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Construction Health and Safety: OSHA Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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Construction professionals’ daily mantra is a simple two-word phrase: “Safety first, safety first, safety first.”

But what does that phrase really mean when it comes to day-to-day practices in the construction industry? Are there major OSHA rules and guidelines that you may be ignoring to your peril, without even realizing it?

Companies need more than just a vision and mantra of safety. They need a clear plan that is universally understood, easy to carry out, and actionable.

Daily hazards that make up the harsh reality of the construction business. Electrocution, falls, head injuries, burns, amputation, and hearing loss are just a few of the several incidents could and do happen on any given day. This isn’t a problem of the past. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than six million construction and extraction jobs in the United States alone, which means the potential for injuries and fatalities is massive. The bureau also reported that 2015 was the worst year in terms of fatal occupational injuries for U.S. workers since 2008 with 4,836 nationwide, so it’s a problem that persists even as safety regulations increase.

As it stands now, accidents and fatalities are still commonplace in construction even with modern safety strategies in place. The construction industry is second only to manufacturing in nonfatal injuries.

And as you could expect, the construction industry also ranks high for fatal injuries:

Lives are at stake. Without proper safety plans in place, incident rates would be unacceptable and the industry could collapse. Luckily, common sense, construction management software, and OSHA guidelines can help your mantra of construction health and safety come to fruition. Read on to find out how.

OSHA Accidents are Preventable

How many times have you read the news about a construction site accident, sometimes fatal, and OSHA declares the accident “preventable?” That’s bad news for everyone involved.

When a preventable fatality/injury happens, the company is going to have to dramatically overhaul their safety processes. That’s a good thing, of course, but it also likely means a significant corporate change.

You want to avoid having to do that, so it’s important to prevent OSHA accidents not just by developing a set of rules, but by creating a culture of safety through a sound strategy.

What Does a Quality Construction Health and Safety Strategy Look Like?

Traditional safety programs have focused on training and rule enforcement with employees. That’s great, but it’s not enough. Organizations must have a well-rounded safety plan that makes everyone accountable.

Dr. Christine Branche, principal associate director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, says that rather than telling workers what the door, companies should be focusing on getting information to contractors and site managers. “The onus of responsibility first is on the contractors and the site supervisors,” she said.

A good example of this is in how companies can deal with falls, which is the greatest hazard that workers contend with in construction. OHSA’s Fall Prevention Campaign, true to Dr. Branche’s assertion, focuses on raising awareness at all levels, not just with the workers who are in immediate danger.

For example, it advises managers to:

  • Provide proper equipment.
  • Train everyone to use the equipment the right way.
  • Plan well for safety.

By creating these “mandates” for safety, OSHA is essentially telling construction managers it is on them if workers fall.

How Construction Safety Software Can Help Prevent Workplace Injuries

Construction companies have ways to prevent unsafe conditions, combat the likelihood of massive on-the-job injuries, and learn as they go to make their workplaces even safer, and construction safety software is one way to manage all of that.

Many software options offer data management and analytics features to help companies make better decisions. Our directory allows you to seek out construction management software with incident reporting, for example. Or, seek out software specifically focused on OSHA compliance.

Safety management practices in construction have improved in the past decade, mostly due to two factors:

1) Technology.

2) The idea that safety is a culture, not only a list of rules to follow.

In a way, these two factors are synergistically related: it is only by developing software that tracks incidents in the construction environment that companies can infuse a culture of safety into their operations.

Adopting construction safety software provides a number of benefits:

  • Companies can be proactive about identifying safety issues.
  • Managers can view important safety performance indicators.
  • Managers can collect safety data on many devices, from any location in the field.
  • Managers can easier  track injuries, incidents, near misses, and vehicle incidents.
  • Managers can access simplified incident reporting.
  • Managers can more thoroughly plan for safety inspections, observations, incidents and more.
  • It eases the completion of a Job Safety Analysis with construction safety software.

What is Your Construction Safety Strategy?

A report published by Dodge Research and Analytics this year showed that construction companies who demonstrated a strong safety culture enjoy a great deal more benefits than companies that don’t have quality safety management practices in place.

How’s the safety culture at your company? Have you implemented your own plan and seen success? Please tell us about it below.

Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Jillian Rahn

Jillian Rahn is the Senior Business Analyst at StarTex Software, the company behind EHS Insight. In her role, she works directly with clients to gather business requirements, conduct EHS data exploration and coordinate the release and testing of new software updates. Prior to her career in tech, Jillian worked with Accenture, where she designed instructional programs that helped support training and development initiatives. An avid blog writer and a lover of dogs, Jillian is a Project Management Professional and a proud Texas A&M Aggie.

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