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Leadership & Culture Safety News

National Stand-Down for Safety Week: What It Is and How Your Company Can Participate

OSHA statistics show an average of around five thousand U.S based work fatalities per year. To put that in perspective, that’s about 100 deaths per week, or 15 a day.

That means, approximately every hour and a half, a construction company owner or manager has to call their employees’ family and explain that their loved one won’t be coming home from work that day. That is a call you never want to have to make and you definitely don’t want to receive.

The number one cause of these construction fatalities, year after year, after year, is falls.

What is National Safety Stand Down Week?

May 3 – 7 2021 is National Safety Stand-Down Week to prevent Falls in Construction and is hosted by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR).
The week is aimed at raising fall hazard awareness across the country, in an effort to stop injuries and fatalities caused when working at heights.

What Can Your Company Do To Help the Cause?

It doesn’t matter how big your construction company is, what trade you are in or what your role is within your company, everyone can and SHOULD get involved. You can participate in three ways:

1. Educate Your Workers by Hosting a “Stand-Down”

A Stand-Down is a conversation between the employer, or upper management and their workers. It is a chance to talk about safety and this week, specifically fall prevention.
Dr. Maya Angelo famously said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better”. As the employer, you should take this opportunity to make sure your employees “know better”.

A great way to accomplish that is to start the stand-down with a Toolbox Talk, refreshing your employees knowledge of proper means of protecting themselves from falls.

This more formal training should be followed by an informal conversation, allowing ample opportunity for workers to ask questions and address any safety concerns they may have.

2. Help Bring Awareness to the Cause

You can help bring awareness to the fact that falls are killing construction workers on a daily basis by capturing a picture of your team during your Stand-Down and posting it on your social media accounts.

In the caption, include how your company is committed to the safety of your employees. Encourage your employees to do the same on their personal accounts and use the hashtag #StandDown4Safety

3. Follow Through on Your Commitment to Safety

Hosting a Stand-Down and bringing awareness to the cause is a fantastic start but to really make a difference, safety needs to be incorporated into the culture of your company. It’s hard to know where to start with that, but luckily you are on the right track.
The Learning Center on our website is filled with valuable information for all construction companies, of all sizes and trades. It’s free for anyone to access and share with their teams. It is a fantastic resource to help you “know better” so you can follow through on your commitment to “do better”.

What Harness is Doing to Help the Cause

We’re launching several things in conjunction with National Safety Week:

  • As previously announced, We are making a version of the Harness safety app available for FREE. The free plan includes access to hundreds of toolbox talks, including twelve focused specifically on fall protection. It allows you to document attendance on any device.
  • In order to promote the best practice of inspecting fall protection harnesses before each use, we will be launching another FREE inspections app. More details will be available on Monday May 3rd.
  • We’ll be offering FREE, no obligation evaluations of your Safety Program so you can identify areas for improvement and get valuable tips.

Make sure you are following us on Social Media so you don’t miss out on these announcements!

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How to...

Top 8 Safety Harness Questions Answered

Personal Fall Arrest Systems (commonly referred to as PFAS) are used frequently in the construction industry across a wide variety of trades. The components of a PFAS include an anchor, connectors, and a full-body harness, and may include a shock-absorbing lanyard, a retractable lifeline, and/or a deceleration device.

While OSHA holds employers legally responsible for the safety of their employees, it is important for every single construction worker to be an advocate for their own safety. Making sure you are properly and well informed on all things related to PFAS’s is one way to ensure that.

This article answers common questions surrounding one of the PFSA components: the full body harness.

1. When Are Construction Workers Required to Wear a Safety Harness?

There is sometimes confusion around this topic because there are different standards for general industry vs. the construction industry. Standard 1926.501 of the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations regulations covers fall protection, specifically in the construction industry. It states:

“Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.”

It can also apply at heights lower than 6 feet if the employee is working near or above dangerous equipment or substances. To determine which situations are applicable to your trade specifically, you should read the regulation in full.

2. Who is Responsible for Purchasing / Providing Fall Protection Equipment to Construction Workers?

If the conditions of Standard 1926.501 (outlined above) are applicable, then Standard 1926.502 states that the employer is the one responsible for providing proper means of fall protection, which may include a full body harness, lifeline, lanyard and anchor.

There has been some confusion regarding whether the term ‘provide’ when it comes to all personal protective equipment includes paying for said equipment. With a few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to provide and pay for PPE when it is used to comply with OSHA standards.

