Safety is the number-one issue in the construction industry. HSE stats for 2014/15 tell the story: construction accounts for only 6% of the UK working population, but 25% of worker fatalities.
So here are 10 simple tips for better onsite safety. None of them involve great expense, but you do have to make time for them. Question is: why would you not make time to keep your team safe?
1. Regular safety meetings
Schedule time for a regular – weekly, perhaps even daily – safety meeting that involves everyone.
Use those meetings to foster a safety culture – one in which everyone feels confident in talking about safety, potential risks, and ways of tackling problems. Encourage your team to talk about the work they did in the past week and how it went from a health and safety point of view. Then get them to look ahead at the work that’s coming. How can you head off any potential problems?
2. Site induction
New site…new materials…new set of risks. Never let your team start a new project without a full health-and-safety induction.
3. Who’s in charge of health and safety?
Make sure one person in every team is looking out for health and safety. That doesn’t let everyone else off the hook. They should all be doing their bit. But giving one person that extra bit of responsibility means that someone is looking out for everyone else on their team.
Insist that everyone on your team wears the right kit for the job. No exceptions.
And make sure everyone checks their PPE before they put it on. Is it up to the job? If there are signs of damage or wear, replace immediately.
5. Check equipment
Check your tools at the start of each working day. Are there any signs of damage? Are the power cables intact? Are guards and safety catches in working order?
6. Safety cutters
Every material that arrives in cardboard packaging or strapped to a pallet has to be cut free – and all-too-often with the exposed blade of a utility knife. Why not swap that dangerous piece of kit for a safety knife or a safety cutter? The blades automatically retract when they’re not cutting.
7. Keep the working area neat and tidy
A site can easily become cluttered. When you’re busy, tools, materials, and discarded packaging soon build up. Make tidying as you go part of your work routine. Keep the work area clear and organise tools and materials neatly out of the way.
8. Good manual handling saves backs
Make sure everyone has good manual handling training. It needn’t cost you a penny because there are dozens of free videos online.
9. Keep tools on a lanyard
If you’re working at height, a dropped tool can have serious consequences. It’s also tedious to retrieve a spanner that’s on the floor three metres below. Use a tool lanyard to strap tools to your belt.
And before you start work, empty your pockets of all loose items. A mobile phone slipped into the front pocket of your shirt will fall out when you bend over – possibly hitting someone below.
10. Safety inspections
Don’t assume that everyone does what they should do when you’re not looking. Organise frequent site-safety inspections. Don’t say when, just turn up and see what’s actually happening.