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Best In Class How to... Safety Best Practice

Does My Construction Company Need A Health & Safety Person?

In the construction industry, the majority of firms have less than 100 employees. At Harness, we speak with dozens of these companies daily, and we’re often asked if and when it’s appropriate to hire a dedicated health & safety person. In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • how you can effectively create a safety program that runs without a dedicated safety person
  • when you should start to think about hiring a safety manager, and
  • how to set your safety program up for success

Managing Your Safety Program Without A Safety Person

Many smaller companies get by without someone dedicated to safety by spreading the responsibilities between employees. Here is a common and practical way to divide up the work:

All Onsite Workers:

  • pre-use inspection of their equipment and tools

Foremen:

Supervisors:

Office Admin:

Management:

  • Creation and implementation of safety program and policy
  • Onboarding of new employees
  • Quarterly safety meetings
  • Incident investigations

As companies grow in size, this strategy becomes harder to manage. The amount of paperwork increases until its collection and storage become almost a full-time job.

Without one person overseeing the program, lots can fall through the cracks. Compliance becomes an issue because the workers aren’t accountable to anyone in particular. The office administrator ends up wasting their time tracking down missing paperwork.

When this happens, your program is no longer effective or efficient, and you should start looking for a solution.

Why You Should Hire A Dedicated Safety Professional

Having one person directly responsible for the health and well-being of all your employees can drastically improve your company’s safety culture. They ensure everyone is compliant with government and company policies and act as a resource for all employees.

They become the connecting piece between upper management and the field workers, ensuring the right policies are in place and the right resources are allocated to implement them.

The value of a safety person comes when they are on-site, conducting inspections, identifying and controlling hazards and training your workers. That can’t happen if they are hidden away in an office somewhere filing paper.

Hiring a safety manager improves your program but does not eliminate the issues surrounding paperwork. The only solution to that problem is to utilize technology.

Setting Your Safety Program Up For Success

A safety management system like Harness eases the strain of managing your health and safety program, with or without a dedicated person.

Making paper forms digital and accessible to everyone in the company on their mobile device makes safety easy and reduces the administrative burden on your team. It also provides you with analytics that a paper-based program cannot.

At Harness, we work with companies at every stage of their safety program development:

  • We offer turnkey programs to those without anything in place
  • We transfer existing paper based programs into a digital format
  • We work with the safety personnel at larger companies to design and customize your program to be the best possible

Industry best practice shows a strong return on the investment of a dedicated safety professional AND a safety management system. A combination of both will provide your company with everything you need to keep your employees safe. Click the button below to find out more about how Harness can help you manage your safety program.

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Best In Class Definitions

6 Components of a Corrective Action

Construction sites contain various hazards ranging from the kind that can cause minor harm to workers, right up to their death. Some are obvious and easy to spot, while others are less so and require training to recognize. A hazard is usually identified and reported in one of three ways:

  1. By the Jobsite Foreman during a routine Hazard Analysis before starting work each day.
  2. By an individual worker who spots an unsafe situation while completing their specific task.
  3. By a Supervisor during a jobsite inspection.

Once a hazard is identified, it must be controlled appropriately, to keep workers safe from it. The most effective way to do that is through a corrective action.

What is a Corrective Action?

A corrective action is a six-step process designed to formally identify, control and document job site hazards. The components are:

1. Hazard Identification

Identification is the most crucial step in the entire process; without it, the hazard is left uncontrolled and your workers at risk. Failing to identify or neglecting to report a job site hazard is one of the root causes of injuries.

Workers require training to recognize hazards specific to their trade and their job site. Hazards change over time, as work continues, tools wear and other trades become involved. Their identification is an ongoing process and requires frequent consideration.

Additionally, upper levels of management need to be involved in the process, including foremen, supervisors and safety directors, in more formal capacities such as job site inspections.

