How do you manage health and safety in construction?

HomeBlogsHow do you manage health and safety in construction?
Team Kiri Align
12th March 2021

We often seethe unfortunate news and stories on how a construction company neglected health and safety on their site- resulting in death, serious injury, or environmental pollution. It is obvious that some negligent, ignorant and careless construction companies will cut corners to save time and money, but not yours -right? If so, be sure to read this blog to discover how best to manage health and safety at construction sites.

Manage Health and Safety

Occupational health and safety at the construction site: Introduction

Health and safety is high priority in any industry, but most importantly in construction. Anyone who has ever done any type of remodeling around their home, would know how easy it is to cut oneself with a saw or fall off a ladder.

According to a “World Statistics'' by the International Labor Organization (ILO), construction is the sector with the highest number of fatal accidents at work with accidents on construction sites occurring at twice the frequency when compared to others. That’s not all; the accidents are likely to be more serious too.

We can all agree then:

That construction sites are dangerous places to work.

Often fraught with dangers that can cause serious injuries or even death whether it is contact with harmful chemicals, constant loud noise, handling heavy loads or the risk of falls and electric shocks.  

Due to these risks, it is essential to manage health and safety at construction sites.

While we know that all the hard work and long hours that go into building a project can be stressful, we also know that taking steps to ensure a safe working environment will reduce injuries and illnesses, by taking some of the stress out of their job.

But before we continue

Who is responsible for ensuring health and safety at the construction site?

Construction sites are complex places with many different participants. Everyone involved from project managers, builders, and architects to subcontractors, general contractors, and suppliers are responsible for safety and need to work together to achieve this.

For example:

● Occupational health and safety authorities are responsible for monitoring construction sites, advising companies, building owners and architects as well as closing down construction sites with serious occupational safety deficiencies

● Safety specialists take responsibility for occupational safety

● Company owners are primarily responsible for the occupational safety of their employees and thus responsible for compliance with the WHS policies, procedures and rules on occupational safety

● As the initiator of building projects, the builder is obliged to initiate and implement site-specific and cross-trade occupational safety measures both when planning a building project and when coordinating the construction.

The keys to successfully managing health and safety in construction

Part1: Planning and Assessment

The most common stumbling block for most people is trying to manage health and safety in a construction workplace is that they have failed to identify what they really want to achieve from it.

Ok so the obvious answer is to ensure a safe workplace. Great. OK. How will you measure the effectiveness? Do you know the hazards that are worthy of your immediate attention? What if there are more hazards than you anticipated? What about compliance?

The key is in the detail and knowing exactly what you want to achieve.

The causes of accidents are often a result of neglect, which in most cases could have been prevented by ensuring continuous risk assessment is in place.

Construction managers (or whosoever is in charge) should therefore take a proactive approach. Construction managers should identify and analyse the hazards that harbor the greatest risk potential for employees and define measures to control them.

Lastly, but equally important- construction workers should be carried along. They have a great deal of on-the-job ‘intel’ and would in most part be responsible for implementing control measures. So no matter what you do, do not sideline your workforce at any stage.

In summary:

● Plan ahead

● Identify specific health hazards on your construction site

● Assess likelihood of occurrence, severity, and impact of said hazards

● Collaborate with workers throughout

Part2: Risk Control and Prevention

To really make sure you reduce the risk of accidents, illness, and mishaps from happening on your construction site, you need to take action. Don’t stop with hazard and risk assessment; combine your effort with practical actionable risk control measures.

These include (but not limited to):

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Asa basic requirement, anyone in a construction site should be wearing a hard hat and safety glasses.  

Additional protective equipment should be adapted to the individual situation, as the risks of the individual employees can be quite different depending on the work area.

Also, reflective clothing and other job-specific clothing is also important. They help reduce the risk of accidents like people being knocked over by a vehicle or machinery.

Training and capacity management of construction workers

Thorough health and safety training is essential in order to convey potential health and safety risks to employees and anyone in the vicinity.

With this knowledge and awareness it is then possible for them to protect both themselves and people around them.

In almost every case, depending on the area of ​​responsibility and general responsibilities on the construction site, employees can also benefit from additional training and special courses.

Site managers can also take advantage of latest technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) to make training fun, highly efficient, and fast.

