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How Employee Mental Health Can Help The Construction Labor Shortage

I want to share three quick facts with you and make a suggestion that could have a significant positive impact on your company’s ability to attract and retain workers.

  1. Construction workers are more likely to die by suicide than by all other job site hazards, combined
  2. The number one cause of their depression, leading up to their decision to take their own life, is a toxic work environment
  3. Toxic company culture is also the number one reason construction workers quit their jobs

The good news is, you can turn it all around by putting a focus on the mental health of your employees. There are two proven ways to do that:

  • Incorporate mental health into your health and safety program
  • Make some improvements to your company culture

I have outlined exactly how to accomplish these two tasks and the resources you need to be successful in a Construction Mental Health Toolkit.

The toolkit contains:

– a template letter to management outlining the issue and the reasons taking action makes smart business sense

– a step by step guide to improving the mental health at your company

– the top toxic company culture factors found in the industry and ways to eliminate them

warning signs and appropriate ways to respond

– a mental health wellness check to offer your employees for self-screening

– questions to ask during a supervisor check-in, and how to respond

– three mental health toolbox talks with Spanish translations

Making the changes outlined in the toolkit is sure to:

  • Improve the atmosphere at work
  • Help retain workers
  • Attract new workers
  • Save lives

As a leader in the construction health and safety industry, Harness Software has a moral obligation to help fight this epidemic in every way possible. That is why we are offering the toolkit to you, absolutely free with no obligation.

We’ve done all the legwork for you, all you need to do is implement it. Start by downloading the toolkit below.

Best In Class Safety News

Harness Launches Major Redesign Of Its Construction Safety App

Harness has worked with customers over a three-year period to add exciting new features and an improved look & feel to the app that was already loved by the field.

November 22nd, 2021

Harness Software announced today that it is launching a new version of its much-loved safety app for contractors. Dubbed by the Harness team as “Harness V2”, the new version is a ground-up rebuild of the app that first launched in 2017 and is used daily by over 35,000 field personnel across North America.

Here are just some of the new features in V2:

Completely redesigned look & feel

Based on input from field personnel, Harness now has a slicker, easier-to-navigate look that incorporates larger fonts & buttons, quicker transitions between pages, and a better way to identify what workers should be doing on each screen.

The “Inbox”

The new landing screen in Harness V2 shows a worker exactly what they need to focus on that day. Workers will get notifications in their inbox when they’re assigned a toolbox talk, miss an important safety activity, have a new training lesson to perform, or when they’re assigned a corrective action item by safety staff or management.

Improved Photo Handling & Editing

Workers that add photos to forms in Harness will now be able to see a preview of their photo on-screen AND perform edits on the photo such as cropping, rotating, adding annotations etc…Similar to other popular photo apps, Harness will still tag photos with time & date stamps and collect all photos added to Harness in a single view so you can browse them whenever you like. Watch a demo of the photo module below.

Lessons & Certifications

Companies now have access to a more comprehensive learning management module in Harness V2. Our team will help you create engaging lessons that can be taken by workers on any device with dynamic, custom-designed quizzes to prove a worker’s understanding of the training material.

The improved certifications tracker stores both internal and external training records for all your workers AND you can easily share those records via QR code with third parties such as general contractors, OSHA inspectors, and more.

Better Compliance & Performance Reporting

Companies told us they wanted Harness to help them answer two main questions; Is everyone in the field doing what they’re supposed to in terms of safety activities? And “Are safety best practices being adhered to on our job sites?

The new dashboards available in Harness V2 make answering both these questions easy. We provide real-time visualizations that can help managers & safety personnel identify top performers, areas of improvement, and high-risk conditions at a glance. Watch a demo of the reporting and compliance feature below.

Want to learn more about what’s in Harness V2? Book a demo today!

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



Office Admin:


  • 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.

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

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.

