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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 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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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.

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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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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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How to Implement an Effective Construction Disciplinary Program

As a responsible construction company, you have done all the right things; you’ve created procedures, outlined rules and taught your employees how to work safely.

Your workers know what is expected of them, and most of them are compliant, but there are a few that you know, the minute you turn your back, are breaking the rules.

You don’t want to fire them because qualified workers are rare these days, but you can’t afford to babysit them either; you have a business to run. You also can’t go on like this because you know an OSHA fine or an accident is imminent.

You may have already tried to implement some repercussions but found that enforcement was inconsistent from one supervisor to another and from site to site.

Informal programs such as these—that aren’t properly defined and documented—lead to confusion for your workers and cause more problems than they fix.

What is the Answer Then?

What you need is a fair and simple disciplinary program that gets progressively tougher and is consistently enforced. When you run a program like this, two things happen:

1. You’ll reduce the number of infractions on your sites

The instances when a worker didn’t know any better can be corrected through training. The instances of defiance should be punished with varying degrees of severity.

2. The infractions by workers against safety policy that do occur are documented

If an accident happens or an OSHA citation is received, you will have the documented paperwork to reduce the liability placed on your company.

For example, if you have written proof you wrote up Johnny three times (and even suspended him once) for not wearing his fall protection, and then he gets caught by OSHA, or worst case, he dies, you can use those documents to prove you did everything possible to protect him.

What you’ll find below is a program that will help protect you when your workers make stupid or careless mistakes.

What is a Construction Disciplinary Program Comprised of?

There are three components to a strong but fair disciplinary program:

1. A Policy

This is an overview of the whole disciplinary program that explains the reasons why it is in place, the rules you’ll enforce, and what happens if you break one.
At the end of this article, you will have an opportunity to download a workbook which includes a sample policy that you are welcome to modify for your own use.

2. The Rules

This section needs to outline what is covered under the policy. You will definitely want to include rules in regards to safety, such as wearing proper PPE and utilizing safe work procedures.

You may also want to add in performance standards, such as their level of workmanship, their attitude and their readiness to work.

Finally, you should consider including general company policies, such as unauthorized absences, cell phone usage and smoking policies.

Although we cannot create all the rules for you, we have included a list of areas to consider in the downloadable workbook at the end of this article.

3. Progressive Disciplinary Actions

This section includes the results of breaking one of the rules included in the policy. It is important that the resulting actions of an infraction progress in severity based on the seriousness of the rule and the number of occurrences.

The stages of disciplinary action usually look something like this:

  • Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Suspension
  • Termination

An infraction such as not wearing a hard hat would likely start at a verbal warning and move through each stage, possibly even repeating one or two stages.

However, you may decide that an infraction such as not wearing a personal fall arrest system when required will begin with a written warning or that violence in the workplace results in immediate termination.

The most important part of any of the disciplinary actions or stages (other than termination) is that it is always paired with some sort of training or counselling.

The type of training is up to you and will be dependent on the type of infraction and the reasoning for it. The point is that you need to show your company’s due diligence and not that you just handed out a slap on the wrist.

When you caught Johnny not wearing proper fall protection, if he said it was because he didn’t know he had to wear it when he was working on the porch, you may decide to send him for formal re-training on working at heights.

However, if he says he knew but was in a rush, you may choose to have a conversation with him and then sign a written warning confirming his knowledge that safety always comes before speed of production.

The final part of each disciplinary stage is always documentation. Even a verbal warning needs to be documented that it occurred.

If we don’t document, we will likely forget which worker is at which stage for which reason. Mostly though, we document because in the eyes of OSHA, the law and your insurance company, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.

Don’t worry, in the downloadable document at the end of this article, we have included an Infraction Notice Form that you can print, photocopy and begin using to document your workers missteps.

Disciplinary Programs Sound Like a lot of Paperwork

Depending on the number of hooligans you employ, you may be right. It can also be difficult to track the level and number of occurrences for an employee if you have a large staff.

