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Safety Best Practice

5 Easy Tasks to Start Your Construction Safety Program

We are thrilled to hear that you’ve decided to make safety a focus at your company! Okay, we didn’t actually hear that, but the fact that you are here, taking the time to learn more about getting your safety program off the ground makes us pretty confident in the assumption that you are committed to change. This means you are officially on your way to safer job sites for your workers and being more compliant with government policies (i.e. OSHA).

It is completely understandable for you to feel confused and overwhelmed at this point, the safety industry (and the internet) tend to do that to people. No need to worry any longer, we are about to clear things up for you.

Here Are 5 Easy Safety Tasks All Contractors Should Be Doing:

1. Conduct and Document Weekly Toolbox Talks

A Toolbox talk, sometimes referred to as a safety meeting, is the base of any good safety program. It is a two-part process consisting of a safety lesson followed by the documentation of what was discussed, with whom, when and where.

If you can only find time for one safety task a week, make it a toolbox talk. Conduct them with every field worker, on different and relevant safety topics.

We realize it’s next to impossible to get every worker in one place at one time, ever, let alone once a week, and that’s not a problem. This talk should actually be delivered in smaller groups, ideally right on the job site where the material, equipment and tools you are discussing are readily available.

You can deliver these talks yourself if you are able to make it to each site on a weekly basis, otherwise, it is okay to assign this task to the supervisor or foreman of each crew. In fact, the more a crew is assigned safety responsibilities, the more likely they are to take ownership of them and put them into everyday practice.

2. Show Up Unexpectedly Onsite

This one is about as basic as it gets. If you want to really know what is going on at your job sites, you have to SHOW UP.

If your crews know you are coming, that’s okay, but it’s even better if they don’t. The more they realize it’s possible the boss shows up at any time, the more likely they are to consistently comply with the rules.

We’ve seen some supervisors park down the street and watch their crew with binoculars before they arrive at the site. Another sneaky but useful tactic is to ‘forget’ something at the site and circle back 10 min later to get it. Then you’ll know if any compliance measures are dropped as soon as you turn your back.

You can send any of your supervisors to the site to do random checks, but the higher you are up the chain of command, the higher levels of compliance you will start to notice. These visits don’t have to be negative or unwarranted either. Dropping off coffee or running them more material are perfectly good covers for your arrival and will be appreciated by the crew as well.

3. Recognize Safety Adherence and Infractions

EVERY TIME you see a safety infraction, you need to act on it. The moment you let something slide, your employees will notice and likely won’t comply next time. This may mean you are very busy to begin with, but if you are consistent, it will improve.

If you haven’t been great at staying on top of infractions, you should give your employees fair warning that you are about to start. In your explanation, provide reasons for the change, with your concern for their personal safety topping the list.

They should also know what the consequences are if they are caught making unsafe choices. Many companies have a written policy that escalates based on the number and severity of the infraction.

Usually, the first offence warrants a verbal warning, whereas a second or third incident should definitely be documented in writing. A third or fourth offence may warrant a suspension. On the other hand, if the first offence is something that puts their life or the lives of their co-workers at risk, you may decide to skip to the second or third warning tier.

Just as important as acting on the negative is remembering to reward the good behaviour. Rewards can be as simple as a high five; just knowing that the boss has noticed them is often enough.

However, gestures such as bringing them a cup of coffee on your next site visit or praising them among their peers are also effective. Some companies even run monthly leaderboards to add a dash of healthy competition.

4. Teach and Train Employees

Ideally, you should be running formal training sessions with a professional who is qualified to certify your crews in specific safety tasks. However, you can get started today by spending time on site to teach proper, safe techniques when using equipment, material, and machines.

This is especially important when it comes to infractions. Every infraction that is handed out should be tied to some sort of training or resolution. You can give the individual the training or use it as a teachable moment for the entire crew.

There is no harm in hosting a toolbox talk on the topic, even if you’ve already done one that week. The more serious the offence, the more formal the training should be, and that may mean the employee needs to sign up for a course off-site prior to their return to work.

It is also entirely possible the issue can be corrected by the company, such as providing extra Personal Protective Equipment in each truck for when something is forgotten or breaks.

