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AGC Releases Suggestions to Improve Construction Worker Safety

November 4, 2015
 / Safety / 

A fallen piece of equipment is examined on a job site.

In the wake of the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) release that showed a rise in the number of construction industry fatalities, many industry associations are making pushes to remind workers to stay safe on job sites.

Couple the new statistics with the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which allows OSHA to raise fines in line with national inflation rates, and the drive to make safety changes is stronger than ever.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is the leading association for the construction industry and one of the frontrunners in the push for increased safety measures.

The AGC released “13 Proven Steps to Improve Construction Worker Safety,” urging commercial construction organizations to act quickly to improve workplace safety.

“The new safety measures were needed to address a growing influx of new and inexperienced workers that is contributing to an increase in the number of construction fatalities,” the AGC’s release stated.

The AGC said its recommendations are based on an in-depth analysis of effective safety programs performed as part of the Willis Construction Safety Excellence Awards.

Read tips on how to enter and win the Willis Construction Safety Excellence Awards here.

“The AGC and Willis looked at what makes winning firms’ safety programs effective and then boiled that analysis down into easy to implement steps that are proven to improve safety,” the AGC said.

A podcast presentation of the recommendations can be heard here.

Among the steps suggested by the AGC, many involved new employees. The AGC suggests establishing a buddy system for all new hires that would assign experienced workers to serve as safety sponsors for new workers. The new hires’ training and understanding of performing their jobs safely would be evaluated after 30 days, and the sponsor would have to confirm that the worker is ready to work on his own.

Separate safety orientations for all new hires are also recommended, no matter the worker’s status at the firm. These sessions should include photos of common and uncommon hazards, interactive hazard recognition, group discussions, company policies and procedures, and verification of worker skills.

Ongoing training is also a big push for the AGC, which suggests that managers and supervisors have the appropriate leadership and communication skills critical to instilling safety into the workforce. All supervising personnel would complete management training in order to help workers embrace the safety culture.

The AGC suggests instituting two separate Pre-Task Hazard Analysis training programs – one for the crew and one for first-line supervisors – that would help workers operate safely and train supervisors to ensure that safety. Monthly safety training meetings, including 30-minute presentations from craft workers on predetermined topics are also encouraged to allow workers to learn from their peers in addition to supervisors.

Per the AGC, organizations are encouraged to send supervisors to Leadership in Safety Excellence certification courses, where they will learn the necessary skills to effectively communicate their company’s safety mission and culture. Targeted safety training to address all safety incidents is also encouraged, identifying safety incidents and details and addressing specific safety hazards involved to avoid future incidents.

The AGC noted that it is important that all training and materials be provided in the language of the entire workforce. More and more construction workers speak Spanish as a first language, and of the nearly 90 people who died on the job each week in 2014, 15 were Hispanic and Latino workers. Many times, these workers do not easily understand the safety message sent out to workers.

Train the Trainer instruction and other proper certification and credentialing should be provided to all personnel in a training position to help improve the effectiveness of the safety training provided. The AGC goes so far as to encourage retaining consultants to train the trainers on basic instructional skills and develop in-house training programs.

The AGC’s operating suggestions include creating task-specific “pocket safety guides” for workers that would assist them on the scope of their tasks for the day or the job. Laborers might receive single guides, while equipment operators might receive multiples depending on their tasks. The guides must be kept on each person and produced upon supervisor request, and workers should be required to verbally explain how to safely perform their key tasks.

Craft-specific safety mentoring programs are also suggested, with monthly meetings for veteran workers to assist newer workers in procedures, processes, and lessons learned. The senior mentors would summarize these trainings and identify areas for additional attention.

Easy-to-read badges that indicate each worker’s level of training are also suggested, allowing everyone on a project to be aware of the training and certification of those around them. And finally, all workers would be issued Stop Work cards to address safety risks. They could use these cards without fear of repercussion to temporarily stop construction on a project if a legitimate safety hazard is identified.

See the entire list of "13 Proven Steps to Improve Construction Worker Safety" here.

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