Best In Class How to... Training

10 Topics to Cover When Training New Construction Workers

Prior to 2017, New York City was suffering through what some experts called “an epidemic of construction fatalities”. The city was experiencing a building boom. But construction workers in America’s largest city weren’t being properly trained and they were being injured and killed on the job in record numbers. In 2017 alone there were 12 fatalities on NYC construction sites. The vast majority due to falls. A staggering number jolted the city into action.

Later that year, New York City passed a new law (Local Law 196) that mandated a set number of safety training hours for EVERY person working on a construction site. The total number of required hours ranges from 30 for low-level trades workers to 60 for supervisors. There are several approved courses that workers are obligated to complete from a general OSHA 10 certificate to more in-depth fall protection training.

The motivation behind passing this law stems from the fact that properly trained workers are less likely to get injured or killed on the job and the statistics are proving that to be true. A study conducted on the impacts of Local Law 196 reports that injuries in 2018 were lower than those in 2017 and lower again in 2019, in relation to the increase in the number of active construction projects.

Lack of training isn’t just a problem in New York. All across America, young construction workers are being injured and dying on the job.

As CEO of Harness Software, I’ve seen first hand what top trade contractors across North America do to provide their workers with the training necessary to stay safe and be productive. We’ve provided our clients with effective tools to deliver the right training but more important than any training tool is the training content. And that’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.

What to Include in a Construction Worker Orientation

The most important measure you can take to prevent workplace injuries is a detailed new hire orientation for each worker. The OSHA Alliance Program explains that a proper orientation should cover at a minimum:

1. Overview of Management Commitment to Safety and Employer/Employee Rights and Responsibilities:

  • Explain management’s commitment to safety and health and safety and health written policies
  • Describe the employer’s responsibilities (e.g., General Duty Clause of the OSH Act)
  • Explain the employee responsibilities/rights, the scope of work, and job expectations

2. Explanation and Review of the Company’s Safety and Health Program/Policies including:

  • Review the hazard communication program, including how to find Safety Data Sheets
  • Review the incident reporting and investigations program
  • Identify the company’s competent persons, when required, and their specific roles
  • Review the employee accountability policy
  • Review the drug and alcohol policy
  • Review the discrimination and anti-harassment policy
  • Review the workplace violence prevention policy
  • Review the property damage policy
  • Explain how employees can provide feedback to the company

3. Overview of Applicable Safety and Health Regulatory Requirements, including Employee Workplace Rights:

  • Provide an overview of OSHA requirements/right to file a complaint
  • Explain that employees have a right to a safe and healthful workplace, and to how to report unsafe workplace conditions (e.g., proper chain of command/protocol) and include a statement that there will be no retaliation for reporting them
  • Review applicable state, regional, and local municipality requirements, ordinances, codes, etc., pertaining to safety and health, as necessary by local management and/or the joint employer and worker safety and health committee (if applicable)

4. Explanation of Site-Specific Information:

  • Explain the identified safety and health hazards present, or anticipated hazards on the site (e.g. falls, electrical, confined space, hazardous materials)
  • Explain the unique hazards or special challenges specific to the employee’s specific job, or scope of work

5. Overview of Hazard Identification, Assessment, and Correction:

  • Review how to identify and correct hazards, including when employees have the training, knowledge, and skills to do so
  • Review the Job Hazard Analysis (JHAs)
  • Review identified hazard assessment tools (e.g., inspections, checklists, and reports)
  • Encourage participation in the joint employer and worker safety and health committee
  • Inform employees on how they will be informed of hazard abatements and corrections

6. Overview of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Explain the mandatory/required use of PPE (e.g., hard hat, gloves, goggles, safety vest)
  • Explain that PPE will be tasked according to the scope of work
  • Verify that training on specific PPE, including proper use of safety harnesses, was conducted in a manner/language the employee understands
  • Review the company’s respiratory protection, hearing protection, fall prevention, and other PPE programs, when appropriate

