Tips to Tame Risky Construction Activities
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published January 29, 2021
The expectations for contractors in 2021 are a bit murky. While demand is high, there are lots of projects pending, delaying, or canceling. Despite the speed bumps, construction and all types of contractor work are on a slow road to recovery (both its own and the nation’s) as it prepares for a break in the COVID-19 battle. For many contractors, it’s focus time, particularly when it comes to lean construction, safety and health.
While recordable incidents for the past few years have seen a steady decline, the number of serious injury and fatalities has not, according to ISN, a contractor information management company in Texas. There are strong efforts in workplaces throughout the country focusing on reinforcing mitigation strategies and to combat complacency around some of contractors’ top, riskiest hazards and concerns.
“The primary priority for any organization that works with contractors is that all workers return home safely to their families every day. While companies have been successful at minimizing on-site incidents, they are still searching for ways to reduce serious injuries and fatalities across locations and high-risk job roles,” said ISN President Brian Callahan.
The ISN report recently identified a few activities that increase the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities in construction. They are:
- Heights: When contractors work at six feet or higher.
- Chemicals: When contractors work around substances such as asbestos, lead, solvents, acids, flammable materials, among others.
- Cranes: When contractors work with heavy equipment and heavy loads.
- Welding, Cutting, or Hot Work: When contractors work using open flames, or operating manual or automated equipment for these tasks.
Companies are responsible for worker safety. By leveraging injury and fatality data and using standards in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, construction companies and contractors can implement the best strategies in preventing the top workplace hazards. Here are a few solutions workplaces can use to reduce injuries from top contractor activities:
- Heights: Use fall protection guidelines and the proper fall arrest equipment. Follow protocol for scaffolds, ladders, and platforms. Look for ways to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
- Chemicals: Conduct regular chemical risk assessments and establish process safety management plans. Be sure to update and maintain detailed chemical information in workplace safety data sheets. Consider atmospheric factors and physical agents. Use simplified and standardized GHS-style labels.
- Cranes: Select the right crane for the job and use administrative and engineering controls. Use qualified workers and make sure to read all equipment manuals for lead capacities, controls, stabilizers, and more, for crane safety. Always precheck and always keep safe distances from power lines and other overhead objects. Communicate effectively and use hand signals.
- Welding, Cutting, or Hot Work: Use the right personal protective equipment and make sure the area is well ventilated. Do not work near flammable or combustible materials and maintain safe distances. Keep first aid stations, safety showers, and eyewash stations clean, stocked, and orderly. Make sure fire suppression tools are nearby.
Most companies and contractors have solid vision and expectations to guide their success. Improving safety and efficiency is part of that. These injury and fatality prevention solutions can help improve contractor safety are all part of a comprehensive hazard management program. Each program should integrate technologies, procedures, and management practices, which establishes a culture of safety. Evaluate the program and improve, as necessary. Keep workers up to date on policy and procedures through frequent training. To help support safety and efficiency, use visual management to communicate strategies and lean work practices. Construction site signs and labels are cost-effective visual tools that can inform workers of load limits, directions or emergency routes, and even make guest and other site workers aware of dangers to streamline any construction hazard management program