An unfortunate fact of life is that accidents can happen, especially in construction. The industry experienced a couple of tragic, high-profile incidents in 2019 — the Miami pedestrian bridge and the New Orleans hotel — that made national headlines and drew increased scrutiny.
Now, as the construction industry deals with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, worker safety has taken on another dimension: protection from infectious disease. While this effort goes on, you’ve still got to keep workers safe from long-standing risks. Here are seven red flags to watch out for:
- New faces on the jobsite. From new employees to shift changes, contractors must ensure that their crews — and those of their partners — are properly trained and briefed on the current state of the site. Starting each shift with a safety huddle is one way to ensure everyone understands his or her role in staying safe while working.
- Poor housekeeping. Are cords all over the place and not taped down? Is the work area full of unnecessary clutter? Keeping a clean, organized jobsite goes hand-in-hand with safety. Your construction company no doubt has rules and procedures for these things, but sometimes rules get bent when a problem develops or the schedule gets tight. Be sure someone is always managing to eliminate these hazards.
- Communication breakdowns. Convoluted communication channels can lead to dangerous situations. Ensure that systems and processes are in place enabling project team members to easily share project information — and voice concerns — in real time.
- Bare heads, eyes or hands. These are three relatively easy things to double-check during regular safety reviews. Is every worker and visitor wearing a hard hat and safety glasses? Are the proper gloves being used? Are those working at heights wearing fall-protection gear?
- Harmful noise levels. Yes, construction sites are noisy. But if you’re raising your voice to speak to someone next to you, it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to wear hearing protection. Also consider whether an elevated noise level is inhibiting communication or being caused by faulty equipment.
- Missing signage. Warning signs, markings and tags are essential to alert both workers and visitors of site-specific hazards and high-risk areas. Again, your construction company undoubtedly has its own rules about signage, but workers can forget to install them or signs can simply fall down.
- Time pressure. Deadlines are part of every job but, when a project gets behind schedule, workers may feel compelled to rush. An executive or project manager should reinforce safety checks under these circumstances. Granted, doing so may seem counterproductive to catching up, but the risk of an accident intensifies when the pace of work markedly increases.
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