By: Rich Gambrill
As you are aware, every week we begin the field operations call with a safety minute. Often, my preparation for this is a simple Google search for “construction accidents.” This query always yields at least a dozen news stories about injuries and fatalities that have occurred on various construction sites throughout our nation and even more around the world. Even as I write this, I am seeing two more incidents that occurred just today (8/1/19). The reason I bring this up is to illustrate that these incidents are far more common than they should be and the unfortunate truth that most are preventable.
What can you do to keep yourself and those around you safe?
- Plan ahead. Before the job starts, planning should be done to identify which tasks will be taking place and how best to prepare for hazards. Things to consider: Where is the work taking place? Does a travel lane need to be closed? If so, what are the state and local ordinances regarding flaggers and police presence? Where do signs and cones need to go and can the construction vehicles be parked in such a way to further protect the work zone? Are ladders and shoring available in the event that the trench will be deep enough to require it?
- Manage the risk. Less obvious factors proven to cause safety issues should always be considered when developing and implementing a safety plan. According to a study commissioned by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), most deaths on construction sites occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with fatalities peaking around noon. Almost 75% of fatalities happen on Mondays through Thursdays. What does this mean for you? Make sure there is a strong protocol for safety during lunch breaks. Make sure job another job briefing sheet is completed upon returning from lunch. In all cases, never make safety planning less of a priority.
- Prevent exhaustion. Another overlooked but pressing safety issue is worker exhaustion. The industry-wide talent shortage can make it difficult to appropriately staff jobsites, leading some companies to over-schedule workers in order to meet demanding construction schedules. But no matter how many preventative measures and education programs you put in place, it’s all for nothing if workers are too physically or mentally worn out to follow protocol. OSHA reports that accidents and injury rates are 30% greater during night shifts, and working 12 hours per day comes with a 37% increased risk of injury. Decreased alertness resulting from fatigue has been cited as a contributing factor in major workplace disasters, such as BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil refinery explosion, the Challenger space shuttle explosion and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Extended shifts can be correlated with an increased risk of having a car accident on the way home from work by 16.2%. They can also lead to a higher probability of developing health problems due to prolonged exposure to chemical and noise hazards. What can you do? Keep an eye on the crews you are inspecting. If someone is showing signs of exhaustion, speak up. Notify the foreman. If you find yourself experience workplace fatigue, notify your supervisor and take a break, but make sure you are making time to get the sleep you need at home.
Safety as a culture. At Storti, we are working to develop programs that make safety a habit for our employees. We want to go beyond simply being complaint. We do this through the weekly safety topics on the calls as well this very article every month in the newsletter. We try to make the topics relatable. Things that apply to safety at home as much as in the workplace. Ultimately, our goal is to send you home from work in the same condition you came to work.