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Most Popular News Reaction Safety Best Practice Safety News

Harness Launches New Features In Response To OHSA Emergency Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The ETS establishes binding requirements to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.  

Many employers are struggling to find ways to comply with the ETS.  Harness will make this easier for contractors through the addition of several new features to its safety management platform.  The features that are detailed below are available immediately as a paid add-on for existing Harness clients.  Companies that don’t currently use Harness can purchase the ETS-related features via a special promotional plan starting January 3rd, 2022.

What do employers need to do?

Under the ETS, applicable employers are required to adhere to several requirements.  The most notable of these are as follows:

  • Develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead establish, implement, and enforce a policy allowing employees to elect either to get vaccinated or to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at the workplace.
  • Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination from vaccinated employees, maintain records of each employee’s vaccination status, and maintain a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
  • Ensure that each employee who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if away from the workplace for a week or longer).
  • Provide each employee with information, in a language and at a literacy level the employee understands, about the requirements of the ETS and workplace policies and procedures established to implement the ETS.
  • Make certain records available for examination and copying to an employee (and to anyone having written authorized consent of that employee) or an employee representative.

When does the OSHA ETS take effect?

  • Employers must comply with most provisions by January 10, 2022.
  • Employers must comply with the testing requirement by February 9, 2022.

There are pending legal challenges to the ETS via the United States Supreme Court but employers are strongly encouraged to begin complying immediately as a favourable ruling is not assured.  Employers face steep fines for non-compliance and may also have issues due to changing workplace conditions on existing jobs. Employers may also find winning new bids becomes difficult if they are not in compliance with the ETS.

How will Harness help?

In order to help employers more easily comply with the OSHA ETS, Harness has developed several new features including:

  • New toolbox talks & training lessons to help supervisors and regular field workers understand the ETS and to help employers meet the educational aspects of the standard.
  • A form to collect workers’ vaccination status.  The status is stored on the worker’s profile.  Administrators can view, update & share the worker vaccination roster easily.
  • A form used to document weekly test results for unvaccinated workers.  Workers can upload their own results or they can be uploaded by a Harness administrator.
  • Weekly text and email reminders for unvaccinated workers that they must submit their test results or provide them to a company representative.

Additionally, Harness will provide its clients with templates for a COVID-19 Vaccination & Testing policy as well as copies of all relevant OSHA ETS materials within the app so they can be reviewed anytime, anywhere, on any device.

These new features come as a welcome relief to contractors frustrated by the burden of performing the tasks required under the ETS.  They will help them avoid unnecessary citations with minimal disruption to their business.

What will these features cost?

Existing Harness customers can have these new ETS features enabled as a premium add-on.  The cost will vary depending on their existing Harness billing plan.  

Companies that don’t currently use Harness can purchase the ETS compliance features a-la-carte for a one-time setup fee and monthly subscription based on their number of employees.

One Time Setup Fee

$0 for existing clients. 

For All New Clients Deploying ETS Features:  $1000

Monthly Subscription For ETS Features Only:

100-200 Employees – $179

200-300 Employees – $299

300-400 Employees – $399

400+ Employees – Contact Us 

Webinar On ETS Features

Harness will be holding a webinar on Friday, January 7th at 1 pm EST to showcase the new ETS features and answer employers’ questions.   

To register for the webinar click here

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Safety Best Practice

What is A Safety Scorecard and How Will it Help My Safety Program?

It’s hard to know where to start with a safety program, and even if you’ve begun, it’s hard to see what you aren’t doing (and should be) or could be doing better.

We get asked about this all the time. You want to know the industry best practices because you don’t have the time to reinvent the wheel, and you can’t exactly call up your competition and ask them what they do.

We have turned hundreds of construction safety programs into digital versions, which means we have read hundreds of safety manuals, built thousands of inspection forms, and witnessed firsthand what works and what doesn’t.

We have always shared our knowledge base with our existing clients, and now we are ready to share it with you. As leaders in the construction safety industry, we feel it is our responsibility to make that information easily accessible to anyone who wants it.

That’s why we have just launched our new Safety Scorecard.

What is a Safety Scorecard?

A Safety Scorecard is an online tool that compares and rates your company’s safety program against industry standards and best practices and provides suggestions on ways to make improvements.

You’ll be asked a series of questions regarding the safety activities your company currently conducts and their regularity. Here are some examples of the questions you will be asked:

The answers are multiple-choice and are offered in ranges or scales, making the process quick and easy. See the image below for examples.

