Construction managers (CMs) can help companies prevent these violations by providing a health and safety management system. They can provide a general safety program, safety plan, and training for all workers before they start on site, ensuring that everyone has a baseline of knowledge to work from. Note that some CMs will delegate this task to the general contractor (GC) – the effect is the same as long as one entity is responsible for leading the safety charge on site.
Top 5 construction safety violationsHere are five of the top construction safety violations as identified by OSHA for 2019:
1. Fall protection
2. Hazard communication
5. Respiratory protection
Construction managers and general contractors can help prevent these violations by creating a construction safety management plan to mitigate the risks and providing training and information to individual workers, so they are aware of the risks and how to avoid them. Following these construction manager’s best practices for safety will help prevent incidents and injuries and keep safety top of mind for everyone on site.
Fall protectionWhen it comes to fall protection, employers have the responsibility to set up controls and provide systems to keep their workers safe. Employers need to make sure employees have the equipment they need to arrest a fall and protect them when they are working above ground.
Since the CM or the general contractor is overseeing all of the work on the project, they can supervise all workers on site and make sure everyone is following the appropriate protocols to keep themselves safe. Walking the site a couple of times a day to make sure everyone is tied off is a great way to prevent a fall. The CM or GC can also verify that handrails and barriers are installed where needed. These inspections may only take minutes, but they’ll save lives.
The CM or GC can also plan the work to help avoid situations where fall protection will be an issue or allow extra time for this type of work so a smaller crew can be used, lowering the number of exposed workers.
Hazard communicationAll contractors need to have a hazard communication plan available on site. It needs to identify potential hazardous chemicals that are used and have information available on what to do if a worker is exposed.
The CM/GC should be collecting all of these plans from all the contractors on the project and storing them in a central location. They can oversee the overall hazard communication plan for the site and provide SDS information to all workers. Reviewing the communication plans, spot checking SDS information, and walking the site to confirm that chemical labeling is up to the required standards are all actions they can take to keep the project in compliance.
ScaffoldingIf a project involves the use of scaffolding, the GC may want to be the one to provide it, so they know it is set up correctly. Proper scaffolding also needs to be engineered so that it can support the weight of the workers and the materials that will be working on it. If the scaffolding isn’t set up correctly or isn’t strong enough to carry the weight needed, workers could be injured. By taking responsibility for providing the scaffolding, the GC takes on the risk, ensuring that it will be set up and engineered correctly. Nevertheless, it makes sense to ensure that the scaffolding is professionally installed by a reputable company.
Scaffolding should be inspected at least daily to make sure it is properly assembled and that all required safety features are attached and engaged during work. Any damage to the structure or flooring of the scaffolding could create a potential safety hazard. These problems should be addressed right away to prevent injuries or incidents. Also inspect the guardrails and other fall protection equipment to make sure it is in place and installed correctly.
Lockout / TagoutLockout/tagout programs are put in place to protect workers from stored energy in equipment. Everyone on site needs to be aware of this program and how it works, especially if companies are borrowing equipment from each other. It’s a good idea for the GC to oversee any lockout/tagout for the site, or at least keep records of all the lockout/tagout activity so the information is in one central location.
Training on the lockout/tagout program should be provided to all employees on site as part of their site orientation. This will ensure that all workers are on the same page and know what to do when a piece of equipment needs to be shut down for repairs or maintenance.
Respiratory ProtectionWith the recent revision of the silica dust protection standard and the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes are on respiratory protection these days. Besides silica and viruses, workers also need protection from fumes, other dusts, smoke, and vapors that may be present on a site. A written plan to address all these hazards is required.
The CM can work with the GC and HVAC subcontractor to provide as much ventilation to the job site as possible. If the mechanical equipment has been installed, using it before occupancy can be an efficient way to keep the indoor air clean. Owner permission is usually required, and filters must be changed once the owner moves into the building. If the equipment isn’t installed or operational, then large fans and open doors and windows are a good starting point.
When it comes to silica and other dusts, protecting workers at the source is always best. Use tools with water or vacuum attachments to keep dust in the air to a minimum.
The CM or GC also needs to ensure that all workers on site have the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) for the job, and that they’ve been trained in the proper use and wearing of it. While the GC doesn’t necessarily have to provide PPE for other contractors, it might not be a bad idea to have extra on hand, especially face masks, eye protection, ear plugs, and gloves. These are often lost or damaged and not every worker has the ability to replace them on a regular basis.