For example, our friend Johnny could fly under the radar, racking up personal fall protection infractions on multiple sites from multiple supervisors before someone in the office collects all the paperwork and realizes what is happening.

It also can be difficult to produce this paperwork in the event that something does happen. If you receive an OSHA citation because of Johnny, the work you put into tracking his infractions is worthless unless you can put your hands on the reports, and they could span over multiple years.

What’s the Solution Then?

The answer to the paperwork problem is simple – technology. A safety management system such as Harness is designed to eliminate paperwork, which in turn eliminates the bottleneck of paperwork collection and the accessibility of the paperwork once it’s filed.

When an infraction occurs for our clients, they are able to look up the employee from their mobile device, view their past offences, and hand out the correct level of discipline.

To get started with a paper program today, simply download our Disciplinary Program Workbook by clicking the button below.

If you are ready to skip right to the technology solution, book a demo and we’ll show you how Harness can make your company safer and more efficient.

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How to... Safety News

Top 5 Costly Construction Injuries & How to Mitigate Them

Having a fatal accident on your job site is obviously the most tragic situation and the most costly to the employer. However, workplace injuries which cause an employee to miss more than five days of work, while less physically serious, can also come with a costly burden on the employer.

In fact, disabling injuries cost U.S businesses more than $59 Billion per year. This is determined by combining medical and lost-wage expenses, not even taking into account potential fines and insurance increases.

When I was working for a small residential roofing company, one of our Foremen slipped on a small patch of ice while getting out of his truck at the shop and damaged his achilles tendon.

He required months of physical therapy and was told, until he recovered, he could not walk on sloped surfaces. That’s kind of an issue when you shingle roofs for a living.

As the employer, we were required to offer him modified work at his normal rate of pay. Ever paid someone $35 an hour to sweep your shop? All day? For almost a year?

Top Non-Fatal Construction Injuries

Luckily for you, Liberty Mutual Insurance has put together the most costly, non-fatal injuries in the construction industry, and we have summarized them below:


Rank Injury Cost in Billions Percent of Total
1 Falls to Lower Level $2.5 24.1%
2 Struck by Object or Equipment $1.7 16.7%
3 Overexertion Involving Outside Sources $1.48 14.2%
4 Falls on Same Level $1.36 13.1%
5 Pedestrian Vehicular Incidents $0.79 7.63%

How to Prevent The Most Costly Injuries at Your Company

Understanding these risks is only the first step to preventing them on your job sites. You also need to train your employees on how to protect themselves from these hazards.

The best way to do that is by conducting Toolbox Talks on topics which relate to each hazard. We have recommended a few from the Harness library for each injury type below.


Injury Toolbox Topics
Falls to Lower Level Fall Protection Systems

Ladder Set Up & Use

Scaffolding Components

Floor Openings

Struck by Object or Equipment Transporting Hand Tools

Trash Disposal

Compressor Tools

Flying Forms

Overexertion Involving Outside Sources Material Handling

Proper Lifting

Ergonomics

Working on Knees

Falls on Same Level Wet & Icy Surfaces

Tripping Hazards

Unloading Material

Housekeeping

Pedestrian Vehicular Incidents Distracted Driving

Vehicle Hand Signals

Public Traffic Control

Backing Vehicles


Our clients have access to each of these talks in their account, but you can also reach out to your local trade association or even Google them.

Finally, you should make sure your employees are listening and engaged during training so that the information is retained.

Hopefully, by being better prepared for these workplace hazards, you won’t end up with the most expensive shop hand ever.

To read more about how Harness makes conducting Toolbox Talks easy, click the button below.

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Construction Technology How to...

10 Steps for Selecting & Implementing Technology in Construction

It was 6 am, and I was in Pittsburg, on my way to conduct a training session for a roofing company that was one of our early beta clients. I had spent the previous months writing code and incorporating their feedback on their pain points.
This was to be our first “real” deployment, and I felt confident that we had done everything possible to prepare. Boy was I wrong….

The first step in our training was to install the Harness web app on everyone’s smartphone or tablet. I had prepared a list of written instructions and also had slides projected on the wall.
The first instruction was “Open Your Web Browser.”