What Results Will You Receive?

The Safety Scorecard assigns a score to each response, based on the importance of the task in relation to a strong safety program. At the end, we provide you with FOUR valuable sources of information:

  1. Your cumulative score and rank compared to other construction companies.
  2. A breakdown of your results by category, highlighting the areas needing the most attention.
  3. Suggestions on the next steps your company should take to make improvements to your safety program.
  4. Links to additional information (such as step by step guides) in our Learning Center to help you accomplish those tasks.

What Our Safety Scorecard Won’t Do

  1. It won’t try and sell you our software. It is not a sales pitch; it’s a tool we hope will help you implement change and save lives. There are no strings attached, and you get your results right away.
  2. It won’t give you accurate suggestions IF you don’t provide accurate information. It is not a test, so don’t try and ‘guess the right answer.’ The more honest you are with the scorecard, the more suitable our suggestions will be at the end.

Next Steps

Our Safety Scorecard provides you with a concrete metric to compare your company against the industry and yourselves. Share your results with your management team or even the entire staff, so you have a baseline for where you are now.

Work on the suggestions we make and then return to complete the scorecard again; you should see a rise in your score, making everyone proud.

Start the Safety Scorecard now!

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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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Safety Best Practice Safety News

Roofing: The Most Dangerous Construction Trade

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

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

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

How to Determine Risk Levels in Construction

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

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

(Image source: IHSA)

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

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

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

What Are High-Level Fall Protection Controls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Don’t Roofing Companies Use Safety?

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

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

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

What You Can Do to Help Stop Construction Fall Fatalities

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

Contractors:

Workers:

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

General Public:

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

What Harness is Doing to Help

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

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

Learn more about our free plan.

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Best In Class How to... Safety Best Practice

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

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

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

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

What is a Joint Health and Safety Committee?

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

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

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

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

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

What Are The Responsibilities of a JHSC?

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

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

What Are the Benefits of a JHSC?

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

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

How Technology Can Help Your JHSC Run Smoothly

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

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

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

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

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

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Safety Best Practice Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Fix Your Company Culture

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

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

2. Implement a Suicide Prevention Program

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

What is a Suicide Prevention Program?

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

Creating SAFE cultures

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

Providing TRAINING to identify and help those at risk

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

Raising AWARENESS about the suicide crisis in construction

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

NORMALIZING conversations around suicide and mental health

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

Ultimately DECREASING the risks associated with suicide in construction

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

How Harness is Committed to Help

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

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

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News Reaction Safety Best Practice

COVID-19: The Top-Cited OSHA Standards, and How to Mitigate Them

The Covid-19 crisis has plunged many businesses into one of their most challenging times. Employers are struggling to keep pace with the new rules and regulations to keep workers, suppliers and the public safe during the pandemic but also to lessen the impact on generating business, maintaining client outreach and managing the financial impact covid-19 has made.

How are you keeping you, your employees, and the public safe while continuing to work during the COVID-19 crisis? This is a common question not only among business owners and managers but also essential workers everywhere.

Employee morale is low, and cases seem to be ever on the rise. To help combat these effects on businesses and workers, OSHA has shared the top-cited infractions during the pandemic.

OSHA’s Frequently Cited Standards Related to COVID-19 Inspections

OSHA’s has released the most common citations that are being issued during the pandemic; these are:

  • Failure to providing a medical assessment before a worker makes use of a respirator or is fit-tested
  • Lack of training employees to safely make use of respirators and other PPEs in the workplace
  • Neglecting to retrain employers regarding changes in the workplace that could make initial training obsolete
  • A disregard for keeping records of illnesses, injuries and fatalities related to work
  • Failure in storing respirators and other PPEs in a proper manner that will safeguard them from contamination, damage and face-piece deformation and exhalation valve where necessary
  • Coming up short with establishing, updating and implementing a written respiratory protection program that has the essential worksite-specific procedures

When OSHA shows up on your site, they are actively looking for accurate and up-to-date record-keeping concerning Covid-19 protocols in the workplace. Below are a few examples of additional measures that should be currently taking place to help mitigate the possibility of a citation on your business and your employees.

Additional Covid-19 Measures You Should be Doing

The CDC measures used to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the world are flattening the curve and slowing the spread of new cases.
The effects of COVID-19 vary from state to state. Because of that, local governments, working with local public health authorities, may change or update safety measures depending on where you live.

However, we’re seeing a positive change concerning outbreaks when these additional measures have been adopted into the work day.