2. Severity

Once a hazard is identified, it needs to be assigned a severity level, most commonly:

  • Low: small risk of occurrence resulting in minor injuries
  • Medium: occurrence is more likely, and injury could result in lost time
  • High: likely to occur and if so, would be a potentially life-threatening situation

Defining the level of severity for each hazard helps provide others with a proper sense of urgency. A high severity level should result in work stopping, at least the directly affected areas, until the hazard is controlled.

A low severity could wait until the next available worker can complete it, but there is less risk, so that is alright. Medium severity should be given more priority than low but doesn’t require a stop-work order.

3. Category

Although assigning a category isn’t vital to the corrective action process, it holds many long-term and bigger-picture benefits. Once you begin tracking categories, you will be able to analyze them to find patterns and trends. The most frequently cited categories will signal where your problem areas lie and allow you to focus your training where it is needed most.

To get started, you need to determine a list of categories your trade encounters and then label each corrective action with the most appropriate type. Some commonly used categories are:

  • Compressed Gas
  • Confined Space
  • Documentation
  • Electrical
  • Fall Protection
  • First Aid
  • Housekeeping
  • Hot Work / Fire Prevention
  • Ladders
  • Machines
  • PPE
  • Tools
  • Trenching
  • Vehicles

4. Recommended Control

The control is the action required to make the job site safe for your workers. The best control is eliminating the hazard entirely, but that is not always possible on a construction site. Therefore, a decision needs to be made as to the next highest level of protection.

We recommend using NIOSH’s Heircharcy of Controls (pictured below) to select the most feasible and effective option.

The selected control also needs to be very specific so that it is properly completed. For example, if there is an open hole in a floor, you need to say more than “protect the hole.” You could request a railing is built around it, or that it is covered with a piece of plywood and marked ‘Hole.’

These decisions should be made by someone with more safety training than a standard tradesperson, such as a foreman, supervisor or safety director.

5. Assigned to

In addition to being specific about the control, you also need to assign a particular person to action it. When the owner of the control is made clear, there is a much better chance it gets completed.

For example, when you say something such as “Somone, cover that hole,” it’s possible the crew will each assume someone else is doing it. You should also be clear with the person you assign that you expect them to do the work and not pass it on to someone else.

6. Follow Up

Every corrective action needs to be followed up on to ensure its completion. Sometimes this happens at a later time but it’s also possible soon after the hazard is identified.

For example, if the hole in the floor gets covered and marked before leaving the job site, you can update the status of the corrective action to ‘complete.’ However, if you opted for a railing and it won’t be complete until the end of the day, the status remains as ‘open’ until it is confirmed as complete.

The follow-up should always be done by someone in a leadership role, not the person assigned to complete it, so that it is verified as complete and correct.

How to Use Corrective Actions Effectively

When hazards are managed proactively, through formal corrective actions, the number of work-related injuries and illnesses is drastically reduced. However, it will take the efforts of your entire construction team to be successful at this.

Everyone will need to do their part, and that means from the top of the company down. If your company culture is to prioritize production over safety, this program simply will not work.

In order to increase your chances of success when using corrective actions, we suggest you implement the ideas in this article: Top 5 Ways to Foster a Safety Culture in Your Construction Business

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Safety Best Practice Safety News

Roofing: The Most Dangerous Construction Trade

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports roofing as the trade with the highest fatality rate of all construction trades and the 4th highest of all occupations.

I’ve worked for a few roofing companies and know that it is a risky profession, but this statistic still came as a shock. Had I guessed, I probably would have said electricians or trench workers were the riskiest trade.

This article looks at why roofing is the most dangerous trade and ways every one of us can help change that.

How to Determine Risk Levels in Construction

Construction hazard risk levels are evaluated based on two components, the probability of its occurrence and the severity of a resulting injury. With those two pieces of information in hand, we can use the chart below to determine the level of risk.

We know that roofers have a high exposure risk to falls, putting them in row D. We also know that falls are the leading cause of death in construction, putting them in column 4.

