The Texas economy remains strong, even in a difficult year like 2020. According to the Texas Economic Development Corporation, Texas is the world’s tenth largest economy. There are 14 million civilian workers in Texas. Keeping workers safe, on the job, and productive is a major priority for employers.
Two of the leading industries, construction and the green industry, carry higher than normal risk from accidents. In these industries, workers might find themselves in high-risk environments, including climbing on high structures, being around machinery, handling potentially dangerous tools, working with chemicals, and more. In fact, according to a study by Business Insider, using statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most dangerous jobs in America included such industries and careers as construction, including plumbers, carpenters, HVAC workers, electricians, and roofers; green industry, including grounds maintenance workers, first-line landscapers, and lawn service workers; and industrial drivers across all industries.
Ensuring jobsite safety is essential to keeping workers safe, keeping your projects under budget, staying on schedule, and ensuring you have an adequate workforce to meet demand.
Create a Safe Work Environment
One of the first things required for ensuring on-the-job safety, is to ensure the project is safe before workers begin. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns that there are 10 simple safety guidelines that they see most often violated:
- Not having adequate fall protection.
- Not communicating hazards.
- Inadequate scaffolding construction.
- Not controlling hazardous energy.
- Not using respiratory protection.
- Using inadequate or unsafe ladders.
- Improper operation of powered industrial vehicles.
- Lack of training for fall protection.
- Lack of safety around machinery.
- Lack of eye and face protection.
One of the first steps you can take to ensure onsite job safety is to build in safety measures in the planning stages of any project. Ensure that employees understand the safety guidelines before stepping onto a job. You can require workers to keep tools sharp, stay aware at all times, wear bright-colored clothing to alert others near the worksite to their presence, and ensure that all equipment is in good working order.
Once the onsite work begins, it is crucial that you work smart. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, most jobsite fatalities occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., peaking at about noon. Accidents tend to be more prevalent during the summer months, when heat may add to the overall situation. You can help foster better onsite job performance by ensuring that workers take appropriate breaks, have an adequate lunch, and get ample hydration.
All laborers that spend a large part of their days outdoors—such as those in construction and landscaping, among others—are more susceptible than the average person to risks for heat stress, skin cancers, and even chemical poisoning. According to a study by the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America, along with records from OSHA, heat alone kills more than 30 workers each year. In addition, heat stress can bring on a number of illnesses, from rashes and cramps to heat strokes. Those at greatest risk are people “who are overweight, have high blood pressure or heart disease…[and] anyone who takes allergy medication, decongestants or blood pressure medication.” Understanding the heat risk factor and educating workers is crucial to worker safety.
You also want to consider worker exhaustion as a factor in increased injuries and deaths on the jobsite. OSHA suggests that worker fatigue plays a significant role in injuries. It is estimated that a 12-hour workday increases the risk of injury by as much as 37%. In labor-intensive industries that continue to be in short supply of skilled labor, it is easy to require longer hours when trying to meet deadlines. However, consider the potentially high cost of injuries when scheduling workers on the jobsite.
Educate Workers on Safety
It is crucial that all workers understand the requirements for adhering to safety standards. The use of proper personal protective equipment is essential to a safe jobsite. OSHA outlines specific safety and health topics by industry. For example, you can find guidelines for suggested personal protective equipment for the construction industry or find best practice programs for the landscape industry. Ensure that you train each worker for industry-specific guidelines.
COVID-19 Concerns for Laborers
Jobsite safety is always a major concern for those who hire laborers. As shown above, the risk to personal safety can be much higher than in other industries. The additional demands of COVID-19 add a new level of concerns for both employers and employees. Many organizations offer industry-specific COVID-19 advice. For example, the Dallas Builders Association created a COVID-19 Response Kit that it regularly updates. This can offer guidance to both employers and employees during this challenging time. The Texas Nursery & Landscape Association also provides an ongoing COVID-19 Resource Center.
OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all employees practice these preventative measures:
- Wear a face covering as required by state or local guidelines and anytime you must work within six feet of another person.
- Frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When running water is not available, as is frequently the case on construction jobsites, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth with a sleeve or cloth when coughing and sneezing.
During COVID-19, employers might want to look for alternative ways to do common tasks. Additional steps to ensure safety might include:
- Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. How will you respond when you discover that someone on the job is sick? How do you notify other employees? How do you notify customers? How do you deal with absenteeism?
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick. Institute flexible sick leave policies during this time.
- Conduct safety meetings by telephone or video when possible. Those that must be in-person should be restricted to groups of no more than 10. You should not take attendance by passing a paper or mobile device.
- Maintain social distancing inside work trailers and encourage employees to open windows while riding in work vehicles.
- Stagger breaks and lunches so that groups of fewer than 10 employees congregate.
- Don’t encourage sharing tools or equipment. Assign the same person to the same piece of equipment each day.
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer and/or wipes.
- Divide crews and staff into groups so that, if one group needs to quarantine, work can continue.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect job sites, including trailers, break or lunchrooms, and toilets daily.
- Screen employees for temperature and any visible signs of illness, encouraging workers to stay home if they have any symptoms.
If you take steps to help ensure a safe jobsite, it will help prevent injury or death, keep your project on schedule, reduce costs, and help you maintain a stable workforce.