1. Daily Screening Process

Screenings should be taking place before employees or the public enter the business/job site. The required questions tend to vary from state to state but all center around identifying possible symptoms and exposures. It is important to keep in mind that the form itself can be as simple as a “Yes” or “No” questionnaire, thus reducing the amount of time required to fill it out.

Here are some questions commonly found on a Daily Screening Form, currently being used in the construction industry:

  • Have you knowingly been in close or proximity contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has had symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
  • Do you have any of these symptoms that are not caused by another condition: Fever or chills, cough, etc….

The goal of daily screening is to catch any positive cases before they progress to an outbreak but also to identify who the worker has been in contact with. Having these records is a valuable tool when narrowing down when/where the exposure took place.

2. Exposure Process

What happens if someone has been exposed or has symptoms? We all know identifying an issue is the first step in finding a resolution to a problem. We have taken that step with our Daily Screening Process, but now what?

Typically, the response looks as follows:

  • The employee is sent home to isolate for “10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving”
  • Employee required to take a COVID-19 test
  • The Project manager and HR are notified immediately so
    Contact tracing by utilizing the Daily Screening Tool is completed

3. Sanitization

What new cleaning/sanitization procedures have you initiated since covid-19? How do you ensure that these new procedures are being followed?

Jobsite Hazard Assessments are a staple in the construction industry, updating your current JHA to accommodate identification and controls of all Covid-19 related hazards is a must.

The JHA should include (but not limited to) shared tools and vehicle sanitization both at the start and end of the day. This coupled with daily screening ensures that employees are starting and finishing their day in a clean environment while minimizing the risk of exposure to Covid-19

4. Education

“Knowledge is Power” – Francis Bacon

Arming your crews with up to date Covid-19 prevention and sanitization methods is paramount. What is the best way to get this information out? Toolbox Talks are an informal group safety meeting that dial in on a particular safety issue. Utilizing your current Toolbox Talk program is a great way to distribute Covid-19 related information out to your teams in the field.

Tools to Help Navigate the Pandemic

Everyone is tired and weary of continuing to work during the pandemic, I hope this article shed some light on some of the steps that should be taken to help pull through this together.

Safety Apps are great tools to help get vital training out to the crews in the field. Harness contains Toolbox Talks concerning everything from Covid-19 to Heat Stress available in both English and Spanish and can deliver and track these meetings with a touch of a button.

Harness has also made available a free version of the app oriented strictly around Covid-19 to help keep workers safe. Click the button below to download it now. learn more about the Free Covid-19 Safety App.

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Safety Best Practice

5 Easy Tasks to Start Your Construction Safety Program

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

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

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

1. Conduct and Document Weekly Toolbox Talks

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

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

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

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

2. Show Up Unexpectedly Onsite

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

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

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

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

3. Recognize Safety Adherence and Infractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Teach and Train Employees

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

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

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

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

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

5. Build a Safety Culture

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

We already know that your priorities are:

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

And now you have the tools to act on them.

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

Categories
Leadership & Culture Safety Best Practice

Top 5 Ways To Foster A Safety Culture In Your Construction Business

If you’re a construction company owner or manager, you understand just how critical it is to create a formal health & safety program for your company.  Perhaps you are already doing some of the basics, such as providing safety training or conducting periodic safety meetings.  

At Harness Software, I’ve been fortunate to work with contractors across North America who have decided to create or build a true culture of safety.  

After hundreds of meetings, dozens of conferences, and over half a million miles flown,  I’ve noticed that the firms that excel in safety all have one thing in common:  A strong commitment from ownership and management towards the safety & wellbeing of every worker.  These companies have happy, productive workers, and they have lower than average worker’s compensation premiums, which gives them a competitive advantage in their industry.

Now, many companies say they have this commitment.  You can visit the website of any contractor and usually see mention of it.  But they often lack the will to actually see it through.

Jobs that are behind schedule suddenly stop having safety briefings or inspections.  Workers are told, “Just get it done.”  They pick up on the urgency of their management and start cutting corners when it comes to safety –all for the sake of profitability or fear of losing their jobs.  That is not a safety culture.  

Whether you’re the leader of a single crew or an entire company, the first time you prioritize production or results over safety, you will have sent the message loud and clear to your workers that your commitment to safety is just an empty statement on your website.  As a business owner myself, I can understand the pull that owners may feel to focus on results ahead of safety.  It’s natural.  We want our business to succeed, and that means completing work and getting paid.  When it comes to our focus on safety though, we have to play the long game.

