Duties & Responsibilities of a Safety Officer in the Construction Industry

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Team Kiri Align
6th Sep 2021

Safety officers play a very important part of the site team, in any construction project. They oversee all aspects of safety, and serve as an expert in procedures and regulations. In this blog post, we discuss the duties of a construction safety officer in a project.

Duties & Responsibilities of a Safety Officer in the Construction Industry - Kiri Align

Construction Safety Officer Profile

A Construction Safety Officer can be compared to a football coach. The team is the crew, and safety is the game they are a part of. And in the game of workplace safety especially in the construction industry,  there are two types of plays:

The safety officer organises and coordinates efforts on both sides of the ball to help keep his team out of harm's way. He/she is responsible for keeping everyone safe throughout every phase of construction, from demolition to decoration. By definition, a construction Safety Officer in Australia is someone who manages safety programs on construction sites, ensuring that all crew members are following the procedures and rules set by Australia's Workplace Health and Safety laws.

In order to ensure the safety of the site, a construction safety officer has some tasks that they are responsible for. And that brings us to the roles and responsibilities.

Role of a Construction Safety Officer

Review contractors safety programs

One of the key responsibilities of a construction safety officer is to review and approve contractors' safety programs. In the review,  the safety officer should be sure that:

The contractor's safety program should set forth:

The construction safety officer should also look out for violations of existing WHS regulations, including general industry standards for construction. Also, he/she will be required to evaluate safety and health requirements for the type of construction to be performed.

Plan and Implement WHS policies and programs

WHS policies and programs of a construction site is like a security guard to a museum. Security guards patrol the site and ensure that no one is doing anything they shouldn't be doing. They also act as guides for visitors who are not familiar with the museum. 

As part of their role, construction Safety Officers must create a plan of action for the construction site in order to ensure that WHS policies and programs are implemented. The plan  of action for the construction site will depend on what is required by law, how big the project is and any special circumstances such as which type of building is being constructed and how many people are on-site. Regardless of the situation, the Construction Safety Officer's main priority is to ensure that WHS policies and programs are implemented, ensuring the construction site remains safe.

Conduct safety training for workers 

Construction sites are inherently dangerous places, so it is especially important that everyone on the site knows what they are doing in order to perform their jobs effectively but  also to keep themselves safe and out of trouble. Safety training helps workers learn what the hazards are, how to avoid them, and what they should do in case of an emergency. Construction safety officers are responsible for conducting training which should include general industry-specific safety training and on-site specific safety training. The industry-wide training should be conducted at least annually for new employees to ensure they have a basic understanding of the hazards they will be exposed to.

On-site specific training is necessary because each site may have different risks or potentially hazardous conditions. Safety training for workers should cover topics such as: site safety, the importance of understanding and following instructions, how to identify hazards in their work area, how to avoid hazards and minimize risks, and how to use personal protective equipment in their work area. Safety training can also include topics like: hazardous materials, first aid skills and CPR training etc. The length of a safety training session will depend on the needs of the company or construction site that is hiring the safety officer.

Make on-site inspections

Typically, this means checking the entire site for potential hazards. This includes: checking that all tools and equipment are present and in good working order, ensuring the safety of machinery and equipment by following proper procedures for moving them around or performing maintenance on them. The goal  of these inspections is to ensure that they identify  any potential hazards that may exist and correct them before they cause a workplace accident.

Investigate accidents and incidents

In spite of taking good precautionary measures, accidents and incidents can occur. Construction safety officers investigate these to determine the cause and what needs to be done about it. They may also determine how to prevent it from happening in the future, or if new policies are needed.

Construction safety officers look into every aspect of an incident, from the initial alarm to the final result. A construction safety officer may interview witnesses and workers involved in a work-related accident, collect and analyse data, examine equipment or machinery in detail, study safety procedures and policies to prevent future incidents. A construction safety officer will also be required to produce a report that can be shared with other staff and management, as well as the public as applicable.