7. Overview of the Verification/Evaluation Process

  • Ensure the information provided has been clearly presented and understood in a language that employees understand (i.e., written, oral, or work practice evaluation)

8. Overview of Reporting Protocols

  • Explain how to report incidents, such as near misses, and include a statement that there will be no retaliation for reporting them
  • Explain that accurate reporting of incidents will be emphasized to continuously improve worker safety and the company’s safety and health program
  • Explain how employees will be provided the results and follow-up actions of incident investigations

9. Explanation of Employee Participation

  • Explain that employees should participate in the safety and health program and how this participation will benefit them and their fellow employees
  • Ensure that front line employees will be included in the safety and health committee (when applicable)
  • Explain that the safety and health orientation will be interactive and encourage employee participation (e.g. worker voice)
  • Ensure that employees have sufficient time for questions and answers
  • Ensure that employees will be given additional training as needed for safely fulfilling their duties

10. Overview of Emergency Procedures:

  • Explain the emergency procedures (medical, spill, fire, evacuation, etc.), including the location of first-aid supplies, fire extinguishers, rally points, etc.
  • Identify where emergency contact numbers may be accessed

How To Make A New Worker Orientation Effective

If your eyes glazed over while you read that list of included topics, you’re not alone. It’s a ton of information to cover. The problem is, if the information isn’t delivered effectively, the new hire is likely to miss some important information that could potentially save their life.

Even worse, they could tune out altogether and the opportunity to foster your company’s commitment to safety will be lost. You can avoid both situations by ensuring your content is delivered in a way that keeps the new worker focused and engaged.

Some ideas to help better the delivery of your safety program include:

  • Varying your delivery techniques (instructor-led, self-directed reading, discussion-based)
  • Using teaching aids (videos, images, graphs, brochure takeaways, etc)
  • Making it hands-on (demonstrations, practical opportunities, and quizzes)

We do a deeper dive into the specifics of these suggestions in our article 5 Ways to Make Safety More Engaging for Construction Workers.

How to Document When Orientations Are Completed

The last but not the least important step is to document the Onboarding Session as complete. In the eyes of all the governing bodies, if it wasn’t documented, as far as they are concerned, it didn’t happen.

Some companies opt to record the training in a spreadsheet, others hand out actual paper certificates. The strongest record though is a digital one. We recommend using technology such as a safety management system to record and track all training certifications for all your employees. To read more and even watch a demo about how Harness helps companies track training, click here.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Best In Class

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.

Best In Class

5 Key Tasks to Make Your Construction Safety Program Amazing

Warning: If you are not currently operating a successful safety program at your construction company, you are NOT ready for the tasks described below.

These suggested tasks make the assumption that you are already conducting Toolbox Talks, JHA’s, Site Inspections, tracking Training and Incident Reports. If you are only doing a few of these tasks, you should read my article 5 Simple Tasks to Improve your Safety Program instead.

Otherwise, it sounds like you are ready to take your safety program to the highest level, and I couldn’t be more excited for you. Maybe you are the next generation, taking over the family business and you need to make your mark, or you are looking to really wow your boss this year and nail that promotion.

Whatever your motivation is, here are 5 ways you can join the best in the business as safety rock stars:

1. Create Site Specific Safety Plans

You probably already have a written safety program that covers safety on all your projects from start to finish. A site specific safety plan takes what you are already using and adds more specific safety measures to it.

You should create one for all major jobs that your crews will be on for an extended period of time and for jobs with unusual hazards your workers are not accustomed to.

In addition to standard project information, the plan should include:

  • Location of the nearest hospital
  • Emergency contacts
  • Name of competently trained person on site
  • Hazards specific to the site
  • Specific instructions on how to control each hazard
  • A list of safety equipment required
  • Pictures (general site and specific hazards)

In advance of the project starting, share the plan with the key workers onsite so they can put some forethought into it and collect the equipment they will need. On day one of the project, meet with all workers onsite to review the plan and do a physical walkthrough. Taking the time to complete these steps will significantly reduce the chance of an incident onsite.

