By Ronnie Uribe

Construction sites can be potentially dangerous places for all who work there. Safety needs to be top of mind when onsite. Through a commitment to safety from the top, including implementing safety standards, maintaining a written site safety plan, reviewing and inspecting processes and procedures, and clearly communicating to all employees about their role in job site safety, the risk of accident occurrences can be lowered greatly.

While OSHA standards of course must be followed, strict adherence is not going to matter when a specific preventable disaster occurs. OSHA regulations may not be specific to a job or worksite. That is the company management’s job, with buy-in from all employees, at all levels.   Therefore, important project-specific safety issues need to be assessed, and when warranted, preventative strategies should be added to the plan.

At a minimum, safety planning needs to include hazard considerations, safety rules and emergency action plans. But the prevention-minded contractor goes beyond that even before one work boot steps onto the jobsite. 

Additional considerations include personal protective equipment (PPE) pertinent to the job. If required, they should be provided. Daily site and equipment inspections, incident reports, and employee compliance all need to be audited daily, with supervisory oversight and review.

Employee education of safety rules, including both regulatory and site-specific hazard requirements, needs to be included in all training.

But even the most committed, prepared and safety-oriented organization should look beyond the safety rules and keep an eye on their subcontractors and suppliers. Without proper protection and indemnity, the possibly very expensive buck will stop with the contractor unless caution and safety demands and expectations are confirmed prior to work beginning.

The two ways of protection are basically required insurance for subs and suppliers, as well as that requirement well-documented in the contract itself. In addition, the agreement must include an indemnification clause – this takes effect immediately upon signing of the contract.

When requesting a COI (Certificate of Insurance) from your under-companies, this does not mean the policy has already changed to include those levels. This requires the other party’s insurer to issue the policies that conform to the COI with coverage required by the contractor. So, contractors should require proof of the actual policy change before the contract is executed.

For a job site safety plan to be effective, everyone needs to know their specific role in implementing, communicating and following company safety rules, legal safety requirements, and established and agreed-upon best practices. Below are some suggestions on how safety roles and the accompanying responsibility might be broken down by employee hierarchy:

  • Director of Corporate Safety and Compliance: Manages incident accountability, establishes working relationships with medical resources, and handles workers’ compensation claims
  • Manager (Senior VP, VP, Project Manager): Daily safety supervision – oversees and addresses unsafe performance, PPE needs and distribution, assembles roundtable discussion within 48 hours of any recordable incident
  • Supervisor/Superintendent: Observes and ensures individual compliance, communicates task-specific hazards, oversees compliance by subs as well
  • Site Safety Coordinator/Officer: Administers processes via knowledge and communication to employees and subs
  • Employees/Subcontractors: Adheres to all company safety measures, reports all incidents and unsafe conditions

The above will depend on your company size, structure, and other factors – but as always, your best chance of success in avoiding accidents, injuries and catastrophic events, is building a team culture in which employees are empowered to work safely and are supported by top management.