The construction industry continues to grow each year, paving the way for general contractors to make a profitable, sustainable living when the job is done right. However, to do so effectively, safety standards need to be met with consistency and focus on each worksite. General contractors who are licensed and bonded must take proactive steps to avoid potentially fatal injuries among their subcontractors and employees, even though this may be easier said than done. To create and maintain a safe worksite each and every time, general contractors should consider how to implement the following best practices and safety tips on the job.
1 – Know the Risks
The most crucial step toward maintaining a safe construction site is to first be aware of the risks involved. Each year, thousands of construction workers experience injuries on the job, and some ultimately lose their life because of safety missteps at work. As a general contractor, it is your responsibility to know that construction risks run rampant given the nature of the work. Being tuned into the potential for falls, slips, and other common safety-related incidents is a necessary part of operating a safe worksite for you and your employees.
2 – Require Protective Gear
An often overlooked safety precaution on construction sites is the use of up-to-date and well-maintained protective gear. For many subcontractors and employees, it is easy to skip this necessary step in safeguarding themselves from potential safety issues. However, general contractors can take steps to make protective gear a requirement on the job. This may include mandating hardhats and steel-toed shoes, gloves, and eyewear when appropriate. All visitors and workers on a construction site should follow protective gear instructions to avoid unnecessary safety risks.
3 – Educate on Ladder Safety
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ladder injuries account for a significant number of construction worker incidents each year, making up more than 200,000 accidents on average. Ladders have continuously ranked high on OSHA’s list of violations at construction sites because the prevalence of injuries is so high. General contractors can help thwart ladder-related injuries among workers by promoting ladder safety training, including reminders about the right ladder to use for each task. Workers should also be well aware of the importance of inspection before use, and they should always follow the three points of contact rule when going up or down a ladder.
4 – Recognize Equipment Pitfalls
Many construction workers experience injuries relating to equipment used on the job. This could be tied to getting on or off equipment, or loading and unloading materials from machinery. In any case, general contractors can encourage simple tactics to improve equipment safety measures. Paying close attention to secure footing while getting on or off a machine, having more than one person assist with loading and unloading, and ensuring everyone feels comfortable asking for help with these tasks reduces safety risks.
5 – Document Potential Hazards
A general contractor’s main responsibility is to manage the construction site efficiently from start to finish. Part of this duty is recognizing the possible issues on a worksite that may lead to accidents or injuries if not addressed at the beginning of a project. It is necessary to take the time to identify safety risks such as unstable working surfaces, dangerous trenches, or weather-related concerns that may impact the safety of subcontractors, suppliers, or other site visitors. Potential hazards should be documented and shared with site workers, and they should be updated as the project progresses.
6 – Maintain Equipment and Tools
Poorly maintained equipment and tools also cause issues on construction sites. The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association suggests that general contractors remind workers to inspect tools, machines, handheld equipment, and vehicles before each use to ensure they are properly maintained. Additionally, understanding the maintenance standards for certain tools or equipment and following those guidelines is crucial to reducing injury on the job.
7 – Minimize Crowds
Crowded work areas can be a serious safety issue for general contractors, subcontractors, and vendors and suppliers on site. It is common for crowds to gather during the use of heavy equipment or when a significant task is being completed. However, general contractors should discourage crowd-forming for spectating purposes. This can be done by limiting the number of people allowed to be in an area when certain activities are taking place, and enforcing these rules at every possible opportunity.
8 – Hire Licensed Subcontractors
General contractors may have full- or part-time employees as part of their business model, or there may be a heavy presence of subcontractors not directly tied to the main business. In either case, it is essential to have faith in the capabilities of workers, including their willingness and commitment to follow safety standards. General contractors can help ensure each worker is more likely to take safety seriously when they hire licensed contractors who follow through with licensing requirements as mandated by the state or city.
9 – Focus on Training
Even after vetting subcontractors and employees based on their licensing status, general contractors also need to ensure training and education are a priority. Several online and in-person courses focus on construction safety training which workers should be encouraged to attend. Safety education programs from OSHA and other reputable sources are crucial to decreasing accidents on the job.
10 – Be Present
Finally, general contractors can only have an impact on the safety of the job site when they are purposefully present. It is common for some GCs to stop by a project when they are needed or to check on progress periodically. However, new safety hazards, lacking worker training, and other risks are not easily fixed when the general contractor is not consistently on site. Reducing the potential for falls, slips, trips, and fatalities on the job requires communication with workers, and that takes place most effectively when general contractors are in person.
Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.