3. Where Can I Buy a Safety Harness?

Harnesses are available for sale at local distribution centers near you. Since roofing is one of the top trades to use them, your best selection may be through a roofing supply center, even if you aren’t a roofing contractor.

If you have more than a handful of employees to purchase for, you may wish to consider reaching out to the distribution’s sales team as they can likely offer you a discount on bulk purchases. A sales representative can also assist you in selecting the proper fit and size for your employees.

There are many different manufacturers of harnesses, each of whom believe theirs to be the best. With the lives of your employees at stake, making a safety harness purchase is not the time to skimp on quality. We recommend selecting a harness from one of the top brands, including:

4. How to Put on A Safety Harness in 5 Steps

Once you have purchased a safety harness, the next step is to ensure it is the proper fit for your employee and that they know how to put it on properly.

Although adjustable, some models come in different sizes and some are even gender specific. Begin by checking the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure the height and weight of the employee are within the allowable limits.

Here is the 5 steps process:

1. Inspect
Safety harness components include shoulder straps and leg straps, a sub-pelvic assembly, adjustable buckles or fasteners, and one or more D-rings to connect to a lanyard. Inspect each component to ensure it is in safe working condition (more details below).

2. Position the D Ring
The dorsal D-ring is positioned between the worker’s shoulder blades with a fall arrest system. D-rings in other positions are sometimes included for use with ladder safety devices. For this reason, some harnesses come with D-rings on the front, sides, and lower back.

3. Buckle up legs
Your fingers should fit snugly between the strap and your leg. You should not have to force your fingers to fit beneath the leg straps.

4. Buckle up chest
A snug strap should not allow any slack. It lies in a relatively straight line without sagging.

5. Adjust
A safe and effective harness is adjusted so that all straps are snug. Make sure the D-ring stays in place once the adjustment is complete.

(Image credit: OSHA)

5. How To Clean A Safety Harness

With the nature of the construction industry often being muddy, it’s very likely that a harness will need to be cleaned at some point. Here is how to accomplish that:

  • Wipe off all surface dirt with a sponge dampened in plain water
  • Squeeze the sponge dry
  • Dip the sponge in a mild solution of water and mild detergent
  • Work up a thick lather, with a vigorous back and forth motion
  • Then wipe dry with a clean cloth
  • Hang freely to dry, but away from excessive heat, steam or long periods of sunlight

6. How to Store a Safety Harness

Storage areas for a full body harness should be clean, dry and free of exposure to fumes, heat, direct ultraviolet light, sunlight and corrosive elements.

Do not store harnesses next to batteries; chemical attacks can occur if battery leaks.

7. When Does a Safety Harness Expire?

Harnesses will be marked by the manufacturer with information specific to it, such as warnings, serial/model number, capacity, and the materials used to make it.

Information such as proper use, maintenance, and inspections is typically provided in a manual written by the manufacturer.

What isn’t included is an expiration date. That is because the only people that can determine whether a harness is fit to wear or not is you or your supervisor, by conducting a thorough inspection.

OSHA does not stipulate a mandated expiry because it could lead to a false sense of security. For example, you may question the condition of your harness but upon reading the expiration date, you confirm it is good for another year; however, it is possible the harness is not safe to wear any longer.

A harness should be considered expired and removed from service when it fails a routine inspection, no matter how old it is. If a Harness is involved in a fall arrest, it also needs to be removed from service, until a competent person can inspect it. Even then, the safest choice is to destroy it.

8. How Often Does a Safety Harness Need to be Inspected and By Whom?

OSHA stipulates a personal fall protection system must be completed before initial use during each work shift. It does not say who specifically should conduct the inspection.

Industry best practice is to have the user conduct this ‘informal’ pre shift inspection and to have a competent person conduct a monthly formal inspection of all equipment.

You are the top person in charge of your own safety. Supervisors and employers also have responsibilities, but it is the choices you make that have the most impact on whether you make it home safe and sound at the end of the day.

A simple visual inspection, combined with touch and feel of the components of your harness before putting it on, could be the difference between life and death. If anything arises as a red flag or you are even remotely unsure about something, bring it up to your supervisor.

If your supervisor does not provide you with the information you require to feel safe and comfortable, you have the right to refuse to work in dangerous conditions.

Additionally on a monthly basis, every employer should conduct an inspection of all fall protection equipment, tracking the serial number on each piece and recording the results. Any pieces that fail any inspection, pre-shift or monthly, should be removed from service immediately.

