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How a Safety Professional Approaches Site Visits in Construction
The goal of every safety professional should be to ensure that all workers return home to their families safe and sound at the end of every day. Many safety professionals in construction have the benefit of being on site on a daily basis, where they can promote this goal and empower workers to achieve it. The success of any safety professional depends on having both worker involvement and a commitment from upper management.
The LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division brings this same approach to helping LIUNA signatory contractors achieve and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. Part of our role here at the Fund is to conduct jobsite consultations upon request and be a second set of eyes to help signatory contractors evaluate and improve working conditions.
Site consultations are one of the best ways to determine the effectiveness of your safety program. A site consultation can help uncover where your safety program needs improvement by identifying hazards onsite and providing guidance on how to eliminate or control those hazards. Safety professionals not only evaluate workplace hazards and suggest approaches for solving problems onsite, but they can also help improve how your safety performance is measured.
Although the thought of inviting an outside consultant to review the safety of your jobsite might seem stressful, there’s really no downside for LIUNA signatory contractors. The LHSFNA isn’t OSHA, we don’t issue citations and our findings don’t get sent to OSHA. Instead, we offer practical solutions to help contractors stay in compliance and keep workers safe.
A typical jobsite consultation often begins by meeting the site superintendent and an apprentice Laborer at the site entrance. In these cases, the apprentice will walk the site with us and immediately remediate any safety hazards encountered onsite. Apprentices are often given these tasks as a means of recognizing a hazard and promptly fixing it. Before the site consultation begins, we’ll explain why we are there and ask the superintendent some basic questions about the project. These might include:
- Is this a demolition, renovation or a new build?
- What is the timeline of the project?
- What is today’s manpower?
- How many trades are working on this shift?
- What is the scope of work?
While every site is different, some of the most common hazards we observe are related to falls (from heights, on the same level and slips and trips), electrocutions, struck-by/caught-in hazards, housekeeping, scaffolding and trenching/excavations. During the site walk, we’ll ask if there are any critical lifts, overhead work, jobs at heights, work in confined spaces or other potentially hazardous tasks planned for that day’s shift. We’ll also continue to ask questions, such as:
- Where is the first-aid kit?
- Where are the fire extinguishers?
- Where are the access/egress points in the event of an emergency?
- What is the procedure for removing out of service equipment from the site?
- When is the last time your safety and health program was reviewed or updated?
At the end of the consultation, we will debrief with the superintendent by discussing both positive and negative findings. Afterwards, we’ll send a more detailed findings report to the superintendent and project manager. The goal of this report isn’t to point the finger or find blame, but to make it easy for management on site to come together and protect worker safety. Both contractors and workers benefit from a safer jobsite and a healthier work environment.
The LHSFNA is available to conduct safety and health audits for LIUNA signatory contractors upon request. If you believe your company can use a second set of eyes, please contact your Local Union, TriFund Field Coordinator or call the Fund directly at 202-628-5465.
[April Dorsey is the OSH Division’s Safety & Health Specialist.]