After the COVID-19 pandemic put many construction projects on hold throughout much of 2020, the beginning of a post-vaccine world heralds a belated but welcome return to the vigorous construction schedules that shape our ever-changing surroundings. As we get back into full swing, it can be easy to pick up where we left off and take a cavalier approach to jobsite safety. Just as so much of our life requires a “new normal” approach, so too does vigilance on the construction site. Here’s how we can use the return to begin rethinking how we keep our construction workers safe in 2021 and in the years to come.
Continuing Safety Training
Think about the game of chess—you can learn the basics in an afternoon, but it can take a lifetime to truly master the game. Construction safety is not unlike chess in this respect. Everyone can understand the basics from the get-go, but new equipment, new developments in the industry, and changes in OSHA guidelines make on-site safety an ongoing pursuit. Keep danger in check by insisting upon continual safety training for workers. Ongoing training isn’t about repeating the same messages over and over—though developing and maintaining good habits is certainly one aspect of training. Successive training courses should implement new information and stay on top of emerging trends in job-site safety.
Change the Culture
On far too many job sites, workers presume an inverse relationship between safety and productivity—the more often they have to account for safety violations and unsafe conditions, the less work gets done, and the object of the game, as it were, is to get the work done. Of course, the lack of productivity that arises when an incident or accident causes a full stopdown belies this notion. Believing they must run up the count on a “days without an incident” board or the interest of sheer haste can prevent workers from reporting conditions that could get out of hand. When this occurs, it’s only a matter of time before an avoidable small problem becomes an unavoidable big one. Don’t allow this to happen. Build a safety culture that emphasizes honesty and transparency rather than devotion to numbers and project benchmarks. This, more than underreporting or inattention, will keep workers safe and prevent cost overruns.
Take Care Around Electricity
Thousands of accidents involving shock or electrocution happen each year. These accidents are eminently avoidable, and encouraging proper precautions when working with or around electricity is a big part of rethinking how we keep our construction workers safe in 2021 and beyond. Working near above-ground or underground power lines and cables can be dangerous for workers, and working with scrap lifting magnets requiring workers to be especially mindful of magnetic materials around them.