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Ten Steps to Reduce the “Focus Four” and Increase Construction Jobsite Safety

By: James Strohecker, Contributor

Part of improving safety includes understanding the most frequent hazards and training employees how to recognize, avoid, and even mitigate those hazards. Photo courtesy of Graphic Products.

OSHA construction compliance is a key element for maintaining a safe jobsite. According to OSHA, nearly 6.5 million people work at over 250,000 construction sites each day.

With the inherently hazardous work, it’s no surprise that the construction industry has a fatality rate that is higher than the national average among all other industries. To help reduce fatalities OSHA has developed a series of comprehensive standards. These standards are included in 29 CFR 1926, Safety and Health Regulations for Construction.

The goal for construction safety managers and the industry should be to improve the safety culture and climate while reducing occupational injuries and illnesses on worksites.

What Are OSHA Construction Site Requirements?

CFR 1926 includes 27 subparts, covering topics ranging from general safety to crane safety. The subparts are arranged in the following categories:

A – General O – Motor Vehicles, Mechanized Equipment, and Marine Operations
B – General Interpretations P – Excavations
C – General Safety and Health Provisions Q – Concrete and Masonry Construction
D – Occupational Health and Environmental Controls R – Steel Erection
E – Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment S – Underground Construction, Caissons, Cofferdams, and Compressed Air
F – Fire Protection and Prevention T – Demolition
G – Signs, Signal, and Barricades U – Blasting and the Use of Explosives
H – Materials Handling, Storage, Use, and Disposal V – Power Transmission and Distribution
I – Tools—Hand and Power W – Rollover Protective Structures; Overhead Protection
J – Welding and Cutting X – Ladders
K – Electrical Y – Commercial Diving Operations
L – Scaffolds Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances
M – Fall Protection CC – Cranes and Derricks in Construction
N – Helicopters, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors

Looking at the topics covered by CFR 1926, maintaining a safe jobsite begins with identifying and correcting the most frequent construction safety issues.

Frequent Construction Safety Issues

Part of improving safety includes understanding the most frequent hazards and training employees how to recognize, avoid, and even mitigate those hazards. This is the first line of defense when it comes to your workers’ health and safety.

In construction, there are four major hazards that account for most fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor (BLS). These hazards are commonly referred to as the “Focus Four” and include falls, electrical hazards, falling objects, and crush hazards. These hazards can be encountered from numerous sources, some of which include:

  • Falls – working from ladders, scaffolding, lifts, and roofs.
  • Electrical hazards – overhead power lines, conduits, underground power lines, and equipment that has not been properly de-energized using Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) procedures.
  • Falling objects – tools and equipment left on roofs, equipment, ladders, lifts, and more.
  • Crush hazards – swing zones of heavy equipment (excavators, drilling equipment, etc.), crush zones under lifts, between equipment and fixed objects, and much more.

Of these hazards, falls alone account for nearly 39% of construction fatalities.

10 Steps for Maintaining a Safe Jobsite

There are important steps that must be taken to maintain a safe jobsite to help you identify and prevent incidents because of common construction safety issues. These include:

  1. Conduct a complete walkthrough of the site to identify hazards before breaking ground. Identify all hazardous materials and areas in the jobsite.
  2. Train all employees about the hazards they may face, paying special attention to the Focus Four.
  3. Make note of these hazards, so you can work to mitigate them by using engineer controls, safe work practices, PPE, or regular maintenance.
  4. Create a site safety plan that accounts for all potential hazards as well as provides a means to respond to any accident.
  5. Identify all hazardous materials and label them according to HazCom 2012.
  6. Inspect the worksite on a daily basis to identify new hazards and malfunctioning equipment. Immediately report and fix any issues found.
  7. Ensure employees have the necessary PPE to perform work safely. This includes hard hats, eye protection, gloves, work boots, hearing protection, respiratory protection, fall protection, and more.
  8. Develop an injury and illness prevention program. Programs should include first aid training, supplies needed to treat common workplace injuries, and a means to contact local emergency services.
  9. Regularly check with the foreman, contractors and workers to find out if there have been any changes in equipment or procedures that need to be addressed with new safety PPE, signage or training.
  10. Identify hazards and communicate safe work practices using vivid labels and signs.

To ensure your construction site is meeting OSHA standards, it’s important to understand the requirements in OSHA 1926, as well as other standards. For example, there may be cases where you encounter a hazard that is not covered by 1926. In these cases, the hazard may fall under the General Industry Standard (29 CFR 1910) or Section 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, known as the General Duty Clause.

The General Duty Clause provides an all-inclusive safety requirement that requires employers to mitigate or remove recognized hazards that have caused or may cause injury or death.

To summarize, employers and companies who take a proactive approach to safety perform better. Sacrificing safety to make a deadline will ultimately cost more than it’s worth.

Besides providing a safe and healthy workplace for employees, all construction safety managers must:

  • Meet all applicable state and federal regulations as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws.
  • Collaborate with contractors, subcontractors, and temporary staffing agencies to ensure protection of each worker on the job.
  • Provide and administer consistent safety inspections of worksites, equipment, and materials by competent employees.
  • Have an emergency plan and procedures in place for when incidents occur on projects on-site and off-site.

Once you are familiar with OSHA standards, you will be able to quickly identify most hazards by performing daily walk-around inspections of your site. Learn how to create safety signs that meet OSHA requirements with the DuraLabel Best Practice Guide to OSHA Safety Signs. This helpful guide breaks down all the requirements, from text size to color and graphics so that your safety signs are seen and compliant. CS

James Strohecker is Director, Growth Marketing, Graphic Products+DuraLabel. For more than 16 years, he has led the development of issue-driven, value-based product solutions that reduce worksite incidents, lower risk, and increase efficiency, productivity and safety. He introduced award-winning protection solutions for Industrial, oil & gas, rendering/food production, public event, first responder/hazmat, environmental and utilities operations. For more information about Graphic Products+DuraLabel, visit www.graphicproducts.com.

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