Jobsite Safety Should Be Every Contractors' Priority

To reduce jobsite injuries and fatalities on construction jobsite, everyone—starting with project leadership—must put the highest emphasis on safety.
By Ray Reese
September 12, 2019

Any general contractor understands the range of factors that go into building and sustaining a successful jobsite: hiring the right team, maintaining cutting-edge equipment, ensuring constant communication with clients and effectively leveraging the newest building technologies, just to name a few.

But any good general contractor understands that there is one factor that should always be considered as top priority: jobsite safety.

The health and wellbeing of a project’s team is paramount for obvious reasons, and it isn’t a lighthearted matter. Injuries and fatalities have too often been a piece of our industry’s story. In 2017 alone, there were 971 reported deaths on construction sites, which accounted for 20% of total worker fatalities, according to a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Of these 971 fatalities, 582 were the result of construction’s “fatal four”—falls, workers being struck by objects, electrocutions and workers being caught between equipment. For members of the industry, these are difficult numbers to read and to process; yet, it is extremely important to consider the injuries and lives lost when we take into consideration the seriousness of jobsite safety.

Often, general contractors’ and superintendents’ greatest challenge isn’t being convinced of the necessity of jobsite safety practices in protecting employees or the value of safety in creating a productive work environment. Instead, the focus should be providing industry leaders tips on exactly how to improve safety measures on their own jobsites. Understanding that safety is everyone’s responsibility is paramount.

Implementing Safety on the JobSite

The best safety practices are built on a solid foundation of training. It is vitally important that as the construction industry strengthens its workforce development efforts, it equally prioritizes the effective safety training of its new employees. Habits are difficult to break, so it will be important that each new generation of industry personnel begins their career in construction on a solid foundation of understanding why jobsite safety is important as well as best practices to meet and exceed safety standards.

In terms of achieving safety on specific jobsites, an important first step is doing an assessment of expected safety challenges. When scouting a site, contractors should consider those factors that could impact the health of team members—the type of equipment onsite, potential areas of danger and the use or the need for technological support. Taking the time to make this assessment can save time and efficiencies, eliminating the need to make these adjustments as a project evolves. Most importantly, however, it can go a long way in ensuring the protection of team members.

Once construction begins, it is important for superintendents to serve as a true partner to team members in keeping safety practices top of mind.

Finally, superintendents should resist the notion that the use of personal protection equipment is sufficient to promote maximum safety. Instead, there should be a prioritization of the engineering and work practice controls that can be implemented in order to eliminate or reduce the risk of a hazard.

Additional Benefits of JobSite Safety

Though one should always consider safety first and foremost through the lens of protecting project teams, it is also worthwhile to consider how jobsite safety can impact teams in a positive or negative way. An effective approach is to always remember that jobsite safety produces feelings of security, which in turn produce good jobsite morale, which produces company pride, which results in productivity—a goal of all general contractors.

There is an additional element of professionalism involved in promoting jobsite safety. Superintendents must, by example, instill the understanding in their teams that jobsite safety is the rule—not the exception—on any project. Our industry can sometimes fail at factoring safety into expectations of professionalism, and this narrative must change.

Each employee is an ambassador for their company—whether they realize it or not—and an adherence to safety standards must become an important piece in measuring quality.

The Future of JobSite Safety

Jobsite safety is a primary beneficiary of technology’s continual evolution of the construction industry, as new capabilities re-define what is possible each year. Manufacturers have been critical contributors to the future of the construction industry’s safety standards, primarily through the development of new and innovative safety solutions, from fall protection and retrieval systems to PPE, which continues to become lighter, more comfortable and more effective. Thanks to advances in technology, members of a jobsite team can also operate from a safe and secure environment with the use of autonomous or semi-autonomous equipment.

Additionally, drone technology is set to provide significant support to jobsite safety, including an enhanced ability to observe a project and identify potential hazards from a safe vantage point.

As technology further enhances and supports the ability to protect teams on a jobsite, it will not reach its full potential if leaders fail to prioritize safety across the industry. General contractors and project leadership must emphasize this safety preparation and procedures from the start. If the construction industry wants to reduce jobsite injuries and fatalities, it must start at each jobsite and everyone—starting with project leadership—must put the highest emphasis on safety.

by Ray Reese
Ray Reese has spent five years serving as the safety director for Rives Construction. In his role, Ray frequently visits various job sites to inspect and monitor safety conditions and ensure the implementation of best practices to promote safe and secure work environments for team members. During his time at Rives, the company has won multiple safety awards, including the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) of Alabama Gold Award, Innovation in Safety Award and the S.T.E.P. Award. 

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