You probably already pay special attention to new workers as they obviously require help to learn the ropes and that’s fantastic; but don’t forget about your seasoned employees either. Where your new employees will likely display a healthy level of caution, seasoned employees can be overconfident, leading to skipped steps and high levels of risk. Reminders to slow down and to be a good example for the sake of the new workers can be very effective without damaging their pride.

5. Build a Safety Culture

A safety culture will develop naturally to some degree as you incorporate the first four tasks; however, the companies with the most success will treat safety seriously from the top down. The owners and management team need to make a commitment to safety and then walk the talk in their daily work life.

If your workers know how seriously you take safety, over time they will do the same. But the first time you prioritize production over safety, you will undo everything you had accomplished. They will get the message that safety is just a show, and what really matters in the end is money.

We can understand the pull that you may feel to focus on results ahead of safety. It’s natural. You want your business to succeed, and that means completing work and getting paid. When it comes to your focus on safety though, you have to play the long game.

The success of the first four tasks hinges on the strength of your commitment to safety day in and day out.

Next Steps

Other than starting each week with a short toolbox talk meeting, every other task we just covered can be worked into your existing daily routine with very little additional time required. As long as the company has provided your workers with the equipment they need to stay safe, there really aren’t any additional costs either. So there are no excuses as to why you shouldn’t start your program today.

We already know that your priorities are:

  • To keep your workers safe and
  • To reduce your company’s liability should an incident occur

And now you have the tools to act on them.

Next you should, check out our article What is a Toolbox Talk (A 2-Part Safety Meeting) to become an expert at them or jump right in and download our Toolbox Talk Form below.

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Definitions

What is a Job Site Hazard Assessment (Definition & Usage)

It’s clear you want to learn more about JHA’s, and that’s likely because you care about safety. Your company probably has good intentions when it comes to keeping your workers safe, in fact; I bet you are already doing something such as Toolbox Talks.

You know you should be doing more, but you aren’t quite sure what that looks like because you don’t have a safety background. You also aren’t quite ready to hire a dedicated safety professional, and that’s all okay.

You aren’t the first contractor to feel lost in the safety abyss, and you don’t have to do it alone. There is no need to reinvent the wheel because we are about to hand you the keys to the whole car.

What is a Job Site Hazard Assessment?

A Job Site Hazard Assessment, commonly referred to as a JHA, is a report that a foreman completes with their crew on the job site every morning before work starts. It is designed to focus the crew’s attention on safety and to take PREVENTATIVE MEASURES to ensure incidents don’t occur.

3 Components of a Job Site Hazard Assessment

Other than collecting the location details at the start and signatures at the end, here are the three main parts of a JHA:

1. The Tasks

  • Workers identify what they will be doing specifically that day
  • Examples: load material, demolition, install product, etc.

2. The Hazards

  • Based on the tasks for the day, create a list of potential hazards
  • Examples: climbing ladders, working at heights, working with an open flame, extreme hot / cold weather, large machines, etc

3. The Controls

  • For every hazard listed, determine what controls will be used to eliminate, contain or reduce each hazard.
  • Examples: secure ladders, use personal fall arrest systems, wear personal protective equipment, take breaks to warm up / cool down, only trained employees operating machines etc.

My Guys Don’t Have the Knowledge to Fill Out A JHA

My job at Harness is to take the paper forms that contractors are currently using, and turn them into an electronic version. That means I’ve seen thousands of versions of this form, and I know what works and what doesn’t.

The main issue with a JHA is how they are filled out, and typically that is not very well. Most crews are able to list tasks and hazards, as they generally know what parts of their job are potentially dangerous.

The problem arises when they aren’t knowledgeable enough to fill in the control section. We don’t blame them for this, they are construction experts, not safety reps. So this section tends to contain guesses, or worse, is left blank, leaving your workers with inaccurate and incomplete safety plans.

Cue the downward spiral; the less they know, the less effort they put into it, the less the exercise is useful, until eventually it just isn’t done at all and you are right back here looking for help.

The Solution

This is why we created our own electronic JHA that automatically populates potential controls for each hazard selected. When your workers say they are using a ladder, they are provided with 4 or 5 ways to ensure they set up and use the ladder safely, all they have to do is check the boxes to create the plan, and then follow it.

