New Braunfels, TX, October 11, 2023
Safety is defined as “freedom from the occurrence or risk of injury, danger, or loss; the action of keeping safe.” Simply stated, safety in construction is the removal of inherent risk. There are a number of safety problems common to job sites that can be solved with a little planning and thinking ahead. Good safety habits like keeping trash out of the walkway or breaking down boxes and storing them properly to mitigate trip hazards. Always use a GFCI or proper lockout/tagout procedures when working with electricity. These simple principles, when overlooked, can snowball into grater hazards that may injure personnel.
To help us own our personal safety, we are going to break it down into three different topics:
First, Identify and eliminate all hazards.
Second, Utilize common sense.
Third, Take ownership of the safety and wellbeing of yourself and those you work with.
IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATE ALL HAZARDS
In the OSHA Construction standard, a “competent person” is defined as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them” Well what does that exactly mean? To me, it states that an experienced worker should be able to recognize any potential jobsite hazards. In this example, we will use a fall from ice bridge. Next, they should be able to evaluate the level of concern. If someone were to fall while working on the ice bridge, how major is the potential for injury? Lastly, control the hazard. What can we do to ensure the job can be done safely? Perhaps a more stable ladder, the assistance of another worker, the list goes on. While it is the responsibility of the competent person to promptly mitigate hazards, all workers should be assisting the competent person to create a safer environment. Everyone has a role, not just the foreman.
UTILIZE COMMON SENSE
Common sense is the basic level of practical knowledge or judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonably safe way. We acquire this practical knowledge through our own life experiences as well as others’, making common sense a shared experience. For example, while growing up you hopefully learned not to put a fork in an electrical outlet. Either you had a negative experience by trying it, Zap, or your parents told you that it would hurt. It is often presumed we all possess the same level of common sense. This is where the issue comes onto the jobsite; you tell a coworker they should use common sense while working. Unfortunately, everyone’s life experiences are unique to them. What if your greenhand never learned the downside of placing objects into outlets, walked too close to an exposed ledge, or never worked around cranes and knew to look up to identify overhead hazards? If not, did someone else share their experiences with them to create “common sense”? I prefer the term, not so common, common sense. It is better to assume others do not have your level of experience and take the time to teach them.
TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THE SAFETY AND WELLBEING OF YOURSELF AND THOSE YOU WORK WITH
We are nearing the end of 2023. That means in my household, the movie “A Christmas Story” is on the horizon. My favorite scene in the show was always the little brother, Ralphie, getting bundled up by his mother to go outside in the cold. He was so engulfed in warm weather gear, at one point he exclaims, “I can’t put my arms down!” As funny as the scene is, it brings home an important theme. As a safety professional, I cannot go onto the jobsite and wrap everyone in bubble wrap ensuring that you are impervious to damage. At some point, tower technicians have to climb to elevated workstations or civil technicians have to perform an excavation. While PPE might mitigate an oops moment on the jobsite, we should be working to engineer as many hazards out of the process as possible. You cannot be struck by a dropped tool if it is properly tethered to your harness. If at any point you cannot find a safe workflow, reach out to your manager, or call the safety hotline. You have the support in the field, you just have to ask. Do not take your personal safety lightly.
If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at email@example.com, and we will get you taken care of.