with plenty of positive reinforcement.
- Establish an observation and feedback process. For example, the site foreman might monitor crew members to ensure they follow proper procedures and learn good habits.
The overall goal is to focus on prevention as much as protection. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is extremely important to guard against injuries, but the best protection can be to avoid behaviors that put people in harm’s way.
Encourage Crews to Work Hard, But Safely
Ideally, a siding crew moves onto the next job as soon as they complete their current one. They’re staying busy and that’s good business. But, there’s a potential for a “time is money” mindset that leads to rushing through work.
Rushing reduces overall craftsmanship and quality, and increases the probability of accidents. Hurrying through work may also lead to fatigue, which can lead to even greater chances of mistakes and accidents. To guard against rushing and fatigue, consider:
- Prioritizing and maintaining realistic deadlines.
- Establishing reasonable working hours.
- Understanding the needs of your employees – you don’t want them rushing through work so they can attend to family matters.
- Avoiding overextending your schedule.
Remind your crews that it’s important to work hard and expeditiously, but the work will still be there tomorrow.
Maintain Frequent Communication
Lack of communication makes the jobsite and work environment more hazardous overall. Accidents can hide in plain sight, and infrequent or inadequate communication only gives them more cover. What’s more, poor communication can squander learning opportunities, and blind you as a leader to potential issues.
Here’s what you can consider doing to improve communication with your crews:
- Before work begins each day, review the site, the weather conditions, and other factors that may be worth noting to your team.
- At the end of the day, huddle with your crew to review any close calls, adjustments needed that are specific to the site, and take questions or address concerns.
- Regularly hold safety meetings and make use of these tips to help make them top notch.
Communication isn’t just a top-down issue. To be most effective, it needs to be a two-way street. Encourage your crews to tell you about jobsite issues or concerns during your toolbox talks or safety meetings.
Set Expectations for New Hires and Crews
Since labor is an issue for the construction industry, you may not always work with the same crews or have high turnover with your staff. It can be a challenge to maintain your schedule while onboarding or aligning with new employees or subs. To help, you can set your safety expectations early and easily by:
- Documenting your safety procedures and expectations.
- Maintaining a consistent workday that incorporates pre- and post-work check-ins, as well as breaks, and regular start and stop times.
- Simplifying and standardizing your onboarding procedure to ensure it is concise, efficient, and leaves nothing important out.
Builders and contractors can take advantage of Safety 365
, a free, robust program created by the NAHB and James Hardie that offers tools to help you establish or enhance your own safety program.