Construction companies certainly are responsible for providing a safe work site by establishing safety policies and procedures, hiring competent supervisors and employees, and making necessary training available. But their efforts do little good when not carried out by those doing the work. The construction site supervisor leads the way in the daily charge for safety on the worksite. For this reason, let’s look at 12 habits of construction supervisors that will help create and maintain a safe working environment. A construction site supervisor focuses on safety…
- Stays aware of potential hazards. This habit involves knowing the most common sources of injuries, such as the Focus 4 Hazards and the hazards most frequently included in OSHA’s citations, and always looking for ways to prevent them. From planning a project before it begins to assessing a site’s status at the start of every work day, a construction supervisor must stay constantly aware of hazards.
- Communicates clearly and consistently. Preventing injury involves consistently bringing safety to the forefront through regular meetings, by interacting with workers during the work day, and by providing extra pieces of information such as a Nail Gun Hazard Alert and OSHA Quick Card on Electrical Safety.
- Promotes knowledge. A work site supervisor promotes knowledge by educating workers about safety and by encouraging workers to educate themselves and each other throughout the day. Promoting knowledge involves providing additional resources and training as well as communicating often with workers. This may include regularly scheduled training meetings supplemented by construction safety training videos.
- Prepares to prevent. Preparation involves providing necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and enforcing its use. Preparation also means planning for needed safety equipment and/or for bringing in experts, such as one who knows how to build a safe trench or scaffold, when the situation warrants.
- Leads awareness. A supervisor focused on safety leads awareness by preparing the work site through providing proper safety equipment as well as by practicing safety himself while working. In other words, a supervisor on a construction site can promote safety most effectively by his example. For example, through example he can create awareness of and promote following a hand protection policy since hand injuries lead the way for injury to construction workers. Or, a supervisor can promote eye safety by wearing eye protection specific to the tasks of the day.
- Knows workers well. A good construction site supervisors knows the limits and abilities of workers. He knows their areas of expertise and where they need additional guidance and possibly more training. If a worker struggles with health issues, a supervisors knows this and takes it into consideration when assigning tasks. Knowing workers well also involves understanding that varying conditions, such as working a night shift or in hot weather, impacts differently than on a typical day shift. Knowing workers well means adjusting for individual needs and varying work site conditions.
- Provides formal and informal training. Frequent inspection during the workday often provides opportunities for informal training on safety issues as well as makes the need for more formal and comprehensive training obvious. Workers often have general knowledge of safety but may need specific training in areas such as chemical hazards and electrical safety as situations arise. A construction supervisor focused on safety practices the principle that trained workers are safer workers.
- Makes safety a top priority. Making safety a top priority means thinking safety first at all times. This involves using tools like a job hazard analysis done by workers actually doing the work to determine the safest way to perform tasks. It also involves knowing that each year, falls consistently account for the most fatalities in the construction industry and making their prevention a priority.
- Keeps equipment in good, working condition. Equipment must not only work well, it must also be the right tool for the job. A construction supervisor focused on injury prevention knows the status of equipment being used and makes sure appropriate equipment is always available.
- Provides the right tools and safety equipment. Correct equipment involves assessing every detail from the nail gun used to using the correct ladder for the situation. Providing the right tools also includes a variety of applications including making sure workers have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including the proper safety glasses and hard hats, and providing guardrail, safety net and personal fall systems when necessary.
- Identifies a competent person for every situation. OSHA defines a “competent person” as someone “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions… and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” A supervisor needs to know workers skills and experience well and needs to communicate who the competent person is to the entire team. Take, for example, the need for a competent person to direct in the construction and moving of scaffolds as well as the inspecting of scaffolds before and after every shift. Delegating this type of responsibility frees up supervisors to attend to other safety needs.
- Stays ready. Working within the company’s policy, a construction supervisor makes sure emergency plans of action are not only ready at a moment’s notice but that workers know those plans and how to execute them effectively.
Safe construction sites are ones where supervisors lead the way by first setting an example and then by making priority a focus throughout the day. A construction site supervisor focused on safety never passes the blame but instead sets the tone by taking responsibility for the safety of his team.