In true 2020 fashion, Construction Safety Week will be a little bit different this year. While we remind ourselves of the fundamentals of job site safety, Covid-19 prevention measures have become an essential part of the week’s topics. It’s not always easy to talk about safety on the job site but continuing this conversation could save lives so we’ve compiled stories, tips, and reminders to think about this week (and all year long!).
The Top 8 Builder Safety Tips
1 Safety is a Conversation, Not Just a List of Rules
Take on this mindset when you read the JHAs/JSAs for the job. Treat it as a living document and be proactive about soliciting feedback from your crew. As we learn on the job site each day, we discover new, safer ways to approach work. Taking those lessons, revisiting your JHAs, and improving them is part of creating a safer (and more efficient) workplace.
2 Implement Mobile Technology into the Workflow
Think about the ways technology can improve communication and safety. Whether that’s using your phone to snap a photo of a hazard, or alerting your crew of any changes that might affect their safety through a simple message. Establishing those communication channels as well as the proper way to use them can improve safety on the job site. This might be especially important to builders that are working alone. Investing in specialized apps that track equipment, people and work schedules can improve efficiency by taking these tasks off your plate. The less you have to worry about the more you’re free to actively maintain the safety of your crew and yourself.
3 Protect your Senses
This is your annual reminder to think about the long term effects of the safety measures we’ve become too casual about. Whether that’s remembering to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes, wearing warm enough clothing to prevent too much winter cold exposure, wearing proper masks that protect you from too much silica exposure, or being aware of where you’re placing your hands when using saws and other cutting tools.
@MTLContractors weighed in on the conversation to remind us about the importance of gloves. They say:
"GLOVES! We can't stress their importance enough. We've become aware of the importance of masks over the years, but gloves are under-utilized. From nitrile to protect from chemicals, to regular gloves for scrapes, cuts and grip. The skin is the largest organ in our body!"
It only takes one slip up to severely injure yourself - permanently losing your vision, being diagnosed with silicosis, or losing a limb. Going back to the basics like hydration, and reminding yourself why PPE is important, can go a long way.
4 Keep Your Mental Health in Check
This year was a rough one. As we continue to build we need to ensure we not only have the physical capacity, but also the mental capacity to take on the work ahead. It might only start as being distracted or stressed at work, but it can manifest into something bigger and more overwhelming that may affect our awareness and ability onsite. Address your mental health proactively by checking in with family members, friends, and professionals.
5 Don’t Be the A**hole Who Hates the Safety Guy
Call yourself out when you get annoyed at the safety reminder your buddy just told you. He’d rather be the safety guy than the guy that needs to help you report an injury. You’re part of the safety culture your crew creates. Comments and reactions to safety reminders determine how your crew views your safety. You need to verbally reinforce the importance you place on safety by thanking people for the friendly reminders to work safely.
6 Safety Even Before Clocking In
The effects of COVID-19 have changed the way we think about safety onsite. We need to be aware of exposure and transmission even before we get to work. Properly monitoring ourselves, possible symptoms, and keeping track of who we interact with can affect whether we start an outbreak on a project. Making that crucial decision to go to work or stay home is something we need to constantly ask ourselves as we get ready for work. We have to put ourselves first, while remembering that this decision has far-reaching consequences to both our families and our fellow builders.
7 Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect!
There’s a new dimension to tool and machine safety as we work through the pandemic. With multiple people operating the same equipment, washing and sanitizing daily should be something that is implemented into the onsite workflow. Contractors and operators need to be disinfecting their hands and the surfaces they’ve come in contact with when sharing tools and machinery.
8 Place Proper Signage Throughout the Job Site
Signage is no stranger to builders and an important communication tool on any job site. Signage at key spots throughout the job site reminds everyone to adopt these new ways of working. Changing work habits is hard but visual cues to sanitize, wash your hands, maintain social distance, and record your temperatures can help the crew adapt to the pandemic safety measures.
Some Advice on Falls From Building Expert Bryan Kaplan
We reached out to Bryan Kaplan, of Construction Consulting, to get his tips on how to avoid injury from falls. Specifically, he wanted to touch on measures you can put in place when there’s a need to remove safety railings away from stairs. Here are some tips to deal with increased traffic in these areas:
- Only remove railings when there is no one on the floor who could be at risk
- Make sure that rails are put back immediately after the work in the area is completed
- Use signage to help people see the threat to safety
- Control the volume of people on the sites when safety measures are reduced
- Education, education, education - talk to the team consistently about keeping a safe working environment
Bryan elaborated sharing a personal experience about why fall safety should be everyone’s priority:
“On the same tune of fall safety, I once was working on a third-story addition here in Toronto. The fellow I was working with was anxious and pushing the pace pretty hard. We were working on a pine lounge and groove ceiling detail on scaffold and ladders and immediately beneath me was a large casement window that was open as it was summer and HOT. I took a step down off the scaffold onto the wrong side of the ladder and the brace snapped and I started falling towards this window that overlooked the Don Valley which was about a 200-300 foot drop. It would have been over for sure.”
Bryan’s personal account is terrifying for any builder and non-builder alike. Here’s his advice to avoid these types of dangers:
- Be patient with your teammates and respect their safety
- Ensure that you don’t prioritize workflow over someone’s safety
- If using scaffold and ladders, make sure to take the time to set these up and use correctly
- Keep windows closed if working directly above them (this was before window limiters became code here in Ontario)”
We’re grateful experts like Bryan and others all over the continent are sharing their stories of safety. These tips shouldn’t be taken lightly, they could mean the difference between life and death. Safety could not be a more serious topic, and we need to do everything we can to support it. Follow the hashtag on Twitter this week and all year round to find more great safety tips from the pros #ConstructionSafetyWeek.
All screenshots by author. Taken September 2020.
Image 1-9: Via Twitter