(Image source: IHSA)

That puts the roofing profession in the bottom right corner of the chart, at the highest level of risk possible.

However, ironworkers also work at heights and even more around leading edges. They, too, are in the highest risk category, yet their fatality rate is half that of roofing.

The difference between the two trades is in the control measures they use, or more accurately, don’t use. Any trade in the high-risk category should be implementing the highest level of controls to mitigate those hazards.

What Are High-Level Fall Protection Controls?

According to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.501, every time an employee is working higher than six feet, they must utilize some form of fall protection. In short, that means roofing contractors need to:

  • Provide and ensure workers wear proper personal fall arrest systems
  • Set up adequate anchor points to tie off to
  • Set up guardrails or warning lines when applicable
  • Train employees on how to use the safety equipment and safe work practices

It’s not rocket science, yet for some reason, the number one most frequently cited OSHA standard is lack of fall protection. It is one of the highest risks and very often goes completely uncontrolled.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study on the effect of personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) on falls in construction. Here are three of their key findings:

  1. 54% of workers who fell were not provided access to PFAS by their employers
  2. 23% of workers who fell had access to a PFAS but chose not to wear one
  3. Lack of access was highest among residential roofing, siding and sheet metal contractors at 70%

This means the majority of fall-related deaths are preventable. Roofers should be the most safety-conscious trade out there, but they aren’t.

Why Don’t Roofing Companies Use Safety?

Over the many years that I’ve been in the construction safety industry, I’m confident I’ve heard all the excuses for why safety measures aren’t in place. For roofing companies, they usually boil down to one main reason, time.

Roofing crews (particularly residential) are often on more than one project a day. Every project requires a safety setup, no matter its size. That means sometimes the configuration takes longer than the job itself.

Add on to that the fact that roofing (especially residential) is an incredibly competitive industry, which drives prices down. Less income means companies need to keep costs low to make a profit. The most utilized tactic for keeping costs low is to increase production over less time. Less time allotted to complete projects means corners get cut. Since safety requires ‘extra’ time, it is often the first to go.

What You Can Do to Help Stop Construction Fall Fatalities

Everybody can do their part to fix this problem and save lives.

Contractors:

Workers:

  • use the PFAS’s they are provided
  • leave a company that refuses to provide them

General Public:

  • make informed decisions to hire professional companies
  • ensure the company you hire utilizes high-level safety controls
  • recognize that the cheapest contractor is not likely the safest

What Harness is Doing to Help

We have launched a free version of our app to make safety toolbox talks accessible and affordable for all contractors. It is not a trial; it is a free plan for as long as you want it.

We even have roofing-specific toolbox talks available in our library, which is just one reason we are the number one safety app used by roofers.

Learn more about our free plan.

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Best In Class How to... Safety Best Practice

Why You Should Have a Joint Health and Safety Committee at Your Construction Company

Construction companies who are successful in keeping their employees safe and keeping their insurance premiums low, accomplish that by creating safety policies and then putting them into action.

These companies go above and beyond local and federal regulations to ensure their workers make it home every day. These additional measures are referred to as industry best practices.

In the United States, one of the most common best practices is the creation and operation of a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). In Canada, it is mandated in most provinces for companies with 20 or more employees and/or projects that last more than three months.

What is a Joint Health and Safety Committee?

A JHSC is a group of employees with varying roles and responsibilities within the company, who meet on a regular basis to discuss internal health and safety matters.

The committee should be comprised of an equal number of worker representatives and management representatives, who work together with the same goal of making the workplace safer for everyone. A minimum of two designated people from each side is ideal.

The workers on the committee bring an in-depth knowledge of job-related tasks and hazards, while the management representatives have a strong understanding of the company as a whole.

Structuring the committee in this way also lends itself to better communication with the worker group as a whole. Employees are more likely to address safety concerns with their peer who is also the committee rep as there is no fear of repercussion.

