Not only is it the right thing to do, but enhancing safety on the construction site also makes sound business sense. A recent study by Dodge Data & Analytics found that project quality, staff retention, return on investment and ability to attract new staff were all positively impacted with a strong safety program in place.
Although increased safety awareness, enhanced procedures and new technology are improving safety on the construction site, there is still more to do. Of the 4,836 people who died from a work-related injury in the private sector in 2015, nearly 20 percent were employed in the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That doesn’t include the thousands of construction workers who are injured each year, resulting in missed days of work, project delays, damage to costly equipment and materials, and increased workers’ compensation premiums.
General safety tips for contractors
Here are some effective construction safety tips you should consider:
- Pair inexperienced workers with more seasoned employees. Statistics from the Institute for Work & Health show that employees’ chances of being injured are more than 300 percent greater in their first month on the job.
- Use carts and skid steers to reduce the amount of manual heavy lifting, a common cause of accidents and injuries.
- To prevent falls, use harnesses, guardrails and lifelines whenever employees are working from an elevated area.
- Require employees to use seat belts.
- When backing up a commercial vehicle, drivers should always use a spotter or backup camera.
- Hard hats, safety goggles, gloves, earmuffs, earplugs, steel-toe shoes, and high-visibility vests and clothing should be required where appropriate.
- Carefully follow written operating instructions when starting up or shutting down equipment.
- Do not enter a confined space without supervision, and then only after the atmosphere has been checked. This includes containers, tanks, wells and walk-in freezers.
- Before starting an excavation project, be sure to consult a map of all underground hazards and call 811 or the appropriate local agency.
- Take regular breaks to stay fresh and alert.
- Schedule the most difficult and dangerous tasks for when employees’ concentration is at its best, which is usually mid-morning.
- Maintain communication with peer-to-peer reviews, job site safety meetings and a culture that encourages employees to speak up when they see a hazard.
Industry-specific safety tips
- Carpenters: Be sure to use power tools with clutches and safety guards. Never carry a nail gun with the trigger depressed or use bump-fire mode when close to other workers. Also, make sure the blade guards are functioning correctly on power saws. Protruding reinforcement bars should always have safety end-caps added.
- Electricians: Be sure to use cable strippers instead of knives.
- Plumbers: Wear safety glasses, gloves, and a face mask or respirator to avoid exposure to lead, sulfur dioxides, asbestos and mold. Always use earplugs, since 48 percent of plumbers report hearing loss, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Make sure to fit protective caps to the end of all thread droppers and use mechanical devices to lift and hold pipes in position.
- Plasterers: Always use sheet lifters to lift plaster sheets.
- Roofers: Roofers who use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) should provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fit properly and are regularly inspected.
- Heavy equipment operators: Use high-grip gloves, keep boots clean of mud, avoid carrying objects when climbing, and use secure hand and foot holds. The number one cause of injury related to heavy machinery is simply getting on or off machines. To mitigate some of these risks, rope off the swing radius around heavy machinery.Heavy equipment operators should also make sure crane wheels are chocked and safety cones are placed in front of and behind the vehicle. Be on guard for possible impediments including scaffolding, potholes, steep grades, overhangs, pedestrians and low-hanging power lines.
High-tech safety tips
Recent innovations in technology also have the potential to increase safety on the job site.
- Wearable wireless safety systems store workers’ training certifications and control access to site locations or work areas based on credentials. Some also act as a call button to summon help in an emergency.
- Personal cooling jackets and hard-hat fans create airflow around the body to vaporize sweat, reducing heat-related risks in hot climates.
- 4-D planning tools help show where equipment should safely be placed.
- Injury prediction models can be incorporated into an existing safety program. Look for those that use machine-learning predictive models.
When accidents do happen
No amount of preventive measures can stop all accidents. That’s why it’s also essential to have comprehensive liability insurance, which can provide protection against lawsuits and other financial liabilities resulting from accidents or other mishaps.
Consider insurance such as Argo Pro’s Architects & Engineers PROtectSM solution, which offers protection for claims arising from professional liability, cyber liability (including social engineering incidents) and pollution liability.
You should also consider coverage for supplemental payments, including crisis management expenses; appearance at proceedings, disciplinary proceedings, subpoena assistance, and ADA, FHA and OSHA legal expense reimbursements.
About the author
Dan Gmelin is senior vice president of underwriting and head of Architects & Engineers PROtect at Argo Pro. Gmelin previously worked at Hiscox Insurance Company, where he last served as senior vice president and manager of the A&E book of business. Gmelin was one of the first employees at Hiscox in the U.S. and helped build the region’s book of business. He also worked with all of Hiscox’s professional liability products including A&E, Miscellaneous E&O, Allied Healthcare Technology, Cyber and General Liability. Before joining Hiscox, he was a senior underwriter at Professional Indemnity Agency. He also served as a financial advisor with CIBC Oppenheimer’s High Net Worth Private Client Group. Gmelin graduated from the University at Albany, SUNY.
About Argo Pro
Argo Pro, a member of Argo Group, is a leading provider of professional lines insurance products and services that can accommodate medium and large organizations on an admitted and non-admitted basis. Through a single operating platform and a robust network of appointed wholesale and retail distribution partners, Argo Pro offers a broad, customizable portfolio of errors and omissions and management liability insurance solutions. Argo Pro maintains offices in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Scottsdale and Hamilton Township (New Jersey).