Workers are your most valuable asset, and the best way to protect that asset is by implementing a high-quality health and safety program.
The key to better managing health and safety in construction is steering away from the traditional reactive approach (taking action after an incident occurs). Instead, project managers and foremen must find and fix hazards before they cause injury or illness.
We’ll discuss the best ways to develop, implement, and improve your health and safety practices to keep everyone safe on your jobsites.
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7 ways to better manage health and safety in your construction projects
Improving your health and safety practices can bring benefits like better labour productivity and quality, higher worker morale, enhanced recruiting and retention practices, and more—you can use the following 7 tips to make your jobsites safer and bring these benefits to your organisation.
1. Commit to a safety and health program
Communicating your commitment to managing health and safety in construction with a clear policy is as important for your organisation as productivity and profitability.
You need to establish specific goals and objectives in a written policy and set clear expectations for everyone from you to the workers and overall program. Focus on specific actions and establish measurable goals for improving worker safety and health.
Then, develop a plan to achieve those objectives by determining and allocating resource needs, assigning responsibilities to specific people, and creating set timeframes to complete your program’s health and safety goals.
More to read: What are the common safety violations in construction work and how can you avoid them?
2. Involve workers in your safety practices
Having a solid health and safety program isn’t enough—workers and managers must willingly participate in the program.
Show that you value your workers’ input and encourage them to participate and report any health and safety concerns by:
- Maintaining an open door policy: Invite workers of all levels to talk to you and other management about health and safety concerns, questions, or suggestions.
- Establishing simple procedures for reporting injuries, hazards, etc.: Allow anonymous reporting so workers can voice their concerns without fear of reprisal.
- Removing barriers to participation: Ensure everyone has the ability to participate in the program and spend the time to facilitate participation, like holding regular health and safety meetings.
3. Inspect your jobsite to identify health and safety hazards
As jobsite conditions change, new hazards can pop up anytime. It’s important to regularly and frequently perform inspections as you move into different building phases, when trades arrive and depart, after inclement weather, etc.
Identifying physical safety hazards is generally easier than health hazards, which are often less obvious and more complex. Check each jobsite for the following health hazards:
- Chemical hazards: Low exposure limits, unventilated spaces, etc.
- Biological hazards: Sources of mould, toxic materials, infectious diseases, etc.
- Physical hazards: Excessive noise, radiation sources, etc.
- Ergonomic hazards: Heavy lifting, repetitive motions, etc.
4. Implement a hazard control plan
Another great way to improve your program for managing health and safety in construction is to develop a hazard control plan to keep on-site staff safe during emergencies or nonroutine activities.
Other than approaching tasks that workers don’t normally do with extra caution, you should update your hazard control plan to include provisions for foreseeable events—falls, fires, hazardous material spills, natural disasters, etc.
It’s also always a good idea to conduct drills, ensuring that your workers understand the safety procedures you implement and that they provide adequate protection.
5. Provide awareness education and training
A huge part of managing health and safety in construction is education and training for employers, managers, and workers. This ensures everyone has the knowledge and skills to do their jobs safely without creating additional hazards, putting themselves or other workers at risk.
Your awareness program should:
- Contain steps for reporting hazards, injuries, etc.
- Detail what to do in an emergency.
- Provide training at literacy levels and in languages all workers can understand.
- List the goals, procedures, and policies of your health and safety program.
- Include contact information for the person heading the training program.
6. Monitor your programme’s performance and progress
After establishing new health and safety procedures, it’s crucial to evaluate the program frequently to look for opportunities for improvement, track goals and progress, and identify shortcomings.
You should initially and periodically monitor the following indicators:
- Worker participation
- Safety suggestions
- Workers’ comp data
- The number of hazards and near misses
- The number and severity of injuries
- The number of hazards found during those inspections
- The frequency of inspections
- Time taken to respond to health and safety reports
- Worker feedback
- Worker exposure monitoring results
You might also like: Bringing your programme to the site: How to know everything and build better
7. Digitise your QHSE processes
The Quality, Health, Safety, and Environment (QHSE) management system ensures safe and healthy working conditions for all workers. However, many project managers and organisations still use manual methods for their QHSE processes, making transparent collaboration and real-time updates unrealistic.
Digitising and automating your QHSE processes is one of the most impactful things you can do for managing health and safety in construction more efficiently—it allows you to perform site inspections faster, capture defects with a full audit trail, standardise your forms and reporting, and keep your workers connected with your health and safety program.