Roles on the committee are usually filled via nomination and vote by the workforce as a whole. It’s a good idea for the company to provide successful candidates with some additional safety training.

What Are The Responsibilities of a JHSC?

A JHSC acts as a resource of health and safety matters and a form of communication between employer and employee. They advocate for the implementation of the company’s health and safety policy and program. A JHSC has four main responsibilities:

  1. Identify hazards and other unsafe situations through their job site inspections and collecting them from other employees.
  2. Conduct investigations when incidents occur, including a near miss.
  3. Make recommendations on appropriate control measures to the employer, and hold them accountable to follow through on their decisions.
  4. Keep records of all meetings, inspections, investigations, and recommendations.

What Are the Benefits of a JHSC?

An improvement on the health and safety record of the company as a whole is the number one goal of a JHSC but there are other benefits, including:

  • Creates a culture of safety within the company
  • Aids in worker retention (less likely to leave when they feel empowered and engaged)
  • Committee itself conducts tasks required by OSHA, keeping the company compliant in many ways
  • Can reduce language barriers when a committee member is bilingual
  • Builds connections between workers and management
  • Puts advocates of your safety policy and program on the front lines

How Technology Can Help Your JHSC Run Smoothly

Every member of your JHSC has other roles and responsibilities within the company. When provided with tools such as a safety management system, the committee will be able to better communicate and keep themselves organized.

An ideal situation would be to have a customized hazard notification form available electronically to your workforce which would be automatically sent to the committee upon submission.

Having one central database for the committee to conduct inspections, investigations and store the findings would make their job easier and faster.

Having access to all their findings also creates an opportunity for them to view analytics, so they may better determine trends and can focus their attention where it is most valuable.

Find out how Harness can help in all these ways and more by booking a customized demo.

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Safety Best Practice Training

The Mental Health and Suicide Epidemic in Construction: Why it’s Happening and How You Can Help

The suicide rate for those with a career in the construction industry is nearly 4 times higher than the national average. Read that again. If you work in the construction industry, you are four times more likely to die by suicide than someone who does not.

We all know construction is a hazardous job, yet construction workers are more likely to die by suicide than all the other job site hazards, combined. There are on average 3 construction-related fatalities per day, compared to 10-12 construction workers who die by suicide per day.

Yet, for some reason, mental health is not a standard part of the health and safety program of most construction companies.

Why is Mental Health and Suicide Such a Problem in Construction?

Men, in general, are at higher risk of suicide than women, and they dominate the industry. They also typically refrain from discussions surrounding their feelings with their peers, adding to the feelings of isolation. The industry also employs a lot of veterans, who are even more at risk than men in general.

However, there are many other industries dominated by men which do not have the same mental health statistics, so there has to be more to it than gender.

In the past, suicide has solely been linked to untreated (or mistreated) mental health issues. However, studies now show the workplace environment is a major contributing factor.

Employment is supposed to offer us a sense of purpose and provide us with social interaction and stability. On the other hand, negative or toxic work environments can lead to disconnection and despair.

Below is a list of factors that tend to lead to negative employee perceptions of their workplace:

  • Work that isn’t meaningful or rewarding (little exposure to the finished product or effect)
  • Work-family conflict (demands at work spill into family life, hours, pay levels, etc)
  • Low job control (lack of decision-making ability, lack of variety in job tasks)
  • Excessive pressure and expectations to work overtime
  • Prejudice and discrimination at work
  • Work-related sleep disruption (early and or late shifts)
  • Exposure to dangerous elements at work (jobs with a high risk of fatalities)
  • A culture of poor self-care and coping strategies (bottling feelings, drugs, alcohol)

Many of these factors are rampant within the construction industry, thereby leading to a higher rate of mental health issues and suicide. Regardless of the reasons why it is this way, it has to change. We need to take better care of our construction workers.

What Can Construction Employers do to Combat the Mental Health Epidemic?