How will you motivate your workers to go above and beyond on the next project if they don’t truly believe you have their best interests at heart? 

Top 5 Ways To Foster Your Safety Culture:

 

1. Sign A Commitment to Safety Letter

Write a personal letter that outlines your own commitment to safety and ensure every worker receives a copy when they are hired.  Have each worker acknowledge the letter and add their own written commitment to safety as part of the hiring process.  They could do this via a simple checklist.  Doing this is a great way to hold both management & employees accountable.

 

2. Establish a Joint Health & Safety Committee

Establish a joint health & safety committee of workers from across the organization.  The goal of this committee will be to inform safety policies and identify ways to improve safety over time.  Empower committee members by treating them as equals and not just employees.  Actually implement their ideas so that the rest of your organization and the committee members themselves view the committee as the safety authority for your company.  The best safety programs are ones where workers feel ownership.

 

3. Set A Budget

 

Create a dedicated budget for safety within your organization that can be used for training, equipment, productivity tools, etc. Make sure the amount is appropriate for your company size and review the budget annually.  According to the National Safety Council, every $1 spent on safety returns between $2-$6.  That’s a great investment 

 

4. Talk Safety First.  Results Second.

 

Review safety measures being taken on job sites prior to EVERY production-related discussion. Showing your own personal commitment to your worker’s health & safety in some way every day is a quick & easy way to remind them that you care.  Make it clear that your example should be followed by the entire management team.  It will quickly become a habit and often leads to illuminating discussions that can benefit the company in other areas than just safety.

 

5. Get Advice From The Best

 

Seek out advice within your industry via professional associations or think-tank groups and bring those findings to your safety committee.  National and regional trade groups like the National Roofing Contractors Association, Midwest Roofing Contractors Association, Association of General Contractors, and Mechanical Contractors Association of America are all great examples.  They each have developed safety resources and working groups to promote safety best practices amongst their membership.

 

Bonus Tip:  Celebrate Safety Success.  

 
Provide updates to your organization on your safety record (lower recordable injuries, etc..) to workers on a regular basis, and take the time to point out particular efforts of individual workers.  You could do this by posting on a board in your office, or sending a dedicated email.  You could even use weekly safety meetings to acknowledge the efforts of an individual worker or a group.  

Safety incentive programs that reward employees for certain behaviors can be a good idea as long as they don’t discourage or punish workers for reporting unsafe conditions.  For example, incentivizing workers who complete their safety planning activities thoroughly is better than incentivizing workers for a lack of recordable injuries on a project.  The latter could result in workers hiding injuries or unsafe conditions and that could land your company in trouble with OSHA.  

Celebrating the right behaviors and commitment to safe work is another great way to prove to your workers that your commitment to a culture of safety isn’t just an empty promise.  It’s something that you live every day.

Next Actions

Hopefully, by now you have a better idea of how to foster your company’s safety culture.  

Harness Software is a construction safety app used by thousands of contractors every day to remove the administrative burden from their health & safety program, allowing them to measure success and, ultimately, save money.

If you’d like to see how Harness Software could make it easier for your company to strengthen its safety culture, book a 30-minute consultation & demo.

Otherwise, there are some more fantastic & free resources available on our blog that you can use to create a strong construction health & safety program. Such as:

Categories
Safety Best Practice Safety News

Harness Launches Free COVID-19 App

Harness Software announces the availability of a FREE Safety Meeting/Toolbox Talk App that will enable construction companies to disseminate COVID-19 virus-related information to their remote workforces and help them document employee meetings. This app is immediately available to all construction companies in North America

  • The app includes access to the latest content from reputable sources such as the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • All information within the app will be organized into short talks with emphasis on points relevant to construction workers.
  • The app will be updated automatically as more information becomes available
  • All material will be available in English & Spanish
  • Foremen or Supervisors will be able to quickly capture names and signatures from the attendees of each safety meeting/toolbox talk
  • PDF records of each meeting can be automatically emailed back to the office
  • THE APP WORKS ON ALL MOBILE DEVICES

“Construction workers don’t have the option to work from home. Companies need easy access to the information necessary to protect their employees and keep them as productive as possible during this crisis. We are all in this together. That’s why we’re launching this free resource.”, said Tom Whitaker, CEO of Harness Software. Existing Harness Software customers will also receive enhanced resources as part of this program to battle fear & the spread of the disease.

Download the app by clicking the button below.