2. Track Near Misses

A near miss is anytime something happens on site that comes very close to causing harm to someone or would have come close if someone was in the vicinity. Here are some examples of near misses:

  • Someone trips on an extension cord but does not harm themselves
  • A forklift bumps a skid of material, it teeters but does not fall
  • A worker drops a hammer down the stairs but nobody was near

The only difference between these near misses and an incident is luck. Had someone been injured, it would have triggered an investigation into what went wrong and a plan to prevent the incident in the future.

Instead, if you record and investigate near misses the same way you would an incident, you are likely to prevent the incident from happening at all. It’s the same amount of work, just in a proactive manner instead of retroactive.

3. Analyze Safety Findings

If your safety program is fairly advanced, it likely produces a ton of paperwork. That paperwork is likely collected and filed away somewhere, never to be seen again.

This is unfortunate because the information contained in those reports could be the key to safer job sites. If you record the data from these reports into a spreadsheet (or better yet, use a safety management program to do that for you) you are then able to analyze it.

For example, by grouping and categorizing the safety deficiencies found on your site inspections, you’ll be able to find patterns and trends, and then apply changes to mitigate them. You’ll figure out if they are caused by specific workers, on certain projects, at certain times or whether other factors contribute to them.

Using the information you are already collecting, instead of filing it away, can be one of your biggest assets.

4. Conduct Annual Reviews

At least once a year, look up everything to do with safety for each of your employees, on an individual basis and then review it with them. Some items to include are:

  • Compliance with your program (Are they doing what they are supposed to?)
  • Training Certificates (Are any coming up for renewal? New courses to take?)
  • Incidents (Were they involved in any?)
  • Infractions (Were they written up at all?)
  • Attitude (Do they contribute to a safe company culture?)
  • Goals for the next year (What can they work on?)

Some companies go even further to make their reviews live by posting a leaderboard in their shop. A little friendly competition among co-workers doesn’t hurt.

Once you know who your safety rock stars are you can reward them and provide additional training to the ones who need help.

5. Continue Learning

The construction industry is always changing, and safety changes along with it. It’s important to stay on top of new regulations, new innovations and new ideas.

At the same time, there is a lot of information out there which can feel overwhelming. We suggest finding a few trusted sources of information and keep up with them.

Here are a few different options:

  • Sign up for a newsletter from a local and national trade association
  • Bookmark a few reliable construction news websites such as Construction Dive or Occupational Health & Safety
  • Find accounts with knowledgeable and free blogs and follow them on social media so you know when new blogs are posted. Ours are: Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn

In short, the more you know, the better so never stop learning!

You Are Not Alone

What we have just laid out for you would be virtually impossible without help. It’s likely your company has someone on the team dedicated to safety but even they are going to need help or they will spend most of their time hovered over spreadsheets and filing paperwork.

If you want to advance to the highest level of safety compliance, you must utilize technology. Using a safety management system is imperative to collecting complete, accurate information in a timely manner. That way, your safety rep has more time to be onsite, where they should be, inspecting, teaching and making proactive decisions.

There are a number of construction safety management apps on the market, and lucky for you, we’ve summarized them and provided direct links in a super convenient blog post, The 6 Best Construction Safety Apps – Ditch Paperwork Forever.

We’ve also written an article on How Much the Harness Safety App Costs, so there are no surprises when you are ready to book a demo to see Harness in action.

Best In Class

5 Simple Tasks to Improve Your Construction Safety Program

I am willing to bet that you own or work for an established construction company that already has a basic safety program in place. If I am wrong then you should definitely email me ( and I will pay out that bet to a charity of your choice. Then, you should switch over to my other article: 5 Easy Tasks to Start Your Construction Safety Program, and come back here when I’m not going to lose that bet again.