There are two major ways that construction companies can proactively reduce the chances of mental health issues and suicide among their employees.

1. Fix Your Company Culture

Take a good hard, honest look at your company culture and ask yourself if the factors listed above are existent there. If they are, the first step is to eliminate them, or at least reduce them. These changes need to directly reflect the areas your company needs improvement with but here are some ideas to get your creativity flowing:

  • Email your staff with pictures of the final products they were a part of constructing, so they may feel a pride in their workmanship
  • If the days are too long, implement shifts or shorten the number of working days in a week (half get Monday’s off and half get Friday’s off)
  • Include your employees in decision-making opportunities, even if it’s not their field of expertise, ie, have a vote on the new company logo
  • Have conversations and provide coaching surrounding discrimination, work-life balance, healthy eating, coping strategies and more

2. Implement a Suicide Prevention Program

You should already have a formal health and safety program, now is the time to add a section on suicide prevention. Below is how to do that.

What is a Suicide Prevention Program?

The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention uses the acronym STAND to advocate for construction companies to address suicide prevention as a health and safety priority by:

Creating SAFE cultures

The first step is to understand mental health issues, recognize your company’s part in it and commit to making improvements by adding them to your health and safety program. A culture of safety as a priority is best achieved from the top level of management down and must include actions, not just empty promises.

Providing TRAINING to identify and help those at risk

Just the same as you have dedicated First Aid / CPR trained employees on your sites, so should you have employees formally trained in suicide intervention. Additionally, conduct company-wide training on typical warning signs and how to refer a coworker who you are concerned about.

Raising AWARENESS about the suicide crisis in construction

This should be conducted internally through individual check-ins, toolbox talks, and team meetings as well as externally through newsletters and social media. Ensure the families of your employees also receive this information so they can educate themselves and watch for signs as well.

NORMALIZING conversations around suicide and mental health

Talk about the importance of mental health, hang posters, make it normal and acceptable to ask for help, and to take a ‘mental health break’. Encourage other contractors, distributors, and trade associations to do the same.

Ultimately DECREASING the risks associated with suicide in construction

Provide access to mental health care through employee benefit packages, offer self-screening tools, and provide access to crisis support hotlines via phone and text.

How Harness is Committed to Help

At Harness, we have recognized that, as leaders in the construction health and safety industry, we have a responsibility to raise awareness of this issue. In response to that, we have committed to providing all contractors with FREE access to construction-specific toolbox talks focused on mental health and suicide prevention.

We have included these toolbox talks as a downloadable resource at the end of this article and have also added them to the selection of digital toolbox talks included in the free version of our safety app. Learn more about our FREE Plan or download the paper resources by clicking the button below.

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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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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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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.

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Top Vehicle Safety Toolbox Talk Topics Your Employees Need to Hear

The average motor vehicle accident costs employers approx $16,000 in property damage and lost productivity. If an injury results from the accident, you must also factor in medical expenses and legal fees. Next thing you know, that number rises to an average of $74,000.

Costs can exceed $500,000 when there is a fatality.

Vehicles can be the cause of injuries even outside collisions, fingers get slammed in doors, loads fall off trucks, ankles get twisted jumping down from tailgates, and more.

Combine that with the fact that motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death, and it becomes very clear that training your workers on vehicle safety should be a top priority for your company.

Why Is Vehicle Safety Overlooked as a Toolbox Talk?

Vehicle safety isn’t often covered as a toolbox talk topic because we don’t tend to consider them a part of a construction site. However, your employees come into contact with vehicles throughout the workday for a variety of reasons:

  1. To transport employees to and from the job site
  2. To transport material and equipment
  3. Other trades with vehicles on site
  4. Material deliveries to the site
  5. Public use of personal vehicles nearby

Construction workers come in contact with vehicles frequently, and the seriousness of a resulting injury is potentially fatal. These two factors make vehicles a high-risk hazard.

Luckily most accidents are preventable by providing your employees with training through Toolbox Talks.

