Safety Culture in Construction
Health and safety is always a priority in the construction industry. Day-to-day tasks can involve working with heavy machinery, handling chemicals and working in challenging environments. Issues can quickly arise, so it’s essential to have a strong safety culture.
Safety culture protects workers and ensures that health and safety procedures are always a priority. Keeping the construction site safe helps minimize accidents onsite, avoid legal issues and maintain productive outputs.
Read on to see how you can build a better safety culture onsite.
What is safety culture in construction?
Construction safety culture means putting site safety before anything else. Your employees are a valuable resource and deserve to be cared for at all times –a health and safety culture ensures that is the case.
Construction is a hazardous industry where things can quickly go wrong, especially when you face pressures associated with build completion times. But a developed safety culture ensures procedures and systems are followed at all times.
The importance of health and safety in construction
Health and safety should always be the number-one focus in the construction industry. According to the CPWR, there was an annual average of 31.5k non-fatal injuries between 2011-2020 in the US. While following safety procedures is the standard throughout the industry, the data suggests we must do more to protect employees.
The benefits of a safety culture in construction is mutually beneficial for employees and businesses as a whole. . As health and safety is the law, enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety) compliance, failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines, weakening safety culture and in an ultimate repercussion, the shutdown of your business.
Better safety in construction also creates better results. Looking after your workers means less downtime due to injuries or absences and helps keep projects on track. Employees will feel confident onsite, knowing how to work safely through understanding their role in the site’s overall health and safety culture.
The common hazards on a construction site
While the common health risks in construction can vary, some occur more frequently. This can include:
- Slips and falls – in 2020, there were 21,400 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in construction and extraction injuries due to slips, trips and falls. Cables, uneven ground, slippery surfaces from weather or liquid spills can cause slips and falls.
- Health risks – such as manual handling, noise pollution and prolonged inhalation of dust and debris. The construction industry has a higher rate of work-related illnesses compared to other industries.
- Health risks – such as manual handling, noise pollution and prolonged inhalation of dust and debris.
- Onsite traffic – construction sites are busy places, with lots of movement on and around site.
- Storing hazardous substances – if stored onsite.
- Working at height – such as scaffolding, ladders and rooftops. Employees must conduct risk assessments when working at height and always be supervised to ensure correct procedure.
With the proper training and a shift in mindset, you reduce the above issues and maintain a safe and efficient working environment for all teams.
How to improve safety culture in construction
Building a safety culture is more than compliance and inspections. It means actively embedding health and safety practices throughout day-to-day tasks, engaging all employees – rather than just stakeholders – and putting your teams’ safety first.
Building a positive health and safety culture in construction can take time. Check out our top tips below to help you maintain a safe, productive and profitable site.
1. Comply with health and safety regulations in construction
Job sites require inspecting daily, at the end or the beginning of each shift. Routine planned inspections should be carried out throughout the day to address hazards.
Safety culture in the construction industry should feel more than a box-ticking exercise. Daily inspections help you prioritize safety; incorporating it into your routine allows you to identify potential risks before they become an issue (e.g., tools left lying on site, leaks, or equipment damage).
Ensure inspections include checks on equipment, large machinery (e.g. cranes), and chemical storage (e.g. fuel tanks). Ensure that employees fully understand what checks these inspections entail and why they are needed daily. Regular training and employee check-ins can help with this.
2. Training Staff
Proper employee training is one of the simplest and best ways to build a safety culture in construction. Workers will need regular refreshers with updates on legislation changes, variations in working environments, and other critical information.
Training and retraining your staff shows your teams that you take their safety seriously. It also means making all workers accountable and feel more involved in protecting others. So, whether you’re handling power tools or cleaning equipment, employees know the safety procedures for each task.
3. Reduce and manage onsite traffic
The less movement onsite, the better. Daily, construction sites can be populated with workers, machinery and deliveries, all trying to navigate the area simultaneously. Moving around your site can be tricky without the right traffic management, and workers are more prone to accidents.