The reason you are still reading must be because you know your safety program can and should be better, you just don’t know how to achieve that. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you take it to the next level.

Here are 5 tasks that will improve your existing safety program:

1. Conduct Job Site Hazard Assessments

A Job Site Hazard Assessment (or JHA) is essentially a safety plan conducted by the foreman on site before work begins. It asks them to record the tasks they will work on that day and then generate a list of potential hazards that may arise from those tasks. Once they know what the hazards are, the final step is to design and implement a plan to eliminate, contain or reduce each hazard.

Having your foreman complete a JHA every morning puts safety front of mind on site and gives them practical ways to keep themselves safe. Additionally, it reduces your company’s liability in the event an incident were to occur.

This is especially true if a worker is negligent in using the safety measures from the JHA because you will have written proof of what they were advised to do. This ten-minute daily exercise can literally save lives and lawsuits.

2. Host Safety Meetings with the Whole Team

Ideally, your foreman should already be conducting a weekly Toolbox Talk with their crew on site in small groups. The next logical step is to run a similar meeting on a larger scale which delves deeper into a safety topic or issue and includes your entire workforce on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Select a topic for the theme of the meeting that is relevant to your trade, starting with the more common hazards. For example, a roofing company may start with ladder safety and personal fall arrest systems, whereas an electrical company would begin with something such as lock out / tag out.

You may also consider tackling topics that are trending in your documented infraction notices. If your team seems to be forgetting to wear safety glasses, you could focus on hazards related to eye and face protection.

If you have a dedicated safety person, they should be the ones running the meeting, and if not, it should be a person as high up as possible. In fact, all members of the management team should participate when possible, and at a minimum, be in attendance. The more your workforce sees your commitment to safety, the stronger your safety culture becomes.

To keep things fresh and interesting, consider inviting a guest speaker. This could be a safety expert from the community, someone who has experienced a workplace incident or an expert such as an ER doctor to talk about head trauma. I once attended a meeting with a police officer as a guest speaker about defensive driving techniques. The workers were hesitant at first, but were asking him tons of really good questions by the end.

These safety meetings are also an excellent opportunity to publicly praise or even hand out prizes to your safety leaders for that month.

3. Provide and Track Training

The best place to start your training program is by figuring out which training you should be providing and tracking. This will be different depending on your trade. Take a look at all the hazards your crews are recording on their JHA’s (outlined above in point 1) and use that to generate an exhaustive list of potential hazards.

Then go through the list and highlight the ones that are:

  • Most likely to occur based on how often the exposure occurs (ie painters exposure to chemicals)
  • Are most likely to result in serious injury or death if they do occur (ie silicosis for masons)
  • Both (ie fall from heights for roofers)

The highlighted list of hazards are where you should be providing training, with your focus being on any in the third category. The rest of your hazards can be covered during Toolbox Talks and Safety Meetings for now.

If you are a Canadian contractor, the IHSA provides a Training Requirements Chart as to what you are legally required to do, but the activity outlined above still doesn’t hurt.

If you are American, OSHA provides a basic training program called OSHA10, which is a good idea to have your workers complete but does not cover the hazards specific to your trade. The states of Nevada, Missouri, New York and Connecticut have actually made OSHA10 mandatory for all construction workers.

Now that you know what you need to cover, you can schedule your training. You do not need to teach this training yourself. We highly recommend hiring a safety professional to provide it for you. Most will join you at your office or shop and train your staff all together.

Once complete, the last step is to record who took the training, when and the date it expires. Tracking this information means you can stay on top of training before it expires and can provide it to authorities in the event of an incident or a site inspection.

4. Inspect all equipment

Conducting both formal and informal inspections of your equipment will reduce the likelihood of an incident and also save your company time and money. A malfunctioning piece of equipment can very easily slow down or halt production on your job site and cause injury to your workers. An issue that is caught and resolved during an inspection can save you the costs of replacement and lost time and maybe even the life of your employee.