Vehicle Safety Toolbox Talk Topics

The fact that construction workers come in contact with vehicles in such a variety of ways means you should be training them on the hazards which arise based on the type of exposure.
One toolbox talk covering vehicle safety in general—although a good start—is not enough to prevent future accidents.

We recommend breaking the topic of ‘Vehicle Safety’ into subcategories and providing training on each one separately.

1. Drivers

In the eyes of OSHA, the job site extends to vehicles used for work related matters.

Accidents covered under OSHA standards includes:

  • Employees driving company vehicles
  • Employees driving personal vehicles for work purposes
  • Passengers in company vehicles

If an accident occurs during an employee’s commute to or from work—even in a company vehicle—OSHA determines those trips are non-work related. Otherwise, if they were injured in a vehicle accident while on the clock, OSHA considers it a recordable case.

This should be reason enough for you to provide your employees with driving-specific training to anyone who drives for work purposes.

In addition to formal training, you should be covering the following topics during your toolbox talks:

  • Defensive driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Mobile phones
  • Difficult weather conditions
  • Managing blown / flat tires
  • Accident reporting
  • Emergency Response

2. Materials and Equipment

Just because you aren’t driving a vehicle doesn’t mean you can’t be injured by one. Many construction employees spend at least part of their day managing materials and equipment in, on and around vehicles.

Whether they are running materials to a site, transferring materials in the back of their pickup truck, pulling a trailer, or unloading a manufacturer’s delivery, they all involve exposure to vehicle hazards.

Just because a hazard doesn’t tend to be life-threatening isn’t a reason to overlook it. Non-fatal construction injuries are more common and can be incredibly disabling to employees and costly to employers.

Covering everyday circumstances such as how to properly dismount from a tailgate lowers the chances someone is injured during these seemingly monotonous but potentially hazardous tasks:

  • Securing loads
  • Tarping loads
  • Using Trailers
  • Unloading material from vehicles
  • Receiving deliveries

3. Other Vehicles On Site

No job site is complete without some sort of vehicle on it. It could be as simple as another trade leaving on their lunch break or a steady flow of concrete trucks pouring a foundation.

Every single construction worker on site is responsible for their own safety. Meaning, while a driver is responsible for not running people over, individuals are also responsible for making sure they themselves aren’t run over.

In short, everyone who is on site needs training on how to avoid being hit, run over or backed into by vehicles they are not in control of. These toolbox talk topics are a great way to achieve that:

  • Backing vehicles
  • Hand signals
  • Dump Trucks
  • Concrete trucks

4. Working on or Near Public Roadways

Working in the vicinity of the general public immediately introduces more hazards. Obviously, there is a specific level of care that a construction site must put into keeping the public safe from the hazards they create, but in this case, it’s the other way around.

Working on or near public roadways is an additional exposure to construction workers, caused by vehicles driven by the public. The general public do not have the additional training that construction workers have and may be thrown by an unexpected construction site in their path.

While traffic control workers should have more formalized training, it is important to train all of your workers on the hazards of general public drivers if they are going to be working on or near public roadways. Here are some good topics:

  • Warning systems
  • Traffic control person
  • Pedestrians

Where Do You Get These Toolbox Talks?

Having access to all of the toolbox talks listed above is a feature we offer our clients here at Harness. However, if you are not yet a client, you should check with your local trade association as they often have this kind of information available to their members.

Good, Better, Best in Vehicle Safety Training

The best scenario is that your company has a specific vehicle safety program customized to the needs of your company as a part of your safety manual and program.

If you aren’t quite that advanced yet, you should aim to deliver and track formalized driver training and follow up with toolbox talk refreshers.

If you are just getting started, you need to conduct weekly toolbox talks and cover vehicle hazards as some of your topics. If you’d like help conducting them, Harness has a free plan which includes sending, reviewing, capturing and downloading toolbox talks.

Find out more about it by clicking the button below.