The response came almost immediately…

“What the f!$k is a web browser?”

I had to rethink my whole game plan.

Construction: The Last Frontier Of Technology

Construction workers are a special breed. I mean that in the best way possible. These are the guys that build the roofs over our heads and giant skyscrapers that define our cities; they are incredibly talented.

They’re great at taking ideas from drawings and blueprints and turning them into reality. But when it comes to technology that most of us view as commonplace – smartphones, apps, computers – these mighty workers often struggle.

Lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, and restaurant workers are all using apps to help them with their daily work. These apps solve critical operational problems, such as sharing documents, promoting communication, and billing customers, yet penetration rates of these solutions in construction, lag far behind.

Recent studies have shown that unlike other industries, productivity has not improved over time in construction. In fact, it may actually cost more and take longer to complete a project today than it did twenty years ago.

How Worker Age and Culture Sets Construction Behind

Age is certainly a factor. Older workers began their careers before cellphones were in everyone’s pockets. They didn’t grow up surfing the web and touching screens like Millennials and Gen Z do.

Plans, work orders, and schedules are printed out, and there is likely a clipboard for every foreman. They like it that way because “that’s the way they’ve always done it.”

These workers still dominate the industry, which means lots of processes that should have evolved have stayed the same to accommodate their resistance to change.

But that won’t last forever. In fact, as the baby boomers are now reaching retirement, they’re beginning to leave the workforce in droves. The construction industry is now facing a shortage of skilled workers, and companies don’t have the luxury of taking a wait-and-see stance.

This is especially true when you consider that it takes eight to twelve years for a worker to acquire the skills and knowledge of a trade professional.

Obviously, these workers need to be replaced with new, younger employees.

It’s become quite clear that the younger generations are looking for ways to work smarter, not harder, and therefore aren’t attracted to the construction trades’ paper-centric processes.

They’re expecting to use technology to perform their daily work. That’s a big problem for firms that don’t embrace change now, making it impossible for them to recruit and retain workers.

Employee Efficiency in Tools vs. Tech

As the materials, techniques, and tools they use on the job have advanced, construction workers have adjusted very well because they can see the benefits for themselves. Why use an old-fashioned hammer when you could use a sleek nail gun and get your work done faster?

Some companies have pushed back on the technology resistance and moved forward with new processes. They have found that even older workers are able to adapt to change if they understand why it’s necessary and how it can make their job easier.

Although, it is a tougher sell when it comes to technology like smartphones and tablets because they don’t appear to impact their actual work as much. But they can.

There are amazing apps in the marketplace that enable better daily production reporting, time tracking, safety, and material ordering.

10 Steps To Overcome Construction Industry Challenges

As we’ve discussed, technology is the key to addressing challenges in the construction industry. Labor shortages, more competition, and increasing costs for materials mean that companies MUST look for solutions in order to stay in business. Here is how to find the right ones for your company.

1) Set Your Priorities. Keep it Simple

When you start out, you may be tempted to dive in and try to tackle all the challenges your company faces, but that may be overwhelming, and you have a high chance of failure if you take on too much.

Instead, make a list of priorities and choose one or two items. Those could be the simplest issues to fix or the most impactful. It’s up to you.

2) Make a Map of the Status Quo

Whatever the process you’d like to change, you need to know where your current gaps are. Creating a visual map is a great way to do this.

Get together with your team and create a swimlane document. Make sure to thoroughly document what the current process is and who it affects.

3) Draw The Best Case Scenario

Use your process map and identify improvements that could be made. Do this WITHOUT considering a change in the method.

For example, if your time tracking process is done on paper but it’s touching more people than it needs to, consider removing those extra steps before changing the technology involved.

Often companies can find efficiency gains simply through this examination. Make a new map to reflect any changes made.

4) List Your Requirements

This is an important step and when companies don’t spend an appropriate amount of time to do it, they can run into problems later on when evaluating or implementing solutions.

An example of a requirement could be “The ability to show us a dashboard of safety issues by type and crew.”