Filling it out is easy and your crews will consider it a useful resource, which means they will actually do it. Our JHA is more than a form, it’s a teaching tool that makes your job site safer, and provides your company with the documentation you need if there ever was an incident.

If your crews are knowledgeable enough to try out the paper form first, you can download it below. If you’d rather see our JHA in action, book demo.

Regardless of the process you choose, you are on the right track because a JHA a day, helps keep incidents away!

Categories
Definitions

What is a Toolbox Talk? (A 2-Part Safety Meeting)

Once upon a time, I was the co-owner / operator of a small family roofing company. We cared about the safety of our guys, many of them were friends and relatives, and we enforced safety practices on our job sites, but we didn’t have formal safety meetings, and we definitely didn’t document anything safety related.

Then, one cool dewy morning, our foreman climbed up a steep cedar roof to install an anchor so that he and the rest of the crew could safely tie off. But he never made it to the peak. He slipped and fell two stories, landing on his back in the asphalt driveway.

It was a miracle that he didn’t die. He ended up with a broken back and a very long and painful road to recovery.

Meanwhile, our company was suddenly thrust into a major investigation by what felt like every government agency around. Then there were the lawyers. So. Many. Lawyers.

We were asked to produce our written Safety Policy and Program. We had nothing.

We were asked to produce safety meetings documenting our foreman’s training. Again, nothing.

What followed was a very quick learning curve of what we were obligated to be doing for safety, and at the top of that list was a weekly Toolbox Talk.

What is a Toolbox Talk?

A toolbox talk (also known as a Safety Meeting or TBT) is a two-part process that provides your workers with training and reduces your companies liability if there is ever an incident. The topics are different each week and involve tasks the workers complete regularly or equipment / tools they use.

Some examples of topics may be: setting up ladders, floor and roof openings, hard hats, lifting techniques, nail guns, propane, etc.

2 Components of a Toolbox Talk:

 

1. The Talk

  • The safety talk itself is 2-3 paragraphs of safety information about a specific topic, written by a vetted safety provider
  • The talk is usually completed onsite where it is most relevant to the worker, near the equipment / tools (hence the name toolbox talk)
  • The best TBT’s include pictures, a demonstration, and a Spanish translation
  • You can find many TBT’s for free online and from professional trade associations

2. The Record

  • If you don’t record the fact that the talk happened, in the eyes of the law and OSHA, it never did.
  • Record the date, location, and topic of the TBT
  • Have every member that attended (including yourself) sign and print their name on the record
  • Attach the talk (including the Spanish version) to the record and save it at the office for at least 7 years

My Guys Will Never Participate in a Toolbox Talk

That’s what I thought too. And I wasn’t wrong. Construction workers hate paperwork. Every minute they spend on paperwork is a minute they aren’t making money.

I know from experience that you will have to hound them to host safety meetings and get the records back to you.

When they do hand them in, they are wrinkled, ripped, and covered with coffee stains from being stuffed between the seats of the truck for a week. You’ll smooth out the paper only to find there is something missing or you can’t read someone’s chicken scratch of a signature. You then have to spend time chasing them down, and every minute you spend doing that is a minute you aren’t making money.

So What’s the Solution?

You need to start doing toolbox talks right away. They are the base for every safety program ever designed and trust me when I say, you do not want to be caught empty handed. My company faced fines, lawsuits and even an increase in our insurance rates, never mind the fact that our best foreman was out of commission.

Thanks to the National Roofing Contractors Association, we have provided you with your first toolbox talk on ladder safety so you can help avoid the most common fatality in construction, a fall. With it, you will find a form we built for you to record the safety meeting every week. This way you can get started today. Then all you need to do is source the information for your talk each week, record it and save it. Or, you can sign up for a FREE Harness account and we will do the leg work for you.

  • The Harness Safety App provides you with your own library of safety talks, with photos, demonstrations and Spanish translations, available on any device
  • Harness captures all the data you are legally required to track using required fields, so nothing is forgotten and everything is legible
  • Harness saves the talk immediately, making it easy to store and find later
  • Most importantly, Harness is quick and EASY TO USE, which increases the chances that your crews will actually do it

Want to get started now? Download our Free Toolbox Talk Form below.
Want to skip paper and go right to the app? Book a demo here.

Already mastered the TBT? Try out a Job Site Hazard Assessment.