Construction safety is everyone’s responsibility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has numerous regulations to assist residential construction employers and employees in providing safe and healthful workplaces. So, the onus is on all employers to take proactive steps to assess risks to protect their workers. Employers have to plan and put in place an occupational safety and health plan to prevent accidents on work sites.
Construction work is a high-risk business, so risk assessments and safety statements keep safety at work uppermost in everyone’s mind. To highlight this point, out of 4,379 worker fatalities in private industry for calendar year 2015, 937 or 21.4% were in construction, that is, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. These "Fatal Four" were responsible for more than half (64.2%) the construction worker deaths in 2015. By focusing on risk assessment, if construction companies eliminated these Fatal Four, it would save 602 workers' lives in America every year.
Falls — 364 out of 937 total deaths in construction in CY 2015 (38.8%)
Struck by Object - 90 (9.6%)
Electrocutions - 81 (8.6%)
Caught-in/between* - 67 (7.2%)
Safety statements are an employer’s commitment to the health and safety of everyone that enters the workplace. They help balance a tight schedule and costs along with the risks and control measures required to comply with legislative requirements. Consult all the stakeholders, especially employees to put a good organizational safety system in place.
Preparing a safety statement
Occupational safety and health is everyone’s responsibility and it starts at the top. To comply with relevant legislation, you must have a comprehensive health and safety plan. Safety statement are a practical tool that helps your organization reduce accidents and promote construction safety.
A good safety statement is straightforward and keeps it simple. Although you need to keep it simple, it is a complex process. There are templates available that guide you through this process. Some construction companies are implementing a Health and Safety Management System as part of their risk management strategy. This helps them track occupational safety and health strategies and how they are working in the workplace.
There are six important steps to take when writing a safety statement.
1. Write a health and safety policy
The safety statement starts with a declaration of the organizations commitment to employee health and addresses all legislated requirements. Spell out the organizations health and safety policy. This outlines the organizations plan with a list of objectives.
State how often the organization plans to review and update the safety statement. Also, show how the organization intends to communicate construction safety objectives to employees and any other relevant stakeholders. This can be through site meetings and literature translated into the relevant languages of employees.
2. Identify the hazards
The first thing is to identify all hazards caused by work activities, materials, chemicals and equipment. Identify all hazards in the workplace. Working on more than one construction site means there needs to be a safety statement for each workplace.
While you probably have a good idea of the main hazards in the workplace, gather information from more than one source. Talk to employees. Get their view of the workplace. Engagement is key in engaging workers to taking ownership of safety on construction sites. Check:
accident logs and insurance claims
legislation relevant to each hazard
manufacturer’s instructions and material safety data sheets.
Some hazards are easy to see. Things like chemical fumes and the hazards caused by working in a disorganized workplace or working at height. But things like noise are an unknown. It can take years before the damage shows up.
Use a checklist to list all:
human error hazards
3. Complete a risk assessment
Every employer must complete a risk assessment according to Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The government has published guidelines to help organizations comply. There are risk assessment templates available online and in the software used to manage the health and safety plan.
4. Decide on the safety measures
The risk assessment tells you whether current risk control measures are adequate. You may need to revise these and put in place extra control measures. The relevant legislation gives guidance on how to assess risks and implement satisfactory control measures. For example, when working with machinery the organization must meet legal requirements for safety requirements such as guards on machinery. The purpose is to eliminate or minimize risks.
5. Record the findings
Record the findings in the safety statement. Record major hazards, control measures and conclusions. There are templates readily available. The employer must also communicate the results of the risk assessment with all employees. This is vital as they are responsible for complying with the health and safety plan.
6. Review and update when required
Reviewing and updating safety statements on a regular basis is vital. Especially for construction safety. Constructions sites have many moving parts and are constantly changing. You may have to review daily with new material deliveries or work activities changing the work environment.
No matter what tools you use to manage health and safety, there is always an easier way. It is time to check out software that can save time and money while keeping your projects on track.