How Harness Can Help

Harness is a safety management system that can help you conduct inspections and track which pieces of equipment are coming up for or due for inspection next. It eliminates paperwork, making the storage and retrieval of inspection results quick and easy for anyone with a mobile device or from the office computer.

We also offer a FREE Safety Harness Inspection App so all construction workers can properly inspect and document their safety harness before each use. Click the button below to try it out on any device!

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Cost & Pricing Most Popular

Why We’re Offering Our Harness Safety App For FREE Starting Today

There have always been barriers to having a strong construction health & safety program. Some of those include the attitude of management & workers, a lack of understanding what exactly “strong” means, and probably the biggest obstacle, administrative burden.

Who’s going to spend time creating, distributing, collecting, and analyzing safety program information? If you don’t have dedicated safety personnel, those tasks often fall to employees that are compensated on other tasks so safety stuff will often take a back seat.

If you do have a dedicated safety person or team, the time spent on administration means those people aren’t in the field doing what they’re supposed to be doing: keeping workers safe.

We founded Harness Software on the belief that if we could make safety tasks easy, they would get done more often. When safety is top of mind, less incidents will occur, companies will suffer less disruption and benefit from lower costs.

The very first feature we built into our construction safety app was the ability to send relevant safety meeting topics to field staff, have them easily conduct these “toolbox talks” and document them in seconds.

Since 2017, the Harness safety app has been used to conduct over 25,000 safety meetings. Companies send their workers topics from our meeting guide catalog and workers in the field conduct a meeting with their crew and document it on any smartphone or tablet.

Today we’re making the toolbox talk features of Harness FREE to contractors of any size.

Why Are We Offering Free Toolbox Talks?

  • Toolbox talks, when regularly conducted with the appropriate information are an effective way to keep workers safe
  • A proper toolbox talk should take no more than 10-15 mins
  • The majority of construction firms we surveyed found it difficult to obtain & distribute meeting materials
  • Most construction firms do a poor job at documenting meetings they do hold

What’s Included in the Free Plan?

  • Access to our standard toolbox talk catalog. Over 100 meeting guides on a variety of topics. Available in English & Spanish.
  • Send reminder notifications to workers at any time
  • Easily record meeting attendance on any smartphone or tablet
  • A PDF documenting the talk and attendance, automatically emailed to you
  • 14 days of reporting history
  • Access for as long as required (not a trial)

How Do I Learn More Or Sign Up?

Read more about the Free Plan or click the button below to sign up for it now.

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How to...

5 Components of a Site-Specific Safety Plan

At some point during the bidding process on a large construction project, it is very likely you will be asked to submit a site-specific safety plan. Builders and general contractors want to confirm you will be operating a safe job site because they don’t want any accidents taking place where they may be held liable.

They likely don’t have the time or resources to oversee every single sub all the time. Requesting the site-specific plan is their way of confirming they can trust you to be safe.

You probably already have a written safety manual that covers all your general safety policies and procedures. This manual, although applicable on all your job sites, isn’t what they are looking for.

A site-specific safety plan takes your standard processes and modifies them for that job site specifically. It also includes additional hazards and control measures and specific emergency information.

What Should Go in a Site-Specific Safety Plan?

Even if a client or general contractor isn’t asking for one, you should create a site- specific safety plan for all major jobs that:

  • your crews will be on for an extended period of time and / or
  • pose unusual hazards your workers are not accustomed to controlling

Here is what should go in every plan:

1. Emergency Information

Emergencies can be very disorienting and confusing for those involved. In the event that one occurs, it’s best to have all the information your employees need readily available so nobody has to scramble.

Start by listing the emergency contacts, with their name, role and phone number or email. This should include a safety director or upper management from both your company and for the client or general contractor.

Include the location of the nearest hospital and optionally the location of the nearest non-emergency medical clinic for injuries such as sprains or small cuts requiring a stitch. Some company health insurance policies stipulate preferred treatment providers. Check your policy to see which providers in your area are in network with your insurance.

OSHA mandates every employer provide reasonable access in terms of time and distance to medical facilities for their employees. If that is not possible, one option the standard provides is to have an employee trained in First Aid / CPR on site. In fact, they recommend this regardless of the location of the nearest hospital.

Since the term ‘reasonable’ is left open to interpretation by an inspector, we recommend having someone trained on site, ensuring full compliance with the regulation.

The name of that competent person responsible for leading the team through an emergency should be recorded on the safety plan.

Finally, you should make notes of the locations of all available first aid kits and equipment such as defibrillators.

