For quite a while now, the construction industry in North America has been facing a labour shortage. Tactics for overcoming the shortage have largely focused on recruitment: encouraging young people and workers from other industries to embrace construction. While recruitment is important, it’s equally as important to care for the safety and wellbeing of workers already in the industry. Not only does protecting workers’ safety help ensure a healthy and robust labour pool, but it’s also the moral and legal duty of the industry to protect its workers.  

Unfortunately, many construction firms haven’t been doing such a great job at ensuring job site safety. A recent survey by the National Safety Council found that 58% of Americans working in construction don’t feel that their employers value safety as much as they value productivity. It’s clear that the construction industry must do better, and the start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate safety measures to make sure team members are safe, healthy and happy. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when reviewing your company’s safety performance:

1. Construction Companies are Legally Required to Provide a Safe Workplace

Construction companies are required by law to protect their team from workplace injuries, but many are falling short. In the NSC survey, 47% of construction workers surveyed said they were afraid to report violations, which means that there are likely many legal violations on job sites across the country. It’s only a matter of time before whistleblowers and regulators catch on to illegal job site protocol that’s jeopardizing worker safety. This is a compelling reason for construction firms to evaluate their compliance with laws and regulations.

2. Safety Legislation Changes Regularly

Perhaps one of the main reasons that construction companies violate safety laws is because making sense of legislation can be tricky. Laws stipulating proper safety protocols change frequently and keeping up with those changes is an important part of construction management. Here are some recent US safety changes that have already taken effect:

Fall Protection Systems  

Falls are the leading cause of death in the workplace and more than half of fall-related deaths occur in construction. This statistic is not surprising, considering that fall prevention rules are the most violated according to OSHA. In January 2017, OSHA released new rules around fall protection measures.

Stairways, Ladders & Guardrails

Falls from ladders account for 20% of all workplace injuries. To help reduce this number, OSHA released new rules stipulating that ladder safety systems are now mandatory. This rule goes into effect for new ladders in November 2018 and for all ladders in 2036.

Workplace Assessments

As of November 2017, OSHA stipulates that all employers must conduct regular assessments of equipment and that all assessments must be documented.

Employee Training

OSHA made employee training for those participating in high-hazard work mandatory in May 2017.

Silica Dust

Despite pushback, the new silica rules released in September 2017 remain in effect. On December 22nd, the US Court of Appeals denied the appeal made by industry groups and the new regulations will stand. The new rules set limits on the acceptable exposure to crystalline silica – a carcinogen according to many research institutions. Workers are generally exposed to silica dust when working with stone, sand and concrete, and breathing in silica dust can cause respiratory illness, lung cancer and kidney disease.

3. Technology Can Help Make Job Sites Safer

Many safety violations and workplace injuries are caused by high worker demand. Construction leaders push their teams to produce quickly and efficiently, and this pressure can lead to cutting corners when it comes to safety. This is a huge mistake, but fortunately, it’s avoidable. With construction technology evolving at a rapid pace, companies are now able to access software and hardware that can help increase productivity without putting workers’ lives or wellbeing at risk.

Robotics technology, for example, has come a long way and is making its way to construction sites. And cloud and software technology has advanced exponentially. Construction ERP software is an example of how computer technology allows construction teams to communicate more efficiently and ensure that efforts aren’t duplicated, resources are conserved and mistakes are kept to a minimum. When productivity is increased through streamlined operations and advanced technology, it removes the pressure pressed on individual workers and allows them to work smartly and safely.

4. Employee Wellbeing Also Affects Job Site Safety

Enhancing the overall wellbeing of team members is the most effective way of reducing injuries on the job site. When workers are well hydrated, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep, they will be more alert and make safe decisions.

There are many ways that companies can improve the lives and wellbeing of their employees. Access to health benefits allows employees and their families to attend regular health check-ups and receive medical care when necessary. And extended benefit programs that allow team members to engage in fitness classes and activates are a great way to promote wellness.

Some workplaces have also found that educational programs are extremely effective at informing employees about nutritional concerns and encouraging healthy habits. Most importantly, companies must ensure that workers aren’t overworked and have time to recharge and connect with friends and family. Workplaces that invest in measures for promoting employee wellbeing see the returns in productivity, employee retention and quality of work.

Looking for more ways to improve construction safety? Check out 4 Ways Advanced ERP Reduces Risk on the Job Site.