People & Leadership

9 tips for setting up an effective construction worker safety program

They are sobering facts:

  • More than 20% of worker fatalities are in the construction industry
  • 5 incidents of nonfatal job-related injuries and illness occur per 100 construction workers, higher than the overall national rate

Many construction companies and groups are working hard to significantly reduce these numbers. But there’s still more work to be done. Despite industry-wide efforts to keep workers safe, a recent National Safety Council survey found 58% of American construction workers feel that safety takes a backseat to productivity and completing tasks.

Safe from the start

Construction companies can no longer measure safety success by merely meeting minimum OSHA requirements. Instead, many contractors are embedding a safety-first approach throughout their organizations to reduce incidents and lower injury-related costs. They realize that implementing a successful safety program means creating a culture where safety is always top of mind.

In addition to diligent safety training and added precautions on the job site, some construction companies are beginning to include safety into the planning stage of their projects. For example, Building Information Modeling (BIM) can identify hazards and enable you to build safety measures right into the design (often referred to as “safety by design”). These safety elements can protect the construction crew by determining the ideal location of overhead power lines, identifying potentially dangerous areas for falls, and more. It can also make the building safer for future maintenance workers and tenants.

Tips to create a safety program

Do you have a safety program in place? Could your safety processes be improved? Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Commit to a safety program at the highest levels of your organization, including active monitoring of safety measurements and sponsorship of ongoing safety initiatives by leaders.
  2. Appoint a safety director and/or committee to champion the safety cause and bring in new ideas.
  3. Focus on the elimination of at-risk behaviors.
  4. Ensure employees are accountable for safety at every level of your organization.
  5. Have your safety program and procedures audited by third-party advisors.
  6. Use technology for proactive identification of safety issues and to automate safety processes.
  7. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting safety issues.
  8. Celebrate safety successes through employee rewards and recognition.
  9. Take advantage of available safety resources, such as the AGC “13 proven steps to improve construction worker safety”

Final thoughts

Construction work is booming. That’s great. But an increase in work can also create more opportunities for construction accidents. Doubling down on safety measures can help prevent this.

Your first priority, of course, is to keep your workers safe. But a solid safety record can also reduce insurance costs, prevent law suits, and make you a good choice for potential customers. In the end, safety is good for both your workers, and your business.