2. Hazards

You likely have a list of common hazards faced by your crew in your safety manual, and it is completely acceptable to copy and paste them into your site-specific safety plan if they are applicable.

In addition to the standard hazards, you need to consider any others that are likely to present themselves. If there is a possibility of conducting a walk-through of the site, we encourage doing that. If there is nothing to see at the bid stage, try and get to the site a few weeks before your crews are scheduled to do the work and update the safety plan then.

Hazards differ from trade to trade and even from jobsite to jobsite; however, some areas to consider (but not limited to) are:

  • Any areas with the potential for a fall from over 6 feet
  • Use of compressed air / gas
  • Working in confined spaces
  • Presence of electricity
  • Proximity to or use of open flame
  • Use of elevated work platforms
  • Potential silica exposure
  • Operation of heavy equipment

3. Controls

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), outlines the most effective hazard controls down to the least effective in the figure below.

(image source: NIOSH)

For every hazard you list in your safety plan, you must include at least one control method your employees will use to protect themselves. The most effective control is ‘Elimination,’ which physically removes the exposure of the hazard. This is the level of control you should always aim for, but isn’t always possible.

The least effective control is ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ and is best used if paired with one other control method from the middle of the diagram below.

If you need help creating controls, check with your local trade association as they often have this type of information available to their members.

This is the most important aspect of your site-specific safety plan, so the majority of your time and effort should go into this section.

4. Equipment

Once you have your list of controls outlined, you need to review them and generate a list of required safety equipment. This could include equipment that will be installed at the site, such as guard rails, or provided to your employees, like a hard hat.

The more specific and accurate you can be with this list, the better the pre-production team can prepare. Nobody wants to send a crew to a job site only to discover they can’t start because they are missing safety equipment.

5. Pictures

Including pictures in your site-specific safety plan makes the chances of successful transfer of information all the more likely. As we mentioned above, it is ideal to be able to conduct a site walkthrough and capture images of the actual hazards the crew will be faced with.

However, depending on the specs of the project, that may not be possible. Even so, there’s no reason why you can’t provide example photos of each hazard and each control.

For example, for floor openings, you could add a picture of a floor opening on a different project as well as the proper setup of a guardrail system.

When utilized, images are a fantastic resource for the workers to prepare for what they are about to be faced with.

The Plan Is Useless Unless Implemented

Once your bid is accepted and in advance of the project starting, share the plan with the supervisors and key workers who will be on site. They should put some forethought into it and collect the equipment they will need from your list.

On the first day of the project, meet with all workers assigned to the job to review the plan and do a physical walkthrough of the site. Taking the time to complete these steps will significantly reduce the chance of an incident onsite.

How Harness Can Help

Harness is a safety management system that provides you with access to a digital ‘Site-Specific Safety Plan’ form. The form prompts you to enter the required information and outputs a pdf, which can be shared throughout the company or with clients.

The pdf also attaches to the Project file inside Harness and appears in the project summary. This ensures your employees have access to everything they need to know in order to be safe on the job site, right in the palm of their hands

To find out more about how Harness makes safety easy and convenient, click the button below to book a demo.

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Best In Class

3 Safety Program Styles Compared: Incentive vs Behavior vs Discipline

Forget the horse and water; the saying should read: “You can lead a construction worker through a safety program, but you cannot make them follow it.”

The goal of any safety program is to reduce incidents, but in order to achieve that, the employees must actually follow the program. This is a challenge for many construction companies.

Safety risks and the incidents that follow take place on construction sites for one of three possible reasons:

1. They Don’t Know

Employees who simply don’t know all the safety information are more timid around the tools and equipment and are more likely to make a mistake due to lack of training. This is especially true of new hires.

2. They Don’t Care

More experienced employees who have been on the job for a while, who have yet to experience an incident, can become overconfident and feel invincible, often leading to very risky behavior on their part.

3. There’s a More Efficient Way

The most experienced workers on site have likely gone through an incident or accident themselves and are less likely to take major risks but have also developed more efficient / less safe habits over the years, potentially leading to an incident.

Each type of worker makes unsafe choices for different reasons, so your safety program should account for all three.

There are a few styles of programs used to achieve that, most commonly referred to as:

  • incentive programs
  • behavior-based programs
  • discipline programs

In this article, we outline the basics of each style of program, the pros and cons and make suggestions on which style may suit your company best.

What is a Safety Incentive Program?

