Safety Management

How to Create an Effective Construction Safety Management Plan

Caitlin Liboiron @Caitlin
Safety & Compliance
15 min read
March 22, 2022

Safety is the number-one priority for every construction firm, and a clear safety management plan is the most reliable means of achieving it. Every business has its own specific needs and features, and every construction site is different, which means safety management plans vary almost as widely as the companies that implement them. It’s not only a question of not having one. It’s a question of how effective it is.

And it needs to be. Despite advances in technology and safety techniques, the industry holds inherent risks. Construction work accounts for 20% of all workplace-related deaths in the US, yet employs only 6% of its workforce. That meant over 1000 construction-related deaths in 2020 alone. It includes the so-called “fatal four”— falls, electrocution, falling or moving objects, and people caught or in between objects—that combined, accounted for over 60% of fatalities.

In addition, over 170,000 on-site injuries were reported in 2020, with injuries and illnesses at a rate higher than the rest of other US business sectors. The death and injury toll can never be measured, but it can impact your business on all levels. Workplace death and injury costs each year run upwards of $170 billion dollars, along with attendant losses in productivity, missed deadlines, and reputational damage.

No one can completely eliminate the risks on a construction site, but a data-driven construction safety management plan can reduce them to an absolute minimum. When safety is interwoven into the core principles of a given company, and those principles are reflected through daily use and formal protocols, an effective safety management plan can do wonders for your company.

Part of that comes from building a plan that works for the specifics of your business and then practicing its tenets every day. The more safety habits become ingrained into your regular operational norms, the more readily you can benefit with fewer accidents and a good deal of money saved.

A few general guidelines can help set you on the right path.

1) Identify Risks and Hazards

Developing an effective construction safety management plan starts with an accurate risk assessment for each and every job site. When done properly, it allows you to mitigate and in some cases, even eliminate the potential dangers, improving safety before work even begins.

Apart from the more important benefits of preventing accidents and ensuring everyone’s health, risk assessment reduces your company’s potential liability in the event of an accident, as well as preventing schedule delays that impact the bottom line.

Risk assessment begins with a review that is specific to the site and construction schedule. A site near open water, for instance, may have different specifics than one in a city center. The size and material requirements of each site vary too, along with such details and the presence of electricity, heavy equipment, and the like.

But it needs to go beyond simply identifying potential hazards. It means estimating the costs involved, planning specific steps to address the issue, and implementing those steps as a priority when work on the site begins. Each risk or hazard should be ranked in order of priority, as well as steps to either eliminate it or manage it responsibly.

Contingencies should be created in the event of the unexpected, and safety responsibilities should be clearly defined before work begins. There should also be transparent and actionable steps for reporting potential safety hazards which everyone on site should be familiar with.

Safety management software, such as the solution offered by Salus, is designed to make risk assessment easier by centralizing and organizing your data. That lets you access the details you need with minimal fuss and cross-reference them swiftly. AI analytics help you accurately assess potential hazards, then organize the steps required to address them.

Safety management software is designed to make risk assessment easier by centralizing and organizing your data.

2) Review Compliance Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exists to ensure that health and workplace safety standards are complied with. Their standards of compliance need to be followed when it comes to safety standards, especially in the construction industry.

OSHA provides a very strong barometer to gauge the strength and merits of your construction safety management plan. By reviewing compliance standards while building yours it will be all the easier to maintain high safety standards as a matter of course. Your employees will feel safer, and your company will avoid costly non-compliance penalties.

OSHA’s compliance standards vary depending on circumstances, just as the specific risks they mitigate. Here, reliable risk assessment management can be invaluable, allowing you to consult with OSHA about the specific safety standards for each, as well as the day-to-day practices to ensure it doesn’t become a hazard.

That includes falls, electrical hazards, and trenches, in addition to equipment specifics, proper signage, and established prevention protocols. All of that should be factored into your construction safety management plan, along with provisions for the paperwork, inspections, and other aspects of OSHA’s directives.

Here too, Salus has the tools to help with OSHA compliance management. Features such as digital forms and certificate management let you keep easy track of all the necessary paperwork, and a new Compliance Management feature is designed to specifically address the kinds of details you need to strictly adhere to all pertinent safety standards.

3) Discuss Important Roles and Responsibilities

After conducting a risk assessment and reviewing OSHA’s compliance standards, it’s time to draft your safety management plan. As mentioned earlier, accountability is a key aspect of on-site safety. That means not only delegating proper roles and responsibilities to qualified and capable employees but also ensuring transparency in the process and conveying those details to all workers on the site.

As with all other aspects of building an effective construction safety management plan, the specific details depend on your company and a particular project. However, all construction sites should have at least the following two dedicated positions.