The goal here is to be able to clearly identify if a particular solution will work for you. Breaking this list into ‘Must Haves’ and ‘Wish List’ can help determine the best solution down the road.

Obviously, we want to choose the solution that satisfies all our must-have requirements and as many from the wish list as possible.

5) Know How to Measure Success

Imagine where you’d like to be a year after implementing a new solution. What are the metrics you can use to determine if you’ve been successful? Is it hours saved, costs reduced, people hired?

Make some goals for these items. If possible, collect your existing data / averages, to generate a baseline of where you are now. This will come in handy a year from now as a reminder of how far you have come.

6) Evaluate Your Options. Also called “Due Diligence”

This is the fun part. Look for companies that are providing solutions for your particular issue. You can Google search, talk to other contractors, or make some time to attend industry events like trade shows and conferences.

Arrange demos of various solutions and ask yourself, “Does this solution satisfy my requirements?” You might even create an evaluation checklist so that you don’t forget anything.

You’ll also want to assess the company providing the solution by getting satisfactory answers to questions such as:

  • “Do you provide implementation support along with your solution?”
  • “How much customization are we able to make? Is there any cost to that?”
  • “Do you have any successful case studies in our industry? Can you provide client references?”
  • “What level of ongoing support do you provide?”

Remember to check those references and ask about the experience of working with the company and its solution.

7) Get Your Team Involved Early

When looking at solutions that affect field workers, having some of them participate in all of these phases is a necessity. Too often, field workers are the last to be included in the process and you run a risk of pushback and failure if they’re not engaged early.

No one wants to be simply told they must do something a certain way. By including field staff in the process, and giving them a say in the outcome, your project is more likely to succeed.

8) Implement In Stages

Changing how things are done is hard. Especially when it comes to long-standing processes and the nature of the construction workforce as we discussed earlier. So make things a little easier and use a phased approach when implementing your new solutions.

Rather than have workers immediately adopt every feature of a particular solution, have them begin with the easiest or most impactful. Once everyone is comfortable, introduce the next feature and so on.

9) Don’t Just Train. Explain

At Harness, we spend the first few minutes of every onsite training session explaining why the company has chosen our solution and what they hope to gain.

We also highlight how the field workers’ lives are going to get easier/better with this new solution in place. We acknowledge the difficulties of doing something new but stress that learning to use software is just like learning to use a new tool; it just takes a little time and practice.

You’ll almost always have a few doubters in the room, but that’s where engaging your team early is helpful. You’ll likely already have a few people convinced it works, and they can help address any concerns from their doubting colleagues.

10) Monitor Your Company’s Progress

Maintain regular contact with field staff during the implementation phase, and use their feedback to make any changes or address any issues that you didn’t foresee.

Once things are chugging along nicely, use those metrics that you identified previously to see how your company is doing.

Share the results with the rest of your team and celebrate any successes, no matter how small. Doing this tends to open peoples’ eyes to the power of change and will help you on future projects.

Technology Can Help Your Company If You Embrace It Properly

There’s a lot of urgent business issues that can be solved with technology. Your company will be leaner, more efficient, safer, and in many cases enjoy increased profits and retention.

But not following best practices when implementing solutions can be perilous. The good news is, now you know how to plan for change, search for the right solution, and launch it successfully!

The experience I gained in some of those initial training sessions really opened my eyes in terms of how our potential users viewed technology.

I started to examine my assumptions about how “easy” I thought I’d made things. We actually rewrote all our training materials to include illustrations, and video explanations so that even guys that would ask “What the F!$k is a web browser?” could follow them.

You should be convinced by now that technology is the way to go, which means the next challenge you’ll likely face is making your case to upper management.

Luckily for you, we have an article that covers exactly how to do that. Click the button below to learn four ways to make your technology implementation pitch rock solid.

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Definitions How to...

What is a Near Miss Report & Why They are Important to Construction Safety

Ask any contractor to tell you about a close call they had on the job site and get ready for what is likely a very good story, and there are probably a few of them!