One way of minimizing traffic is by reducing deliveries onsite. Bulk fuel storage can help here – by safely housing larger volumes of fuel stock; you can easily access fuel for longer periods. This also reduces downtime associated with delivery schedules. Many fuel management tools are available to help you stay on top of usage, meaning you can order bulk fuel in advance, capitalizing on lower costs and only requesting deliveries when needed.
As well as this, cubed fuel tanks such as Western Global’s TransCube are compact and stackable, saving more space onsite. Ideal for sites that are logistically challenging or with limited access.
Traffic management can be hard to organize when each site is different. The size, set-up, and access points of working environments change, so site routes must be revisited often. Use clear signage when creating vehicle ‘zones’ that drivers and pedestrians can see, and set up parking and unloading areas as far away from working areas as possible.
4. Fuel Tank Safety
As with any hazardous substance, handling fuel comes with safety risks. That’s why fuel must be stored correctly, and any potential issues minimized. Fuel is vital to keeping your site up and running, so implementing safer refueling procedures can help embed safety practices into day-to-day working.
You can do several checks to stay safe when storing fuel onsite, starting with its location. As we’ve discussed, construction sites are busy places, so your fuel must be kept away from high-traffic areas. This location should be clearly marked and regularly cleaned. You must also ensure that your fuel supply is kept away from flammable materials – including vegetation around the working site.
Fuel tank inspections occur every six months at a minimum, but it’s best to perform weekly checks to keep your tanks in top shape. Leaks and spills are only noticed if regularly inspected, so always check that pipes and fittings are in working order.
Double Walled tanks safely store fuel onsite with a secondary containment built into your Western Global fuel tank, all fittings are housed within the tank, behind the exterior wall. This wall also provides an extra protective layer for your fuel, meaning your tank can handle more wear and tear and contain spills if the hazard arises from unseen events. Western Global tanks are a redundantly safe and convenient way of storing your fuel. View our range of double-walled tanks here. Read more about looking after your fuel tank.
5. Keep your site clean
Drilling, cutting, and equipment cleaning can lead to a dusty working environment. Prolonged inhalation of this dust and debris can lead to severe illnesses.
When thinking of a health and safety culture in construction, ‘safety’ often takes priority. But if your employees are in no fit condition to work, this adds up to days lost and can slow down your project overall. That’s why OSHA requires sites to stay clean and monitor dust levels – to help reduce exposure and ensure there is sufficient respiratory protection.
Water bowsers, or pressure washers, are an effective way of keeping your site dust free. You can store sufficient water onsite, spray large areas to suppress dust and efficiently clean equipment. Water bowsers make construction cleaning a quick and easy task.
Bowsers come in handy when maintaining your equipment, too. The dirtier your site, the harder it can be for some tools to work effectively. Power tools, for example, draw in air to maintain a cool temperature, but dust can clog up the tool internally and cause heat build up. Keeping your site dust-free can help prevent this. Vehicles traveling from site to site must also be cleaned before driving on roads, and with a water bowser onsite, all of these issues can be avoided in no time.
Construction site safety with Western Global
With Western Global, you can store fuel safely onsite and refuel as and when needed. Our tanks have a double-walled design to provide that extra layer of protection, ensuring that your fuel is safe and secure at all times.
Fuel tanks such as our TransCube Global have a strong galvanized exterior frame, meaning that it’s durable, robust and can withstand plenty of wear and tear. They can be forklifted straight onto site, full of fuel, reducing fuel deliveries and overall traffic flow. TransCubes can also be stacked, taking up less space onsite.
Western Global is ISO45001-accredited and has a complete health and safety system in the UK developed to identify and manage risk and prevent wherever possible, work related injuries or illness. Our Safety Committee comprises team members from all areas of the business and includes Employee Representatives to help build a proactive safety culture. Accidents and near misses are reported monthly at Board level which allows Western to Global to support our customers to the best of our ability, and provide equipment that helps keep everyone safe on-site.