Safety Best Practices

5 Most Important Safety Lessons We learned in 2021

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Salus Safety
7 min read
December 14, 2021

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that more than 20% of all private-industry worker deaths occur in construction, making this sector one of the most dangerous and most deadly to work in. The pandemic triggered a host of new health and safety concerns in 2020 with a renewed focus on workers’ safety. This emphasis continued in 2021, and will most likely, flow into 2022.

In addition to the raft of pandemic-driven safety protocols, construction bosses are moving from top-down safety programs to more team-oriented approaches. In 2021, the industry experienced an uptick in safety training programs, toolbox talks – informal chats as a way to ensure all workers are participating in safety activities, with opportunities to discuss hazards/controls, incidents, and accidents. Educating workers on the correct way to use new equipment along with the dangers associated with using it also became a feature.

Construction companies increasingly implemented safety-focused programs that emphasized education, safety-related training, and identifying issues before injuries or death can occur. Refresher courses to keep all workers up to speed on current safety practices and workplace hazards became more frequent. Employees were pushed to be proactive too, identifying and reporting potential site hazards, such as a burned-out light, an unsteady walkway, or a ladder that needs repairing, for example.

And as always, communication ties it all together. And not just from the top down, but also between colleagues. Positive reinforcement, it has been shown, is a critical element of creating, nurturing, and maintaining a rigorous safety culture.

Understanding Construction Safety Measures and Procedures

All construction sites are inherently risky, but the risks are not universal across locations. Someone working with poisons and other potentially harmful substances, for example, is up against very different threats than someone working with electricity pylons. The key takeaway here: take the time to assess each site and identify the dangers posed.

At the heart of construction, safety compliance is a full understanding of the safety measures and procedures that need to be religiously followed on site. Taking a proactive approach to construction safety requires management to ensure that every team member is invested in the process. An inclusive approach will help determine the best ways to minimize risks. Site inspections before work starts are not enough. Supervisors must also monitor and limit hazards throughout a project’s timeline.

Implementing these safety guidelines will help ensure workers are protected while staying OSHA compliant:

  • Have a construction safety plan
  • Establish a safety committee
  • Investments in continuous training
  • Monitor and audit safety issues
  • Prioritize communication on and off-site
  • Using the right tools for the right job
  • Wearing suitable protective clothing, such as steel-toe footwear and high-visibility vests

In addition, ensure employees take regular breaks and emphasize vigilance, so as to quickly spot signs of overexertion and exhaustion. Using signs can alert people of potential risks and help make construction sites safer. In areas where power tools, such as circular saws or grinders are regularly used, for example, put up signs directing people to wear eye-protection gear before entering.

All construction sites are inherently risky, but the risks are not universal across locations.

Taking Ownership and Responsibility in Construction Safety

In the context of construction safety, accountability entails establishing and maintaining an environment in which people take responsibility not only for their own safety but the safety of the team as well. It’s thus crucial to take every opportunity to impress on all workers that safety is a collective responsibility.

When safety contributes to a company’s success, it makes sense for it to be incorporated into job descriptions and become a major consideration when evaluating performance. Equally important is determining how this is measured. Only focussing on the negatives (injuries and policy violations) is the wrong approach. A balanced approach emphasizes both positive and negative factors. Performance evaluations must take into account positive aspects like overall compliance, safety training participation, and incident reporting.

Performance is often evaluated on an annual basis. However, for it to be effective, this must change, says Occupational Safety and Health Technician (OHST) Joe Mlynek. “I encourage you to take the opportunity to meet frequently with employees and engage them on safety. They deserve to know not only what the expectations are, but how they are doing.”

Mlynek adds that accountability is a “positive thing,” and leaders must ensure employees have the resources needed to succeed in all areas including safety. This, he says, includes clearly communicating behavioral expectations and ensuring that the importance of safety is amplified and measured just like production and quality. “As leaders, we are not only accountable for ourselves, but for the success of the individual and the team.”

Brushing Up on Safety Knowledge and Skills

Safety protocols and processes are dynamic. The changes stem from various sources that may not be limited to OSHA directives. It is also critical to keep up with developments in safety policies. You really don’t want to create perceptions that you’re only concerned about safety when OSHA comes knocking, threatening you with big penalties for noncompliance.

Make safety a top and ongoing priority with your words and actions. Schedule regular safety training sessions to ensure your site is compliant with the most up-to-date safety protocols. Cultivate a culture that encourages workers to share safety tips and look out for their colleagues’ well-being. Hold monthly team meetings, reward people for working safely, ask workers to suggest how to make their worksite safer.

In addition, many companies keep running stats of the total number of work hours without incidents. People are motivated by this and it reinforces the notion that construction safety is a collective effort. OSHA itself offers a comprehensive resource for safety protocols, precautions, and training material.

You really don't want to create perceptions that you’re only concerned about safety when OSHA comes knocking...

Shifting Attitudes to Safety

The success of your safety programs pivots on increased employee involvement. Managers must get workers to become aware of the need to demonstrate the right attitude to safety.

When employees take safety seriously, the likelihood of accidents that can cause deaths or injuries is significantly reduced. A shift in attitude also helps avoid exposure to hazardous substances that can lead to serious illness, as well as ensure compliance with OSHA safety and health regulations.

Carelessness, it’s been said, is the most common cause of workplace accidents. It happens when workers take attitudes like these toward safety:

  • Complacency. It is tempting to skip safety steps after completing the same task over and over without an accident. That’s when accidents happen.
  • Being upset or angry. Distractions can be deadly. When it comes to your job, you cannot let emotions get in the way.
  • Fatigue. A tired mind and body? Take a break!
  • Recklessness. It is foolish and dangerous to take unnecessary risks with tools, machinery, or chemicals.
  • Being afraid to ask questions. Not sure? Get clarification, for your own and the team’s safety

Safety, Always Safety, Nothing But Safety

Maintaining a strong safety culture on construction sites requires strict compliance with OSHA regulations. The sheer volume of regulations and protocols, however, can pose an administrative nightmare. While OSHA lays out the basic safety protocols that managers should observe, construction safety solutions such as Salus are uniquely positioned to make your construction safety visible, efficient and inclusive.

Salus’ digital software solutions are revolutionizing safety in the construction industry. With our mobile safety app, users can log in to their accounts and collaboratively with their safety officers in ensuring an accident-free workplace. Managers can create forms, automate tasks, and track compliance in real-time. With our flexible suite of features in one central hub, you can construct accessible data files; set schedules, reminders, and watchlists; ensure COVID restrictions are observed, and even monitor compliance management at any time.

Book a Salus demo today and we’ll make sure all your safety and accountability standards are met, freeing you to focus on what you do best: Growing your business.


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