Site Supervisor. The site supervisor is responsible for all safety protocols on-site and ensures they are met, consistently. That includes, but is not limited to:

  • Regular inspections of equipment, material, and the construction site itself
  • Be familiar with existing safety codes, as well as advancements in the field
  • Provide training and team-building exercises to ensure all employees are familiar with proper procedures which includes training on equipment, safe handling of hazardous materials, and taking steps in the event of an accident
  • Ensure the company complies with all OSHA technical standards and rules
  • Organize and file all of the attendant forms and paperwork
  • Assume a leadership role in the event of an accident: administer first aid, secure everyone’s safety, report to the authorities, as well as execute the other steps laid out in your construction safety management plan
  • Keep the accident site intact and keep an accurate record of all accidents on file

Safety Officer: While the site supervisor ensures that the existing safety protocols are followed on a given site, safety officers look at the company’s overall safety management plan. That includes many of the same duties of a site supervisor, as well as analysis of the company’s overall safety effectiveness and the ways that the management plan is implemented on various sites.

Safety officers are often the person in most regular contact with OSHA, and their duties may include formal safety audits of both individual sites and the company’s overall safety practices. The specifics of such roles (and possible additional functions) depend on your company’s size and organization. Salus’s tools are designed to be scalable, so they can help you meet the specific responsibilities of your company.

4) Include a Safety Training Guide

A construction safety management plan can be prepared as meticulously as possible, with every contingency noted and accounted for. But if your employees aren’t trained to follow them—both on a daily basis and in the event of an accident or other emergency—then all of that preparation won’t amount to very much.

A safety training guide is thus a necessary part of any plan; covering not only the things employees should know before reporting to work but the methods by which the company addresses them. Such a guide is invaluable not only for the immediate needs of the company but also as a means of bringing new employees up to speed quickly. It’s also a ready means of adopting safety as a core principle of your business and ensuring that it maintains high safety standards long into the future.

OSHA training requirements give you a baseline on which to build while ensuring that your safety program will more easily adhere to OSHA’s other guidelines. More importantly, it conveys vital, life-saving skills to your workforce, helping them do their jobs better and ensuring that your sites remain safe and healthy places to work.

The basics are simple, yet absolutely invaluable:

  • Every construction employee should be properly trained in the tasks, safety protocols, and use of all equipment which they will be using on the job.
  • The training should be conducted by someone who possesses the necessary experience and qualifications, and delivered in a manner that the listener understands.
  • The training should be properly documented and take place on a regular basis, not only to keep the pertinent skills fresh but to keep employees abreast of new equipment or protocol updates.

Your plan should be designed with this in mind, and resources devoted to developing and maintaining such a training program. Here again, Salus provides the tools not only to develop a proper plan but to ensure that it meets OSHA standards and to keep it running even as your business grows and changes.

5) Include Safety Management Guide

A safety management guide should also be included in an effective construction safety management plan, covering general safety issues and overviews of key aspects of any construction site.

They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE requirements from OSHA focus not only on the types of protective equipment used for a given situation but also on proper use and storage. That includes things like long-term storage and maintenance, as well as replacing worn or outdated safety equipment. A dedicated employee, usually a safety manager, should be responsible for ensuring these protocols are followed.
  2. Fire Protection and Prevention. Fire is a danger in any place of employment, but construction sites are particularly vulnerable: with flammable chemicals, raw materials like wood, and potential electrical hazards increasing the risks considerably. Fire protocols include clearly marked emergency exits, safety equipment like fire extinguishers, and regular fire drills to ensure that everyone is familiar with what to do in an emergency.
  3. Equipment Inspections. Heavy equipment like cranes and bulldozers all have separate safety protocols that should be adhered to. Most pertinently, they should be inspected on a regular basis, and maintenance should be performed by qualified personnel as often as the equipment itself dictates. Records should be kept of each inspection, repair, and maintenance. This includes records of the employees qualified to operate and inspect it.

Salus Safety includes protocols for safety management guides. That includes scheduling inspections, inventorying equipment, organizing files, and ensuring OSHA compliance. More importantly, it helps you maintain those safety standards going forward, making such methods a routine part of your company’s operations.

6) Discuss the Company’s Emergency Action Plan

Unfortunately, no matter how well-prepared you are, sometimes the unexpected occurs. The way your company responds in an emergency situation is perhaps the strongest indicator of how well your construction safety management plan is working.

Accordingly, you should always have an emergency action plan in place before beginning work on any construction site. OSHA requires all employers to immediately report accidents and fatalities on their sites, but it goes farther than that. In the immediate aftermath of an emergency, a well-executed preparedness plan can save lives, reduce damage and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

OSHA considers an incident reportable if it happens on the job and includes any injury or illness that requires more than basic first aid to address. Accident reports need to follow specific protocols — in most cases, they must be filed within 24 hours of the incident itself, for instance. This entails inspections, audits, and similar procedures that the company will need to be prepared for.

