At Sierra Construction Group, we prefer not to use the word accident, as it implies that nothing could have been done to prevent it. We call them incidents, as with almost all of them, some factors could have prevented them. We spoke with one of our Health & Safety Co-ordinators, Jonathan Rowe, who has been with Sierra for over 16 years, to go over how we can best avoid on-site incidents to ensure our team stays safe.
"In my experience (40 years of firefighting service and 30 years conducting incident investigations), I have not found a single incident that could not have been prevented. Sometimes people make mistakes or a combination of them which is the leading cause of most incidents." - Jonathan Rowe
So how can we prevent these types of incidents? According to Jon, good planning and recognizing hazards along with developing good safety habits, practices, and safe work procedures will minimize the risk of an incident.
At Sierra, the team conducts a daily hazard assessment (JAR card) and discusses the scope or tasks to be completed that day. All of our subcontractors are required to complete the daily hazard assessment as well so that everyone on-site has properly addressed all safety concerns and reduced the likelihood of incidents. These assessments promote a safer working environment for all involved and contribute to Jon's first incident prevention tip - good planning.
Starting each shift with good planning plays a crucial role in preventing incidents in construction by identifying potential hazards and implementing appropriate preventive measures from the get-go. But how does one complete this assessment? First, you evaluate factors like site conditions, equipment usage, materials handling, and working at heights. By understanding these risks in advance, appropriate control measures can be implemented to mitigate them. This is where safety policies and procedures come in. An important part of good planning involves establishing clear policies and procedures that outline the expected safety standards and practices on the construction site. While training and education are important on-site, the safety guidelines for personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, safe work practices, emergency procedures, and protocols for equipment inspection and maintenance are equally important.
The final piece to good planning is communication and coordination. Effective planning involves clear communication and coordination among all workers, including contractors, subcontractors, workers, and supervisors. This typically comes in the form of regular safety meetings where updates on any changes in the project can help ensure that everyone is aware of potential risks and safety measures. By incorporating these principles into the planning phase, construction projects can proactively address safety concerns and reduce the likelihood of accidents, promoting a safer working environment for all involved.
Throughout the day, workers need to keep their eyes and minds on the tasks they are performing so as not to become complacent.
Slips, trips, and falls and struck by equipment/objects comprise the vast number of construction injuries. Recognizing hazards on construction sites - Jon's second incident prevention tip - is crucial for maintaining a safe work environment. There are many ways to recognize hazards on site, and the easiest way to recognize hazards is to familiarize yourself with regulations and standards. Understanding the local health and safety regulations provides the framework for recognizing hazards and implementing preventive measures. It will also help when conducting thorough site inspections as safety hazards will be easier to identify. Workers should regularly inspect the construction site to identify potential hazards, looking for any conditions that could potentially cause harm to workers. This is not just limited to on-site workers but also supervisors, coordinators, and visitors to be sure that there is open communication throughout the company and the site.
Hazards can exist in various forms on construction sites. There are structural hazards (any unstable structures, inadequate scaffolding, unsupported excavations, or potential collapse risks), equipment hazards (improperly maintained or defective equipment, inadequate guarding, improper use of tools, or potential crushing hazards), electrical hazards (such as exposed wires, improper grounding, faulty electrical equipment, or potential electrical shock risks), and hazardous materials (like chemicals, gases, flammable substances, or other hazardous materials that aren't properly stored or labeled). There's also the risk of falling from heights, and environmental hazards like weather conditions or low visibility. These different forms contribute to hazard recognition being an ongoing process. Workers need to conduct regular inspections, have constant communication, and have a proactive safety culture to maintain a safe construction site.
By following Jon’s two incident-prevention tips, your workers are already setting themselves up for success and making it easier to develop good safety habits as a team. Developing good safety habits on a construction site is crucial for creating a culture of safety and reducing the risk of incidents and injuries. At Sierra, we take our culture of safety seriously. From owners to management to workers, we all strive to demonstrate a strong commitment to safety and prioritize it as a core value. We communicate clear safety expectations throughout the company and use multiple communication channels to reinforce this messaging like regular safety meetings and signage in-office and on-site. We have an environment where workers feel comfortable reporting safety concerns, near misses, or incidents, which makes them feel certain that they are safe on Team Sierra.
When it comes to avoiding incidents on site, we think that Jon summarized it best:
"If a task isn’t going well, STOP for a moment, reanalyze the method, discuss with your supervisor, obtain help, change as necessary, and try again. If you see something unsafe, report it immediately. If another worker is not wearing the proper PPE, or doing an unsafe act, share with them. Keeping a job site safe is a team effort and requires all players to do their part! Keep your game face on!"