A safety incentive program encourages employees to use safe work practices by offering rewards such as money or prizes for safer work sites. Usually the company sets goals, and if they are achieved, an employee or a crew will win something of value.

Pros

Incentive programs use the natural competition among peers as a tool to engage the employees in participating in the safety program. Employees tend to be fairly driven by monetary rewards.

Cons

Incentive programs can encourage under-reporting of incidents and unsafe work practices rather than an actual change in behavior. It runs the risk of accomplishing the exact opposite of what it was intended to do.

The last situation you want is for your employees to hide or, worse, not receive medical attention for an injury in order to stay in the running for a prize.

Should Incentive Programs be Used?

There are ways to make these kinds of programs successful, but they need to be based on safety processes instead of being driven by results.

For example, you could take the names of any foremen who completed all their assigned safety inspections in a month and draw a name from that group to win a prize. In this case, the foreman is rewarded for completing tasks that lead to safer job sites and not for the safe job site itself.

It’s a very thin line between beneficial and potentially catastrophic.

The reasoning behind an incentive program is a great idea; to make safety more interactive, engaging and even fun for the employees. However, we believe there are better ways to achieve those goals than flat out rewarding safe job sites.

We provide more detail on those better ways in our articles, How to Gamify Safety to Build a Better Safety Culture and 5 Ways to Make Safety More Engaging for Construction Workers.

What is a Behavior-Based Safety Program?

A behavior-based safety program does not reward or punish employees, it simply observes and corrects. The program is designed to have all workers and management participate in the by recording and submitting anonymous safety infractions.

It is geared toward the infractions caused by bad habits learned over time, which the employee committing them is so used to, they probably don’t even realize they are a risk.

Once a number of submissions have been made, the safety team reviews and discusses them with all the employees. Then, as a group, they determine the best course of action to eliminate them.

Pros

Potential safety issues are more likely to be discovered during informal observation by peers than they are in a more formal inspection or audit by safety personnel. The discussion based processing aims at solving root causes rather than just disciplining actions.

Cons

If the program is not introduced and run properly by management, you won’t receive buy-in from the employees, and if that happens, it simply won’t work. Tracking submissions can be difficult and time consuming without the help of technology. Plus, there is no penalty for intentional infractions made by repeat offenders.
Should a Behavior-Based Program be Used?
Without the use of a centralized online form for workers to submit, it would be difficult to implement this style of program in remote locations such as job sites. A program of this style is also only as good as the submissions it receives, and if the workers think of it as a ‘snitch program,’ it’s failure is inevitable.

However, the theory behind the program is valuable. There are definitely benefits of an observational peer review system. If managed properly and with the right technology, a behavior based approach can be a successful add on to an existing safety program.

What is a Safety Discipline Program?

A discipline program punishes employees who break safety rules. It is usually designed so that punishments increase in severity based on the number of times the employee has broken the rule and how serious the rule is.

For example, an employee who forgets to put their hard hat on is given a verbal warning on the first offense and a suspension on the fourth offense. At the same time, an employee who neglects to wear their personal fall protection equipment while working at heights may get a suspension on the first offense.

Pros

Being written up, suspended or fired tend to be effective deterrents. Having recorded written warnings can help reduce the liability of the company if there ever is an accident or a citation.

Cons

A supervisor must be present in order to see the infraction take place. It can be difficult to track which employees have received which level of punishment for which infractions, especially if you operate on multiple job sites.

Should Discipline Programs be Used?

Discipline programs can be very effective if they are managed the correct way. Consistency from job site to job site and from supervisor to supervisor is key to its success. Using a safety management system such as Harness can be an enormous aid in achieving the required consistency.

It also needs to be paired with training, especially if the reasoning for the infraction is due to ignorance on the part of the employee. We outline what a good discipline program looks like in our article How to Implement an Effective Construction Disciplinary Program.

What is the Best Style of Safety Program?

A combination of all three styles, if set up in the right way, would be the most effective. A discipline program covers the new workers who don’t have the experience needed to make safe choices and also the more experienced risk takers.

A behavior based program is a great way to identify common bad habits and ways to correct them. An incentive program can be very effective in engaging employees as long as you are very careful with its structure. Even better would be to gamify your existing program and provide more engaging content.

If you are just starting, go with the discipline program, as it covers the majority of incident causes and offers additional benefits of reduced liability for the company. The other two styles can be added on after and really shouldn’t ever stand alone.

To find out more about finding success in all aspects of your safety program, check out our article Top 5 Ways to Foster a Safety Culture in Your Construction Business.