Contributed by James Turner, HR manager for a mid-size construction firm.
Boost your peace of mind and create a more efficient team by committing to a safer 2014. These five OSHA-approved steps will guide you toward improving your construction work zone's safety.
1. Use signs, barriers and other means to clearly indicate the work zone.
When everyone, including workers and passers-by, can clearly see where the work zone begins and ends, the chance for an accident decreases. Use barriers and signage to demarcate the work zone, and if working on a private residence, use signage and plastic tape to mark off work areas from break areas. Keep passageways free of clutter to reduce the likelihood of accidents.
2. Implement a hazard communications program if you work with chemicals.
A hazard communications program should outline what chemicals will be used, where MSDS sheets are located, how the chemicals will be stored, labeled and transported, and what protocol should be followed for cleaning up a spill, disposing of the chemical and working with it. Always inform all employees, contractors and subcontractors when they will be working with hazardous chemicals.
3. Protect employees from falls.
By law, employees must be protected from on-the-job-falls of over six feet. Scenarios you might face include excavation sites deeper than six feet; multiple-story buildings; decks, balconies and mezzanines; protruding wall openings where the wall is more than six feet off the ground; and holes in the work surface. Employees must also be protected from falls of any distance onto hazardous equipment. Use canopies, barricades, guardrails and screens to protect employees from a dangerous fall. Ensure that all employees have appropriate safety equipment, such as a hard hat, to protect themselves in the event of a fall.
4. Be alert for unsafe practices.
Safety on the job site cannot be reduced to a simple checklist. At every job site, you must be vigilant to pinpoint unsafe practices, environments or situations. You must have proper equipment and tools for workers, even if it's for a one-day project. You can rent proper equipment such as forklifts at various companies. Equipping your workers with the right tools will keep them safe and protected. Make sure each employee is properly trained to operate the equipment, and in instances where manufacturers offer training courses, take advantage of the opportunity to build a culture of safety and expose your team to the education.
5. Keep the job site clean.
Keep job sites tidy and free of debris, to help minimize unnecessary trips, falls or spills. When everyone does their part to keep the site clean, many common injuries and accidents can be prevented. Elements of job site housekeeping include waste cleanup and disposal, proper materials storage, maintenance of clear aisles and passageways, and maintenance of first aid supplies. Placing a roll-off dumpster at your site will help keep debris and garbage out of the way and many rental places offer flexible drop-off and pick-up. Depending on where you work, you may also need to control vegetation, pests or other hazards.