In construction, a good health and safety record is a must to grow your business, protect your workforce, gain accreditation, get on tender lists and win more work. But with profit margins on construction projects often tight, smaller contractors and sometimes larger construction firms just don’t have a big budget and loads of resources to dedicate to health and safety.
Safety will always be a hot topic in construction. Construction is a high hazard industry and far too many people are killed or seriously injured on sites each year.
Not only is safety a priority to prevent your workforce being killed or harmed, but it is also a priority for your business profits and growth.
The impact of a site accident is significant to businesses. Large companies with big investors and significant profits can often absorb the costs associated with accidents, but it can still have a lasting impact. Smaller companies take the financial hit harder, particularly rising insurance costs, fines and replacing staff. Smaller companies will also take the emotional hit harder, as usually the entire workforce will be affected by the harm or loss of a co-worker.
If you’re reading this post, then safety clearly is a priority for your organisation, but if you haven’t got the budget you may feel you have to choose between health and safety and staying in business. The good news is, you often don't need a big budget to improve safety on site, and many health and safety measures can be implemented for free (or at a low cost).
Here are 10 free or low-cost ways to improve construction site safety on a budget:
Daily or weekly toolbox talks covering relevant site hazards and activities can help raise awareness on site. Such talks are valuable to both operatives and management, giving everyone the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
The purpose of your toolbox talks should be to keep health and safety as a priority to your workforce and to provide an open environment in which the issues raised can be explored and addressed. Each talk should focus on a single health and safety subject, and be used to deliver important health and safety information to your workforce on site. Get started with some of our free toolbox talk downloads.
One of the biggest differences between small contractor’s and large contractor’s safety management on site is paperwork. Smaller contractors tend to use more informal processes to appoint subcontractors and manage works on site.
While paperwork alone won’t improve safety, effective procedures will, and often these need to be communicated on paper. Formal signing in sheets, induction sheets, checks and inspections will allow information to be easily accessed, distributed to those who need it and provide a record that you’re complying with your legal requirements.
Near misses are events that could have resulted in an injury, but through luck or quick reactions, no injury occurred. If near misses are ignored, it is likely that eventually, an accident will occur.
Heinrichs study in 1950 showed that for every 10 near misses there will be an accident. You can implement a near miss reporting system on a shoestring budget, just with a simple near miss report form and by asking the workforce to report any near misses to the site manager.
By assessing near misses, and putting control measures in place to prevent them reoccurring, you can reduce the likelihood of a repeat.
Good housekeeping is important in any workplace, but particularly on construction sites where there is a lot of manual handling of materials, tools and equipment and waste produced. A tidy site will reduce trip hazards and also fire risks.
Smaller companies or sites may not have a site labourer with the dedicated job of keeping the site tidy. This can often lead to tradesmen concentrating on their particular work activity with no one taking responsibility for site cleaning. A clear up rota distributes the responsibility for site tidy up and helps keep the site free from unnecessary slip and trip hazards.
Good planning prior to project commencement is key to reducing risks on site. Poor planning can lead to high pressure on site, with the workforce having to rush to meet unrealistic deadlines, which can often lead to accidents.
Think about safety when planning the work, coordinate with other trades who may also affect the safety of the work being carried out. Good planning also clearly allocates responsibilities to the project team so each member knows what is expected of them.
Weekly safety meetings on site can be used to discuss any safety issues on site and come up with solutions. These meetings are a good way for site management to get feedback from the workforce, who may be able to highlight site hazards or issues with procedures that have been missed.
You can use these meetings to discuss any near misses that have occurred, and action resulting to prevent reoccurrence. To discuss any other safety failings, and also to give praise for health and safety achievements, such as accident / near miss free weeks and a tidy site.
You may not have the budget for a designated safety manager or external consultant to carry out safety inspection on site, but this doesn’t mean you can’t do them.
A site safety inspection can be carried out by your site manager or a supervisor once a week to pick up any bad practices or unsafe conditions.
If you haven’t got the budget for external training, what about pairing up experienced members of staff with new recruits or younger members of the team?
Members of the workforce that have been in the industry for many years are likely to be far more hazard aware and less likely to take risks. Through working with others with less experience they can pick up any unsafe practices and highlight hazards specific to the work undertaken.
Healthy eating is of course, good for general health, but can it really help construction site safety? Results from trials say yes! A study from the Olympic Delivery Authority showed that accident levels were highest in the hour before lunch when workers were hungry. They provided porridge for breakfast and accident levels reduced.
"It might seem elementary, but the employees were more concerned about when they could eat lunch and what they were going to eat instead of focusing on the job at hand."
Before you start calculating how much x-number bowls of porridge is going to cost you over the course of the project, they charged workers £1 a bowl to cover expenses.
Effective communication on site is important to raise awareness of safety initiatives, rules and make sure they are understood by everybody. Communication takes place on site in a variety of formats including informal talks, meetings, posters, documents, memos, hand signals, and, warning signs.
Each communication has a purpose - to deliver a message. Review your current communication processes and check that the message your sending is understood when delivered. If messages are confused or not understood, small changes and consultation with your workforce can help keep health and safety messages clear, simple, and most importantly, understood.
Have you implemented any no or low-cost health and safety initiatives on site? Let us know how you got on, and get your business featured in our article!