Important Safety Resources
Cal-OSHA Consultation – Besides investigations and citations Cal-OSHA also has a branch designed to help employers. Its called Cal-OSHA Consultation Service. They publish an excellent pocket safety book and answer questions. Their local branch is in Oakland and you can call them at 510-622-2891.
Professional Help – The San Francisco area is home to many fantastic construction specific safety professionals who can consult with you regarding your safety and assist you if you have difficulty dealing with OSHA. Feel free to call the builders exchange for a referral.
Lead – Occupational lead exposure can be a problem for workers who demolish existing work, sand or scrape old paint or use a heat gun. Information is available from the California Department of Health Services. You can contact them at 510-622-4332 or on their website at www.dhs.gov.ohb They are not an enforcement agency.
Safety Meeting Topics – Some of the insurance brokers we have partnered with provide Safety Programs and weekly meeting topics free in association with doing the insurance. If you would like to work with a broker in this capacity please call the builders exchange for a referral.
Construction Safety Overview
Construction has a poor reputation for safety. This is because as an industry we do little about it. If the industry as a whole paid more attention to workplace safety there would be less work related injury and illness and all the groups which feed off of workplace problems; The army of regulators, legislators, insurers and medicators, who follow us, would be greatly reduced in numbers. In reality it is unlikely that construction will correct the poor safety trend without outside intervention and so the above mentioned groups will probably be with us for some time to come. In California construction safety is regulated by Cal-OSHA. Cal-OSHA enforces both Federal and State regulations and has the power to issue citations and levy fines.
Getting Started In Safety
What is Safety and how is it Created
Safety is behavior. People work safely because they behave safely. Creating a safe workplace is a matter of creating safe behavior. In this sense safety is not just instruction, it is also management and supervision in creating a behavior modification program and enforcing it through supervision.
A safety program begins with management creating a goal and then implementing a plan. One of the key elements in extracting safe behavior is measurement. The rule is “What you measure is what you get”. As an example, let’s look at your typical construction company working on a large project. They talk a lot about safety and hold various meetings in which safety and safety regulation is discussed. But when the project is over what is really measured? The final measurement is “How much did it cost and how long did it take.” When it comes time to hand out raises and other rewards the same “How much did it cost and how long did it take”, measurement is used. Unless safety performance is included in project measurement and employee performance review, it will never become a behavior.
What is the Employer’s Responsibility
Basically, an employer is responsible for the welfare of their employees. This includes employees that are injured accidentally and employees who are injured because they stupidly disregard instructions and fail to use common sense. Much of the illness and injury liability is spread through the mandatory requirement for Worker’s Compensation Insurance. However, lost time, fines, and higher insurance rates belong to the individual contractor.
The employer is responsible for training an employee, providing a safe workplace and supervising that employee to make sure they are working safely. There are about 56 mandated construction trainings for things such as lockout / tag-out and confined space entry. The law in California also requires that an employee be trained for ANY hazardous undertaking.
Employers can also be responsible for the safety of other workers on their job site, since everyone on job sites has a duty to keep the site safe.
Day to Day Safety
Safe behavior often gets lost in the press of day to day workload. First line field supervision has to overcome the tendency to work unsafely “just this once in order to get the job done” and replace it with planning to avoid situations where work deadlines and safe working behaviors come into conflict. Supervisors should immediately stop any unsafe practice or correct an unsafe condition. Worker’s should be made responsible for unsafe behavior and immediately notified and possibly disciplined when working unsafely. Corrective action is the most important part of getting safety behavior in the field. Employees who consistently ignore safe working procedures should be given warnings, suspended and eventually terminated.
1) Establish a goal of Safety
2) Create a safety program
3) Educate management and supervision
4) Begin measuring safety as a part of job performance
5) Make safety, and planning for it, a job site priority
6) Make employees responsible for, and accountable for, safe behavior