Time is money. You have probably used this phrase in many situations. However, in none of the other circumstances does the phrase gain real meaning like in the construction industry. The persistent pressure on the project managers and the crew to meet tight deadlines and deliver quality work leaves safety to be an afterthought. In Australia alone, there were 3,414 work-related fatalities in 2016. Although this is a decrease from previous years, no worker deserves to perish in the course of fending for their families. Beyond having and implementing WHS Management systems and SWMS, the following strategies will help you improve the health and safety in construction on any job site in Australia.
Establish Safety Expectations
The AS/NZS 4801:2001 serve as a fundamental guiding principle in the safety requirements of any construction site in Australia. Beyond this universal foundation, every worker has a personal responsibility for their own safety. By setting clear safety expectations from the beginning, the managers establish the tone by which the whole project will be undertaken. This is walking the talk – it is not enough just to have rules. Lead from the front and inspire everyone to work together toward a common goal of workplace safety.
It is found that when safety messages are delivered directly by higher level managers, workers are more likely to internalise and value the message more as opposed to when passed through the chain of command. Instil in the employees that it is the responsibility of everyone on the site to follow rules, procedures and Codes of Practice to avert hazards.
Hold informal talks at the start of each workday to cement the understanding of procedural and safety expectations among your employees. This will start toolbox talks which are the best way to pass on safety practices and messages amongst the crew. This approach also helps prevent time wastage on inconsistencies while also minimising chances of error.
Build a Conducive Environment
From a survey done by the authors of Crucial Conversations on 1500 workers, it is found that 93% of all employees say that their workgroup faces a safety risk from an issue that is not being discussed. Additionally, more than half of the employees surveyed had knowledge of an accident that occurred because someone didn’t speak up. Going by this revelations, it is evident that quality of relationships and trust have a heavy influence on the employees overall productivity and safety.
Form a culture where employees are free to speak up when they see something going wrong. This will go a long way toward preventing and avoiding incidents. To form this culture, increase the chances of participation by ensuring that the workers feel comfortable enough with their colleagues and management to ask questions and raise safety concerns without fear of being shot down. This will make it easier for the whole team to tackle issues easier and faster instead of snowballing into bigger issues later. The same case applies to managers who often withhold feedback to avoid confrontations. If the feedback has the potential to improve a worker’s performance, let it be known – in a constructive and positive way. Avoid passing judgments and criticisms or even the person but rather address the behaviour and the incident.
A thoughtful and meticulous planning process can help you kick-start a workday more efficiently and safely. There are many things to work out before the day starts like zoning off areas that work activities will happen on the day, installing catch platforms, nets and other safety measures. You can also stock each area with the necessary tools, equipment and PPE. Also, make sure that you double check that the right tools have been supplied for the right tasks and that workers understand how to operate the equipment they will be using for the day. Lastly, exercise housekeeping practices on the job site to eliminate distractions and obstructions.
Sometimes the difference between an accident and safe work is some few seconds of delayed communication. Technology can help you bridge the gap of time and distance thereby improving safety and efficiency in the long run. Technological tools such as Drones are proving very efficient and convenient in conducting observations, site inspections and safety audits. Smartphones, tablets and project management software allow the whole crew to have instantaneous access to the same information so that everyone is on the same page.
A report compiled by Dodge Data & Analytics established that 82% of all contractors who have instituted wearable technology have achieved instant safety improvements on their sites. Wearable devices like smartwatches have the ability to alert managers and site supervisors of the location of each employee and the activities going on. They can also help detect when an employee falls, slips or trips by sending an automatic alert to a designated site personnel including medics and thereby improving response time. These benefits are instantaneous.
Implement and Enforce WHS Management Systems and SWMS
Although this goes without saying, it is still important to literate the importance of professionally prepared WHS Management Systems and SWMS. These tools not only help you show compliance with Health and Safety standards but also sets the foundation for all other safety remedies. Currently, there is a wide range of pre-written templates that are specifically designed to address the unique needs of various work activities across various industries. Additionally, most of them offer the option of customising the templates so that they can meet your intended purpose. Regardless of the option you go with, the WHS Management Systems and SWMS are a sure way and a firm starting point of improving the health and safety of your construction site.
A careful implementation of each or some of the strategies above will help you minimise downtime, chances and injuries while also improving health, safety and overall productivity of the crew.