Monitoring the site for compliance 

Compliance to the applicable regulations and standards, is the responsibility of those in charge on a construction site. The Safety Officer needs to monitor the site for compliance, as well as provide advice and guidance to the site manager. The Safety Officer needs to ensure that all organisations on-site, including suppliers delivering materials or equipment, are aware of their obligations. Adherence to legislative requirements is key in order to avoid  penalties.

It is important for the Safety Officer to provide a summary of compliance and any breaches (if identified) in a regular report, which should be given on at least a monthly basis to the site manager. At times, it may be necessary for a Safety Officer to visit sites with higher hazards and more complex needs, to provide specialist advice and guidance.

Keeping records of incidents & safety concerns

Records, safety data and related information are crucial in maintaining the safety of all involved at any construction site. The construction Safety Officer has a duty to work with the site manager, the foreman, the general contractor and subcontractors to create a system for recording incidents as well as any safety concerns. The system should also include secure storage, no-hassle retrieval, and a means of notifying all parties of hazards and providing information on shutting down a site if necessary. Finally, there should be a system for managing the documentation and keeping it up-to-date with site changes.

Develop, monitor and enforce job safety analysis 

It is not uncommon for inexperienced construction workers to disregard safety protocols. A job safety analysis is a procedure for evaluating and identifying the risks of performing any given task, while also establishing the best ways to avoid those risks. The process of establishing a job safety analysis begins with identifying hazards that might be present on site, such as what tools and equipment are used, what is in the area of work, location hazards or weather conditions. The next step requires evaluating each hazard to determine the risk level of the task and then to decide how best to avoid these hazards. 

Prepare and Submit reports

Reports on construction safety is a key part of the job since it provides insight on how well the safety officer and their team are performing. They can also reveal any issues that are likely to arise in the future. These reports are submitted to various parties, depending on what is being reported and who needs that information. The construction safety officer may submit a report to their supervisor or contractor, daily, weekly, or monthly. As part of regulatory compliance, safety officers also have to submit reports of notifiable incidents to regulatory authorities.

Serving as a liaison 

Construction is a complex industry. There are a lot of "moving parts" and stakeholders involved in the process. The construction Safety Officer as part of their duty serves as intermediaries between the construction company, project manager, client, crew members, insurance companies and subcontractors, and general contractor to ensure that all parties have a clear understanding of their safety obligations.

Communication and Information Dissemination

Information is power, and communication is the conduit for that power. A construction site is a complex environment, and without proper communication it can be chaotic. Workers need to know their safety obligation, where they need to go in case of emergencies, and how  they are being protected. Information on the site should be communicated in clear and unambiguous ways, such as via signs or posters that lay out important information. 

In order to communicate effectively, construction safety officers must be up-to-date on the latest issues and changes in WHS regulations in addition to having a system in place for transmitting information to employees quickly - if possible in real-time. The safety officer should be in constant communication with supervisors and other staff, such as site engineers, foremen, and peers who are responsible for ensuring that employees adhere to the safety standards. Making sure all staff understand and communicate effectively is a sure way to ensure a safer work environment, reduce workplace injuries, and increase productivity.

The goal is simple - fewer accidents, less injuries. Ideally zero

The job should be considered a 24-hour responsibility because construction never stops. In conclusion, 

Consider a WHS management system a hack for a more efficient, safer workplace.

Because the fastest way to enforce safety regulations during a project is by using the safest online WHS management system - Kiri Align, which shows everything that is happening at the job site in real-time (even when you are away!). Cut down on your fines by having a log of all on-site activities, including: 

With Kiri Align you can make your construction projects more efficient and profitable. It does this by making it easier to streamline your workflows, improve safety performance, visualise safety data, and make it easier to stay compliant with WHS regulations. TRY KIRI ALIGN FOR FREE!

Published by: Kiri Align