People who are serious about business won’t tell you that planning doesn’t work. Yet, that’s what countless small businesses do when they “wing it,” instead of having a safety program. Why? Because a safety program is really about so much more than just putting a ‘method to the madness.’ It also really helps to make people more aware and thoughtful about the dangers they face everyday. That’s exactly what’s needed to avoid the madness you see below.
An engineer was walking backward while putting down a reference line on the 10th floor of a condo project. He backed off the edge of the building and struck a protruding deck on the way to his death. He was wearing a harness but it wasn’t locked down.
In a suburb of Chicago, a 48 year old was killed when a crane bucket fell off the crane and landed on him while he was working in a six-foot deep trench. Another worker was injured.
A masonry worker was standing on a ladder, using a six-foot-long aluminum pole to scrape mortar at a project in Illinois. He lost his balance, and as he was falling, the pole touched an electrical cable, electrocuting him.
A 56-year-old construction worker was killed in an Indianapolis Airport construction accident. A dump truck backed over him. The driver didn’t see the worker.
Video Slides 1 & 2
You don’t have to look far to find evidence that working in construction is dangerous. And, nothing drives the point home better than the stories of those who have died building America.
It was an unusually warm day on November 20, 2015 in Athens, GA, and at 2 in the afternoon, 39-year-old HVAC installer, Timothy O’Neal Gearing, was installing a roof curb, with the help of a coworker. As his saw blade worked its way through the metal roofing material, it jammed and stalled. The saw kicked back as he tried to unjam it, throwing him off balance. In the next instant, he fell through the unguarded skylight opening, dropping 15 feet to the concrete below. Timothy O’Neal Gearing, was taken to the hospital, where he died from head trauma.
The number of people dying while at work in construction and extraction jobs rose by 2 percent, to 924 cases in 2015—the greatest number since 2008. That same year, several construction occupations recorded their highest kill rates in years, including construction laborers (highest since 2008); carpenters (2009); electricians (2009); and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters (2003).
Of course there are many other less serious accidents that happen in construction, and taken together it all adds up to a big toll on the industry.
But, bringing it down to the individual business level helps to really drive home the point that safety investments, through a safety program, are worth their weight in life, and in gold.
Just consider how beneficial safety investments are for the bottom line.
In many ways, investments in safety ultimately lead to improved profits. When you reduce accidents you reduce all the costs associated with them. That leads to lower losses, which frees up money for other purposes, or contributes directly to the bottom line. Your return on investment for improving safety outcomes touches nearly every aspect of your business.
But, there’s much more to look forward to. Though not often talked about in business circles with their focus on profits, reducing pain and suffering should be a primary goal for any business. Worker deaths and disabilities, affect far more than the immediate victims. Families and communities suffer in many ways when people don’t return from work, or they return disabled. Owners, stakeholders, and all other project participants want to do business with companies that make safety a priority. A safety program makes that clear to everyone.
So, how do you invest in safety, and most importantly, how do you do it effectively? Safety experts agree, it takes a plan. And, that means creating a workplace safety and health program. There are four main components to a safety program, and while setting one up requires commitment and challenges, any small business person routinely deals with processes that have much greater complexity. In fact, construction, with project management as its core activity, is well suited to the task.
To show management commitment, the most vital aspect to setting up and managing a safety and health program, you need to consider 3 main activities. By putting safety on display you make it clear to all that management takes safety seriously.
When you make people accountable, and you have safety assignments so they must be involved, you start creating a company culture of safety. A plan won’t succeed unless you allocate the resources necessary. There is much more to management commitment, and to all the steps coming up. Just follow the links at the end of the presentation for detailed help.
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Next, find out not who, but what your enemies really are. Fresh eyes can help you to see things differently. Consider temporary safety supervisors with specialized knowledge of risks associated with specific tasks, materials, tools, and methods.
Don’t overlook getting feedback from employees on worksite dangers. After all, they’re in the thick of it, everyday. When schedulers and estimators are breaking down the work, it’s an ideal time to consider the safety aspects of each activity and task.
When you sort out the worksite dangers make sure to identify those that are ongoing, and not necessarily linked to a particular activity or task. Wintertime slips and falls are an example. Look at your accident history to see trends, and whenever new materials or methods get introduced be sure to do a thorough review of the safety implications.
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Once you know the risks, it’s time to figure out how to reduce them. Every task should have minimum safe-work procedures, so assign them and make sure they get included with work packages or instructions.
You need to make sure you hold people accountable when they don’t follow safety requirements, and you need to make sure you do it consistently. Emergencies might be rare, but that’s exactly why you need to have emergency plans built into your safety program for extreme weather, crime, and major accidents.
A big cause of injuries are tools and equipment that aren’t maintained. And, you need a plan so you effectively track hazards, your responses to them, and the results.
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All the work up to now won’t mean much if you don’t aggressively train. The people who administer the safety program need to thoroughly understand it, and all other employees need to understand what it is, why it exists, and what their roles are.
Your emergency plans will work smoothly when people get trained and have regular practice. Training can help people understand how to see risks, and that in turn helps them understand the required safety practices for the tasks they perform.
Don’t assume people know how to correctly use personal protective equipment, or that they know when to use it. Training must be on-going so make sure to put together a master training schedule.