An informal inspection is completed by the person who is about to use the equipment. It is in their best interest that the inspection is completed as it will most likely be them that is affected if an incident were to occur. This inspection is done to ensure all the parts of the equipment are accounted for and functioning properly. It does not need to be documented unless an issue is found.

A formal inspection is conducted in addition to the informal ones, usually by a supervisor or safety personnel. The date, serial number and results of the inspection are recorded, regardless of whether the item passes or fails. Some companies mark their equipment with a name (ie Cordless Drill 15) to make tracking easier.

The management team can then make sure every piece of equipment is inspected on a regular basis. Striving to have each item inspected once a month (at a minimum quarterly) is a pretty reasonable goal or expectation.

The types of equipment that should be included in these inspections are:

  • Safety equipment (i.e. personal fall protection systems, fire extinguishers, first aid kits)
  • Power, Pneumatic and Hand Tools (i.e. drills, saws, hammers)
  • Non mechanical equipment (i.e. ladders, scaffolding, wheelbarrows)
  • Mechanical equipment (i.e. compressors, generators, rock vacs)
  • Machines (i.e. forklifts, cranes, aerial lifts, skid steers)
  • Vehicles (including trailers)

5. Conduct Job Site Inspections

Most likely, you already have a supervisor who manages multiple job sites. They are probably already visiting the site to check up on the crews and track production. There is no reason why they can’t do a Site Safety Inspection while they are there.

They should be looking for worker compliance to safety protocols, such as proper personal protective equipment, safe use of equipment and proper material handling. You can generate a list of areas that they should focus on by revisiting the list you created when setting up your training program, outlined above in point 3.

This is a great time for the supervisor to review the JHA that was completed by the crew at the start of the day and make workers aware of any unexpected or unusual hazards that weren’t noted. It is also an excellent opportunity for on site teaching and to make suggestions on safer ways to work.

These inspections should be recorded and handed in to the management team for review, even when there are not any issues noted. The data collected in these reports is going to be invaluable when management decides they want to analyze and track anything safety related.

This All Feels Like a Lot of Work

I know, and I get it. In all likelihood, you are ‘in charge’ of safety but that isn’t all you are in charge of. When I was working at a construction company, my primary responsibility was running the service department, and for some reason safety was thrown in my lap and I’m not even sure why; it’s possible ‘Service’ and ‘Safety’ just sounded good together.

I didn’t have a safety background or the time to manage such an important duty. The key to my survival was delegation. Everything listed above does not (and in fact should not) fall on you. The foreperson of each crew should be conducting the JHA’s and their supervisors should be doing the site inspections. Equipment inspections need to be everyone’s responsibility but the formal ones can also be assigned to supervisors or even a back shop manager. You may need to set up the training program but once established, pass on the tracking and scheduling of training to someone on your Admin team.

Safety meetings are likely the only task listed that you need to take full ownership of. Other than that, someone needs to collect and track the paperwork that is about to be generated. This is the area that I had the most difficulty with and is why I turned to technology to help.

How Harness Can Save You From Drowning in Paperwork

Harness Safety Software is an App that completely eliminates paper from the safety process. Inspections that are conducted on site are done on the forepersons phone or tablet and immediately stored and available to office personnel. It comes complete with the following modules to make setting up and managing your safety program easy:

  • Forms / Inspections
  • Equipment Tracking
  • Lessons / Learning Guides
  • Training Management
  • Document Storage including all your manuals and safety data sheets

Best of all, Harness comes complete with a dedicated customer success manager who is personally available to help you set everything up and to train you on how to use it. Basically you get access to me as much as you need!

If you want to see Harness in action, click here to book a demo. Otherwise you’ll probably find these articles helpful:

What is a JHA? (Definition and Usage)
The 6 Best Construction Safety Apps – Ditch Paperwork Forever
How Much Does the Harness Safety App Cost?