Training should also include focus on mental health care and related useful measures to improve health at the workplace.

Enforce regular breaks

The construction site is a stressful place; to the extent that even experienced specialists can show signs of fatigue. Fatigue can increase the risk of mishaps and for this reason, whosoever is in charge should enforce regular breaks as mandatory for all workers so they can relax, unwind, and “recharge” before continuing to work.

Per ILO, workers should be given at least 90 hours of rest per week, including an uninterrupted 24-hour break for on-site jobs. In some cases, especially in high demanding roles, such workers should be allowed a “compensatory rest” as well.

Use of appropriate equipment and processes

Construction entails the use of equipment to complete tasks following laid down principle sand techniques. Anything else would be calling for disaster.

Workers should be given roles based on their competencies which include their proficiency in handling the right type and size of equipment. Plus, a thorough knowledge of their task.

Best working practices should also include the use of warning signs and proper traffic control.

Eliminate hazard(s)

Safe and secure construction sites? Far from the norm! Accidents and deaths are common when hazards are not removed from sites. It is therefore imperative to remove all hazards.

Removing hazards from construction sites is important to have a proper and safe working environment for contractors and workers. It helps to prevent accidental injuries, as well as property damage.

This should always be front of mind, so that you can take appropriate actions to avoid them. For example, manual handling such as moving or lifting heavy items, or splitting a large mass into smaller sizes can be replaced by automation.

Part 3: Review of Health and Safety Management processes

In the previous part, control measures have been put in place; now the construction manager just has to ensure they are working. That is what this section is all about.

You should:

Supervise workers

The goal here is to make sure employees understand the risks associated with their jobs/tasks, and that measures are put in place to mitigate such risks.

Secondly, the supervisor would want to check if the workers are using the latest risk control strategies, and if they are being used right. Also, are the workers doing a good job at maintaining or monitoring these control measures?

Tip: Supervisors should give special considerations to new recruits, young workers, those inexperienced in their new roles, and workers with language barriers.

Be spot-on on Maintenance

Health and safety management exercises are not “set and forget” schemes. The entire set-up needs to be looked after. For construction sites, make sure:

1. All equipment is thoroughly looked after i.e. maintained regularly at the appropriate time. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines on maintenance instructions especially for safety-critical features

2. Measures are put in place for workers to report damaged or faulty equipment

3. Equip and train equipment maintenance personnel adequately

4. Maintenance activities are carried out safely. For example, flammable and toxic materials should be isolated properly

*Note: Construction sites are unforgiving places that predisposes equipment to wear and tear faster than others. When these are not checked, it can lead to accident and injury risks.

Always Monitor

Monitor all your safety and health control measures for their effectiveness. Monitoring would allow you to assess how far your preventive measures have gone in eliminating or reducing risks. Additionally during monitoring, areas of weakness in your health and safety management can be caught at an early stage which allows for the implementation of corrective actions cost effectively, and faster.

In many cases, monitoring includes:

● Workers’ performance audit

● Audit of program activities

● Risk exposure monitoring

● Health surveillance

Take Action

Finally, ensure that you take corrective actions as soon as you discover problems. Dowell to revisit all your plans & assessment, and update policies/procedures that are outdated or upgrade them with new information as you discover them.

Key Takeaways:    

Health and safety plays a vital role in the management of a construction site. They are key factors that determine whether the job will be completed on time and to the required standards. Health and safety practices have certainly improve dover recent years, but it is still important for construction firms to manage these areas effectively. Not only will this aid in ensuring that employees enjoy safe working conditions, but it will also reduce the impact on business performance e.g. delays to projects.

Kiri Align has been designed for this purpose and dedicates considerable human and technological resources to ensure a seamless transition to a safe and productive construction site. With Kiri Align you can plan, coordinate and manage your construction site's health and safety measures from a single platform. Being customer-centric, services can be individually adapted to the needs of your company and to the WHS regulations.

And to guarantee consistency and quality throughout the entire process, Kiri Align links all areas of your construction site's safety with one another thus preventing possible duplication of work. In addition, you will enjoy on-demand support from experienced health and safety specialists making sure you get it right at the first attempt.

Start your free trial now

Published by: Kiri Align