How to Foster a Culture of Occupational Safety
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 1,000 construction workers die while on the job every year. The industry’s safety challenges are plentiful, as construction teams face a variety of workplace hazards, including:
● Extended heights and fall risks
● Pinning or being struck by machinery
● Airborne health hazards
● Chemical or material exposure
● Excessive heat
Employers are required by OSHA to account for these hazards and take measures to protect employees from them and to foster a culture of occupational safety. Here, we’ve included the steps your business can take to develop that safety culture and ensure your team is protected against accidents.
Establish a Health and Safety Team – or at Least a Representative
Health and safety programs start at the top, with people who have the resources and latitude to put them in place. To ensure your health and safety policies are a priority, create a health and safety team or a representative who can bring attention to risks proactively.
This representative’s job is to provide a communication link between employees and the company. Studies show that workers are more likely to point out hazards if they know their concerns will be heard. Establishing a health and safety representative communicates to your employees that they will be heard.
Develop a Health and Safety Plan, then Communicate it to Employees
Occupational safety plans are a must for any project and, in some states, required for compliance. These plans must include the following:
● The potential hazards employees may face during work
● The company’s practices in mitigating risk
● The controls in place to ensure risk management policies are carried out
When leadership develops safety policies and procedures like this, it tells managers and everyone under them that safety is a focus. Once a safety plan is put together, it should be clearly communicated to workers and easily accessed for reference.
Identify Workplace Hazards with Appropriate Signage
A major part of an occupational safety plan is identifying hazards and communicating their presence to workers. In fact, OSHA’s general duty clause requires businesses to inform their employees of hazards, so they must be clearly marked out in the environment.
An effective way to do this is with commercial safety signage. Safety signage comes in hundreds of designs and can be used with any workplace hazards that contracting teams are likely to encounter. For instance, occupational safety signs can be used to point out falling, slipping, electrocution, dust, noise, chemical, heavy machinery, fire, and high vehicle traffic hazards, among others.
In addition to identifying hazards, safety signage can establish worksite boundaries and restricted areas, warning people to stay away. They can also provide information about nearby safety equipment and first aid locations.
What Types of Occupational Safety Signage do Construction Sites Require?
Commercial safety signage is exposed to rough environmental conditions, including wind-blown dust, weather, sun, chemicals, and the occasional collision. Paper-based signage isn’t capable of withstanding those conditions, which is why employers are required to post durable signage instead.
A standard durable signage option is to print it on a sheet of metal – typically aluminum. Aluminum signage is strong, lightweight and corrosion-resistant, so it can be used in areas where hazardous chemicals are present, or near saltwater. The only challenge with aluminum signage is the printing method, as conventional printing methods are not effective.
The answer to this challenge is dibond printing. The dibond printing process sandwiches a pair of aluminum sheets around a polymer core, giving it excellent durability and long-term reliability.
Dibond printers can be tough to find, and you’ll likely need to work with a commercial printer to furnish your occupational safety signage. There are multiple benefits to working with a commercial printer, including compliance. Experienced safety signage printers know what the regulations are regarding commercial safety signage, so they can provide OSHA and ASTM-compliant signage confidently.
Update and Improve Safety Policies Regularly
Fostering a culture of occupational safety is an ongoing process, and one that requires frequent updating. Like any occupational process, your safety processes won’t remain effective if they aren’t built into a feedback loop. In this instance, the feedback loop passes from worker to leadership, and once leadership is alerted to a potential hazard, it’s up to them to update safety policies accordingly.
It takes work to carve out this feedback loop and ensure everyone involved is passing along information, documenting it, and updating safety policies.
Make Safety Training a Priority
Developing a successful safety plan requires some degree of employee buy-in. Your workers are on the project’s front lines and are the ones who will discover safety gaps first. To ensure they are aware of these hazards and ready to control them, safety training is a must before the project begins. Many contractors choose to refresh their crew’s safety training before every project in order to maintain maximum awareness.
Also, safety training shows your company’s commitment to safety. Workers are more likely to take on-the-job safety more seriously if they know that it’s reinforced regularly through training.
Reinforce Workplace Safety at Every Level
An organization’s leadership and middle managers are the ones that set its priorities. If those priorities don’t include safety, workers may take unreasonable risks while on the job.
To improve your company’s occupational safety, then, those safety procedures must be reinforced at every level, from top managers to field workers.
It’s also important to reinforce safety through action and information. Develop plans, train workers on those plans and ensure there is sufficient safety signage in place to help employees maintain awareness of potential hazards at all times.