I’ll never forget back when I worked in the office at a roofing company and one of my repair guys called me to say he had just put his foot through a rotten spot in the roof.

He was calling me not to report the near miss but because he was stuck. He needed me to send someone to go in the attic and pull his boot off so he could pull his leg out without getting stabbed by the plywood shards.

When the ‘rescue team’ went in, they could see from the attic the extent of the rot. Had he taken one step further, he probably would have fallen right through.

What is a Near Miss?

By now, you’ve probably figured out that a near miss is anytime something happens on your job site that comes very close to causing harm to a person or property.

You can also consider an occurrence as a near miss if it would have caused harm if someone had been in the vicinity. For example, if someone drops a hammer off the second story of a building, it doesn’t have to come close to hitting someone to be considered a near miss.

Some other examples of near misses are:

  • Someone trips on an extension cord but doesn’t harm themselves
  • A forklift bumps a skid of material, it teeters but does not fall
  • An extension ladder tips over, narrowly missing a parked truck

The only difference between these occurrences and an actual accident is luck. Had the extension cord been next to a stairwell, the forklift been moving a bit faster or the truck was parked differently, the outcomes could have been disastrous.

What to do When a Near Miss Occurs

In short, when a near miss occurs, treat it like it was an accident.

Every near miss should trigger an investigation into what went wrong, determining all the contributing factors. Then changes need to be implemented in order to prevent a future accident.

When I treated that roofing near miss as an accident, I was able to launch a full review of our repair process. We ended up changing it to start with an interior attic inspection in order to spot any major rot prior to going on the roof. We also made the crews a minimum of two workers each so someone would be on site to help in the event of an emergency.

In order for the near miss process to work, your crews need to know they are responsible for reporting them when they happen. Had my repair guy not gotten stuck in the roof, I probably wouldn’t have found out about it because there was no injury to report and we didn’t have a near miss program.

Also, there must be no fear of repercussion when reporting a near miss. You absolutely cannot ask someone to report one and then reprimand the error, especially if it was human error.

A near miss must be looked at as a learning opportunity that will protect the future safety of all your employees.

What are the Benefits of Implementing a Near Miss Program?

Handling incidents as a near miss rather than waiting for the inevitable accident to occur means your job sites are safer. Safer job sites are first and foremost important to your employees but they also save your company money.

Basically, you are getting all the changes and modifications that follow an accident, to improve the safety at your company, without having to report an actual incident.

Lowering the number of reportable incidents means your experience modification rating (EMR) will go down, and that in turn will lower your workers compensation and insurance premiums!

How Harness Makes Near Miss Reporting a Breeze

You should already be convinced that tracking, investigating, and following up on every single near miss at your company makes logical sense and will reduce your workload down the line. But you are probably wondering where you will find the time to do that.

Utilizing a safety management system like Harness is probably your best solution. Every Harness client receives a custom-built incident reporting and follow up form, making it easy for:

  • Your foremen to fill out a quick form about what happened, capturing all the relevant info and even pictures
  • You to be immediately notified of the near miss
  • You or a supervisor to complete an investigation on contributing factors
  • Management to review graphs and trends involved
  • Positive changes to be implemented

To see a video of our Near Miss Report in action, Click the Image below:


Qries

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How to...

How To Gamify Safety To Build A Better Safety Culture

 

For the majority of construction companies, finding and keeping qualified workers is a huge challenge. As we’ve discussed before, building a culture of safety is one way to help with recruitment and retention.

Short attention spans and complacency are both problems that safety directors everywhere want to overcome. In this article, we’re going to look specifically at the theory of “gamification” and how it can help you keep workers better engaged in your safety program so you see better results.

What is Gamification?

Simply put, gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, and self-expression. It’s science!

Many of us grew up playing video games. Remember that feeling you had when you beat the boss of a level, achieved the high score, or unlocked a new power or weapon for your character? That’s what gamification is all about—creating that feeling.

