Ensuring the safety of your co-workers or employees is more than a responsibility; when it comes to the workplace, it’s a part of your job description! The fact is, every single injury or fatality should be treated like a major incident. Even one is too many.
In Singapore, the Government has recently completed a major audit of construction sites. The results? Out of 214 construction sites, 191 violated workplace safety rules. That’s 9 out of 10 sites found to be breaching safety rules. It’s a staggering statistic, and it highlights the risks facing workers when they turn up to their jobs.
The cost of construction projects of any size should never be a human life. Unfortunately, throughout the history of the construction industry, fatalities have been almost a normal part of the project. From the Suez Canal’s staggering 120,000 deaths to the recent World Cup in Qatar where up to 4,000 workers lost their lives, unsafe workplaces and practices have led to tragedy. And they aren’t showing any sign of improvement.
For managers worldwide, the real goal isn’t just improving sites or beating these numbers– it’s getting fatalities and injuries to zero. At the end of the day, getting to zero is what makes a construction site a great workplace and a safe environment.
The Construction Industry Institute in Texas has worked out some guidelines around Zero Injury Techniques. The guidelines are a set of five techniques:
Pre-Project/Pre-Task Planning for Safety
Making sure a detailed assessment of risks has been completed is the starting point. A safety audit is the way to do this, and it should occur well in advance of any work or activity on site. When managers can highlight all potential risks and work through a safety inspection checklist, they’ll have the knowledge they need to inform and train their team.
Safety Orientation and Training
All the available information from a safety audit should be used to run staff sessions around expectations and standards. Training is the most important tool in getting to zero – it helps managers to tap into the power of their workforce and their ability to keep each-other and their site safe. Training could be conducted in the form of checklists, so you can mark off which worker has completed what program and when.
Written Safety Incentive Program
Giving staff rewards or prizes based on low numbers of incidents seems like a great way to encourage a safe culture. The reality is, it can lead to workers not wishing to report incidents in fear of missing out. At Jordan Contracting in Montana, the way around this is to base incentives on employees writing safety observations, whether criticisms, concerns or praise. It’s a great idea, and it encourages clear safety communication.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program
The dangers of substance abuse in the workplace are clear. Having a program that encourages workers to be open about any personal issues they might be experiencing with substances or alcohol is vitally important. Programs have to make it clear that management are able to get help for the participants and ensure their safety and their co-workers’ safety.
Any time an incident occurs, getting to the root of it with an investigation should be at the top of the list. An investigation can uncover details, causes and effects that wouldn’t be obvious. That kind of data means that learning can take place and future incidents can be avoided!
On every construction site, getting to zero is important. On a site, there are more dangers and OH&S hazards than in your average office – and with that risk comes a lot more pressure. While there’s a temptation for some managers to cut corners, we know that large scale, high speed projects such as the construction of the Chrysler building in 1930 have been completed with zero fatalities!
For Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, the man behind Singapore’s extensive audit, cutting corners is never acceptable. “Tight schedules should not be an excuse to put workers at risk. Deadlines must be met, but never at the expense of our workers’ lives and well-being.”
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