Without proper training and execution, construction safety programs can fall short. In fact, OSHA reported in 2018 that the United States saw 4,779 fatalities in the construction industry.
Due to the nature of the work, construction sites are innately dangerous, with four main causes of fatalities that OSHA calls the “Fatal Four” — falls, being caught in or between objects, electrocutions, and being struck by objects. Still, death and accidents can be prevented.
These “fatal four” causes of death are typically triggered by negligence, unsafe working conditions, improper use of tools or equipment, or lack of protective gear. To help keep your workers safe, and protect your site from OSHA non-compliance, it is crucial to have a proper construction safety program in place
What is Construction Safety?
Construction safety is a blanket term encompassing all safety procedures in place on a construction site. The ultimate goal of construction safety is to ensure your site is not in immediate danger to the nearby public or the workers on site, and that the finished product meets any and all required safety standards.
Adhere to national and state regulations and maintain a safe construction site through the use of PPE, hazard protection, waste management, regular site inspections, risk assessments, and consistent safety training.
Why is Safety in Construction Important?
There are countless hazards present on a construction site that can lead to serious injury or death if proper precautions aren’t taken. A recent Health and Safety Executive study found that the majority of fatal and non-fatal workplace injuries were related to slips and falls, collisions with objects or vehicles, or improperly moving or lifting heavy objects -- most of which occurred in construction environments.
Implementing a standardized set of safety guidelines and maintaining consistent safety training helps significantly reduce these types of preventable injuries. Putting safeguards in place can help stop dangerous accidents from occurring in the first place, and proper training allows workers to avoid dangerous situations and respond safely when in danger.
Investing in Construction Safety Training
While the upfront cost of safety training may give you pause, the ROI far outweighs the towering costs you could face should an accident, or surprise OSHA inspection, occur. In 2020 alone, the construction industry saw 250,000 medically consulted injuries. Between workers comp expenses, covering the cost of any damage, penalties that accrue from missed deadlines, and potential fines from OSHA, the cost of one accident can very quickly add up.
Calculating the Costs of Construction Injuries
When determining the possible ROI of construction safety training, you must consider both the direct and indirect costs of a construction incident. While many safety professionals focus only on the direct costs of an accident or injury, in a high-risk industry like construction the indirect costs tend to be much higher.
Direct costs of a construction incident may include:
- Medical bills and workers comp
- Damage to materials, equipment, or property
- Litigations and lawsuits
- Regulatory and OSHA fines
Indirect costs of a construction incident may include:
- Hiring replacement workers
- Penalties from missed project deadlines
- Time and productivity lost
- Costs of implementing corrective measures
- Damage to your business’s reputation
According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the average cost of a single lost-time injury on a construction site is $35,000, without including the additional cost of litigation, medical expenses, or compensation. OSHA estimates that US companies pay over $1 billion per week in worker's compensation for disabling and non-fatal injuries, and further claims that workplace injuries and fatalities cost companies approximately $151 billion per year.
Possible Costs Of Non-compliance
OSHA’s efforts to standardize workplace safety have only grown in scope, and the penalties for non-compliance have grown with it. In 2017, OSHA not only increased their inspection frequency but increased penalty charges by a whopping 76%, making up for 26 years of inflation.
As of 2018, Serious, Other-Than-Serious, Posting Requirements, and Failure to Abate violations all receive a maximum of $12,934 per violation, with Willful and Repeated violations reaching as high as $129,336. Additionally, a court ruled in 2018 that OSHA could look back more than five years to determine and establish repeat violations. This means that, beyond the cost per violation, companies need to consider other non-compliance costs like criminal liability, settling civil claims, and increased insurance premiums.
How to Make a Construction Safety Plan
The best way to ensure your construction site remains OSHA compliant and that your workers are safe is to develop a construction safety plan. This plan should outline the safety procedures, rules, and regulations that will be put in place to protect workers during your project.
The focus should go beyond preventing accidents and also determine responses to safety incidents, including rescue operations, contacting emergency medical help, and implementing a post-incident review process.
Create a written safety program
Developing a written safety program is a critical first step and one that can be developed with the help of a safety professional. This written program should be standard across your construction site. It’s imperative that this program is not just created, but enforced.
Make managers responsible for their teams’ safety records, hold workers accountable for breaking safety rules, reward those who follow procedures, and make the importance of safety a frequent talking point.
Complete a hazard analysis
When determining job site hazards, preplanning will save a lot of time and will ensure your team is prepared before day one of the builds. Analyze each duty required for the job, consider the hazards, how to mitigate them, and what equipment or additional training may be necessary. For example, if your next job will require roof work, safety harnesses will be needed, as well as potential safety nets, barricades, and additional signage.
Take the time to analyze each specific duty, address the related hazards, and ensure each worker is trained properly.
Use toolbox talks
Toolbox talks are a great platform to use alongside your existing safety training program. By using the job hazard analysis you completed, you can determine what specific content you’ll need to cover. This will allow you to reinforce previous training, meet the OSHA requirements for safety training and education, and reduce potential injuries on your job site.
Train new hires before they start
Ensure all safety training is relevant to your workers’ type of contracting work. This may mean hosting several different safety training for different contractors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60% of all construction accident injuries occur in a worker’s first year of employment. It’s therefore imperative that contractors start their training prior to their first day, and that refresher training opportunities are consistent and available throughout the year.
Related Article: When Does OSHA Require a Safety Harness?
Get Your Team the Training They Need
Safety training can be difficult to fully implement and track for your employees, especially if your team takes on complicated jobs with a variety of specialties and certifications. It can also be costly to keep your team up to date but don’t let these excuses leave your team vulnerable and your job site non-compliant. Safety training pays for itself by helping your team avoid costly accidents and lost productivity.
Whether you are confident that your team has the training and tools they need, or you would like a second set of eyes on your existing practices, working with a safety consultant can give you clarity. SPR is equipped to identify existing issues on your site through a safety audit, as well as supply any needed training to get your crew up to speed. If your team needs to grow, SPR can even help you recruit and retain the right safety talent that will keep your organization responsible and compliant in the future.
Does OSHA require a safety program?
While OSHA does not specify a standard for safety and health programs that employers should have, OSHA standards do hold a work site responsible for having fully trained staff and avoiding job site risks. A fully featured safety program is the most efficient way to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses by training your staff to keep your site compliant.
Why is safety training necessary?
Construction is one of the most dangerous fields in the labor market, and the cost of accidents is high; without proper safety training, a single mistake can lead to death, ruined reputation, and a financial burden.
What safety training should be given to employees?
Your team should receive general safety training that covers equipment on your site as well as the labor they are expected to perform. In addition, they should receive training that covers any specialized training before taking on new responsibilities. OSHA also has the following requirements, stating: “Employers shall provide employees with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment, and whenever a new chemical hazard the employees have not previously been trained about is introduced into their work area.