Most of us want to feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. Gamification can tap into that desire by creating a “team” element to safety. Since construction is still dominated by men, it’s also worth noting that gamification can awaken the competitive instincts that they often display on the playing field in sports. Not that women also do not possess these instincts. My wife loves to win at poker and often does.

Gamification unlocks traits that humans have been developing for millennia. It turns your safety program into something fun. When something is fun, it’s more engaging and workers are likely to spend more time focusing their attention on it.

What are the Elements of Gamification?

Games use a set of standard building blocks to create the game conditions. Those blocks include:

  1. Points
    • Usually provided as a reward for completing certain activities or goals.
  2. Badges
    • A visual representation of achievement. Analogous to medals, trophies, ribbons, etc.
  3. Leaderboards
    • Leaderboards rank players according to their relative success, measuring them against a certain success criterion.
  4. Performance Graphs
    • Often used alongside leaderboards, instead of ranking a players performance, graphs are mainly used to compare a players performance in a visual way.
  5. Creating Teammates
    • Introducing teams to any game promotes cooperation amongst players as they need to work together towards a common goal.

How To Incorporate Gamification Into Your Construction Safety Program

If you want to start building a better culture of safety, there are easy ways to use gamification to your advantage:

1. Implement A Points System

Reward workers with Safety Points that can be redeemed for company merchandise, tools, gifts, etc…

Points are a great way to start gamifying your safety program and getting the competitive juices flowing.

A couple of key “points” to remember about points programs:

  • Award points based on behavior. Not results. Safety is a process. Reward things like completing additional safety training, conducting safety planning activities regularly, or conducting inspections. DO NOT reward workers if their job sites are injury/incident free. This could discourage workers from reporting unsafe conditions or injuries and run your company afoul with OSHA.
  • Make the points scheme easy to understand and allow for workers to earn a decent reward for “expected” behavior and excellent rewards for “excellent” behavior. For example, a worker that completes all his assigned training, might earn a $25 company store credit at the end of the year, but a worker that goes above and beyond might earn a new set of tools worth $100 or more.
  • Include the point values when assigning tasks to reinforce their value and celebrate purchases that workers make with them. You might even award arbitrary points to workers throughout the year if you notice something special about their commitment to safety.

2. Make Top Performers In Your Company Into Status Symbols

As we discussed above, badges trophies, certificates, & ribbons create a sense of achievement in the recipient. They also can create a strong competitive drive in others that want to achieve the same level of recognition.

The Tour de France uses a yellow jersey to indicate the race leader during its various stages. You could do something similar with your company uniforms by designating certain colors for top performers or issuing higher quality company-branded apparel only for those that achieve certain safety objectives.
Another idea would be to use hardhat stickers or some other type of tag to make your safety leaders stand out and encourage others to join them as status symbols.

3. Performance & Leaderboard Screens

Apple, one of the most successful companies ever, installs TV screens in the employee-only areas of their stores to show real time sales results in comparison with other stores nearby. This leads to healthy competition between stores and a healthier bottom line for the Mac and iPhone maker.
You can use the same technique when it comes to safety. Install a screen in your company training area, break room, or another gathering point. Use it to show your current safety points leaders, or the most recent safety observation stats from an inspection app like Harness.

Harness uses a combination of a leaderboard to track personnel compliance and graphs to track overall safety performance. This can be displayed on any sized screen.

4. Create Cooperation AND Competition

Gamification, when used properly, shouldn’t turn every worker into mortal enemies vying for those all important safety points. Your program should be structured to foster cooperation as well as a health competition. Here are a couple of ways to accomplish this:

    • Establish both individual & team goals

A person should be able to stand out within the team but really make team performance the ultimate goal. Establish criteria for the team to earn points together and reward members equally for reaching those goals.

  • Allow workers to “gift” points or request points to gifted to people they see doing the right things.

Allowing workers to their co-workers kudos via the points system is an excellent way to foster cooperation.

Gamification For Safety Works

Hopefully by now you understand more about gamification and how to incorporate it into your safety program. Doing it right will lead to more engaged, safer workers, less incidents, increased retention, and a better bottom line.