Aug 15, 2019

Setting the Safety Culture at Your Work Site

The ABC 2018 Safety Performance Report found that conducting site-specific safety orientations can reduce DART and TRIR rates by as much as 50%. Orienting each worker to the site they are working on is extremely important for a strong safety culture and record.

Not only is it important to carefully induct and instruct new hires—but the same applies to existing employees who are beginning work on a new site. Whether it’s an entire new team starting a job from the beginning, or a group or individual joining the project partway through, everyone entering a site should know the ropes.

So, what is safety culture as pertains to a specific site? What should an orientation include? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Policies and procedures for your specific site

Before any project starts at a site, there is a lot of planning—and one aspect of this is creating safety policies and procedures. Each company will go about this a different way, but there are some things which should be observed to ensure your site and site-specific safety plan fall in line with the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USA), the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, or whatever the governing body might be in your location.

When planning and writing a site-specific safety plan, consider the following things:

  • The goal: generally, this will be zero accidents or injuries for the duration of the project.
  • The chain of responsibility.
  • Site-specific hazards, and the risks associated with the particular machinery that will be used.
  • Any and all training that will be necessary for workers.
  • Personal protective equipment that will be required onsite.
  • Daily routines, such as safety checks and surveys that must be conducted before work begins.
  • Emergency responses.
  • Lockout and tagout procedures
  • Equipment maintenance and who is responsible for it.
  • Toolbox meetings.

Those crafting a site-specific plan (this one is a good example, from Robson Forensic) should think of all possible angles: fall protection, electrical safety, fire safety, hazardous waste and anything else that applies to that site in particular. Having it all written down and accounted for before beginning work is essential.

The hazards of your site

From policy planning to starting work and beyond, the unique hazards of your site will inform all of your safety-related habits and behavior. It goes without saying that all worksites are different, and that’s where orienting employees becomes tricky; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You will have to decide what safety culture means for your specific site, and how to train everyone up for a safe, productive project.

The question is, how do you identify site-specific hazards? It’s an ongoing job—those responsible for safety practices should be seeking them out before work begins, taking into account things like:

  • Heights
  • Hazardous waste and chemicals
  • Slip, trip and fall hazards
  • Moving objects and machinery
  • Electrical hazards
  • Fire risk
  • Exposure to substances like mold, asbestos, and more
  • Excessive noise

OSHA has a more comprehensive guide for identifying and assessing hazards on a site. The collection of information should also be ongoing—after all, who better to identify hazards than the people who are working on the site every day, operating machinery and navigating the unique quirks? Workers can report hazards and safety concerns as the project progresses, and this is easily done with a good software that keeps track of reports and safety forms.

Meet and greets

One thing that will almost always be unique to your specific site is the combination of people working there. That includes everyone from management to contractors on the tools.

An important aspect of a strong safety culture is knowing who is responsible for what, and who employees can go to with any safety concerns. Therefore, when orienting people to a new site, be sure to include introductions to the key supervisors or managers, and even the colleagues who will be relevant in day-to-day operations.

Emergency response

We listed this as one of the things to include in a safety policy for any site, but it really needs a more in-depth discussion. This is another aspect that will be very specific to a site, and each site needs an action plan that outlines how to respond to an array of incidents and disasters.

Any plan will include a lot of information, to cover the many possibilities. Here are some top points to think about when coming up with one for your specific site:

  • Emergency resources. Essentially, this means knowing what emergency services are available in the area, knowing the numbers for them and ensuring that the right people know them, too. Not only does this include fire, ambulance, and police, but also all utilities.
  • First aid. There should be someone onsite trained in first aid, and first aid supplies available. Also, everyone on site should know to go to in a medical emergency (as well as calling an ambulance).
  • Evacuation procedures and exit points. In some emergencies, it’s necessary to get everyone out as fast as possible. The site should be well-mapped, and evacuation routes clearly defined. As in any home, business, or organization, a procedure for how to evacuate, where to meet and who is responsible for ensuring everyone is accounted for should be in place and made known to all.
  • Communication. There are two aspects of this: first, communication any response plan to everyone who steps on site. Second, communication during an emergency event. The location of telephones and radios should be marked on a plan, and there should be a procedure in place for who to contact in any particular situation.

Each incident is different, and there are too many variables to account for any possibility. However, a solid emergency response plan, tailored to each worksite, is crucial to a strong safety culture. 

While you can’t think of everything, you can cover a lot. Consider action plans for fire, inclement weather, structural accidents, chemical spills, bomb or firearm threats, earthquakes, storms, extended power loss, major injuries, explosions, and anything that is possible on your particular site—for example, flooding if it is near a river.

Stay safe on any project

Safety in construction can be a bit of a moving target, due to the nature of the industry. There’s always a new project and a new site, with new hazards and procedures. However, committing to creating a culture of safety means putting in the work at each site.

safety management software like SafetyTek can take some of the work out of setting up safety systems, reducing the amount of tedious paperwork involved and increasing the efficiency of filling out forms, filing, incident reporting, checklists and keeping track of who’s trained for which roles.