An emergency action plan should be specific to the construction site in question, accounting for the unique details and safety concerns that each one presents. That includes anything from a fire or chemical leak to inclement weather or an accident requiring medical attention. The plan should address step-by-step protocols for securing everyone’s safety, securing the site, treating injuries, and reporting the incident to the proper authorities. The plan should also be posted somewhere on-site where all employees and visitors can easily see it, and in the languages required to convey the information to everyone on site.

Salus Safety focuses not only on preventing onsite accidents but helps you organize and implement an emergency action plan as well. Transparency and accessibility ensure that all employees can access the pertinent information, with analytic features to see where and how your protocols can be improved.

The way your company responds in an emergency situation is perhaps the strongest indicator of how well your construction safety management plan is working.

7) Provide Information on Hazardous Material Handling

Not every construction site uses hazardous chemicals and other dangerous materials, but those that do need specific protocols dedicated to them. OSHA has specific Hazard Communication rules, delineating the means by which employers are to alert their workers of the dangers and safety steps associated with hazardous materials. With that as a guideline, your company can generate a concrete plan of action to keep your workers informed and aware.

Hazard communication entails a number of specific steps designed to minimize or eliminate any chances of an accident. That includes labeling all containers, providing instructions on first aid and emergency procedures. These measures also take in eyewash stations and chemical showers, providing access to safety data and history, and including safety training programs to educate workers on proper handling procedures.

Specific chemicals have specific traits, which must be addressed and accounted for in any operation that uses them. Choking and asphyxiation are common hazards, especially if the worksite is enclosed or lacks ventilation. Respirators need to be provided and all workers trained in how to use them.

Advancing technology allows hazardous materials to be replaced with safe and effective alternatives. Safety managers should educate themselves with those options and be ready to implement them if at all possible. That goes hand-in-hand with specific emergency protocols designed to deal with the unexpected entailing the hazardous chemical in question, and long-term safety protocols addressing the potential harm of long-term exposure. Safety equipment should be checked and restocked periodically, with similar replacements made if a better or more acceptable upgrade arises.

The human factor should be considered when handling hazardous materials as well. Workers who are tired or unfocused increase the risk of an accident considerably. Accordingly, safety managers should always rotate work shifts involving hazardous chemicals, and make adjustments to ensure that no one is overexposed or placed at greater risk.

8) Include Other Site-Specific Health and Safety Provisions

As indicated, no one construction site is quite like any others, and depending on the nature of your company’s workload, there will likely be health and safety concerns that are unique to them. A construction safety management plan can’t practically account for every single possible contingency, but yours may be required to address site-specific provisions dependent upon the circumstances.

Construction sites can be grouped into several general categories that give you some idea of the safety protocols involved in each. With that as a base, you can customize your plan to include provisions for unique circumstances.

Types of construction types include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Residential Construction individual homes, tract or parcel homes, apartment buildings, and housing projects.
  • Commercial and Institutional Projects – small storefronts, malls, commercial high-rises, hospitals, government buildings, and universities
  • Industrial Projects – power plants, mills, factories, and solar wind farms.
  • Waste Management Projects – sewage treatment plants and recycling centers.
  • Heavy Construction Projects – dams, spillways, transportation corridors, and dredging operations
  • Gas and Fuel Projects – refineries and storage facilities; owing to the highly flammable nature of gas and fuel, such projects emphasize extreme levels of caution

Each of these construction types comes with an extensive list of health and safety protocols that need to be followed. That includes state and local statutes as well as federal and international standards. That’s on top of all the other safety protocols that need to be complied with as a matter of course.

Safety Management Software Built For The Construction Industry

With all of that to keep track of—in addition to the standard managerial needs of running a business and keeping your projects on deadline and on budget—it’s easy to see how regularly practiced safety and health measures can pay dividends.

The more it becomes ingrained in the principles and culture of your business, the easier it is to implement and maintain, until it becomes as natural as setting deadlines and allocating manhours. But that takes a lot of work, not only in setting up your construction safety management plan but in making sure it works as it should going forward.

That’s where Salus safety management software becomes so important. It allows you to create and manage a construction safety management plan with simplicity and ease. Its features include licensing managements and other organization of digital forms, compliance, and auditing management features, organizational abilities to handle safety equipment and similar assets, and even a subcontractor portal to provide access to your partners and clients.

Embrace the digital reality and leverage cutting-edge solutions to enhance the safety of your construction site by scheduling a Salus demo now and discover why going digital is a super-smart, cost-cutting, life-saving investment.

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