In an industry chronically plagued by manpower shortages, keeping crews safe on the job can be the difference between building a thriving industrial contracting company and closing the doors.
Industrial contracting carries many safety risks, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting more than 130,000 construction worker absences due to illness of injury in 2020 alone. Common worksite hazards include falls from heights, scaffold collapse, trench collapse, hand injuries, electric shock and failure to use proper protective equipment. The appearance of COVID-19 in 2020 brought a new element to safety concerns and added to the industry’s existing workforce challenges.
Many customers are requiring and enforcing more stringent project safety standards. And heavy construction contractors are following suit by raising their safety standards and enhancing or supplementing their training, policies and procedures.
What’s at stake
A firm’s reputation as an industrial contracting company is vitally important to its success. An incident on a jobsite can put a company’s reputation in jeopardy, especially if correct training and procedures weren’t in place. Incident reports appear in project bids, and those can affect future bidding opportunities and ultimately the company’s revenue stream.
Plan for safety
The planning stage is the most critical part of any industrial contracting project. It’s the best opportunity to conduct a stringent risk analysis to identify safety concerns. Because of the shared risk inherent in construction projects, it’s of utmost importance to involve all stakeholders in this part of the process. Without buy-in from all parties, projects may face unnecessary risks which could potentially impact an otherwise successful outcome.
With shortages of materials and workforce illness concerns, out of sequence work is becoming more commonplace. Work that’s performed outside the initially planned timeline is ripe with opportunities for accidents. Contractors should be sure to revisit safety plans anytime the sequence of work is modified.
A safety plan should include a clearly-defined process for empowering crew members to escalate issues when faced with something outside the initial scope of work. It’s normal to feel pressured as milestones and deadlines approach, but these should never override concern for crew safety. Every employee should know they have the power to stop the work and help devise a plan to alleviate the problem. It’s a lot easier to deal with a work delay than the aftermath of a serious incident. Especially one that could have been avoided.
- Involve all key stakeholders in the planning stage
- Identify hazards up front and develop a mitigation plan
- Develop a backup plan
- Plan for out of sequence work which may require changes to the original plan
- Designate one person with overall responsibility for project safety
- Emphasize situational awareness at all times
- Create standardized process to address unexpected problems
- Empower employees to stop work when unexpected problem develops
- Fail to train or delaying training of employees, especially for hazardous work
- Use employees for work in which they have not been trained
- Rush employees, thereby putting a deadline over someone’s personal wellbeing
- Fail to ensure daily safety inspections are carried out
- Assume safety requirements are being met and/or followed
Hold what you’ve got
Good employees are hard to find—and, given the extreme demand for construction workers, can be even harder to hold onto. Demonstrating care for employees by making sure they’re provided safe working conditions helps produce crew members that are willing to go the extra mile for the sake of company and customer. And a lot less likely to look for employment elsewhere.
Creating a positive safety culture throughout the enterprise is paramount in protecting employees, the industrial contracting firm and its reputation. Remember, at the end of the day, everybody wants to go home safe and sound.