A general construction superintendent watches over each stage of a construction project, from the early planning to its conclusion. There are superintendents who concentrate on public works projects, including highways and bridges. Others specialize in constructing houses or other structures. While a general construction superintendent’s responsibilities vary depending on the specific project and employer, there are certain responsibilities that are germane to the job, no matter if it’s a highway or an office building.
Among those responsibilities is safety, which primarily concerns the workers’ well-being, but also plays a role in keeping a construction project on schedule and on budget.
A variety of issues can put a project behind, but in a high-hazard activity like construction, accidents linger as an all-too-common reason for interruptions and, more importantly, a hazard to workers. Moreover, serious accidents can even shut a project down during an incident investigation.
Since accidents can impact construction project timelines, construction superintendents must bring safety to the foreground to help make sure the project remains on schedule. When safety is considered on the same footing as budget and schedule, it highlights these factors.
More to the point, one out of every five worker deaths take place in construction. Producing an effective safety program and supporting a culture of safety throughout the organization can go a long way in helping a construction superintendent realize the goal of zero accidents, zero injuries and zero fatalities on every project.
A team effort is essential for success
Safety needs to be everyone’s concern. Construction sites are dangerous and short-term, acknowledged to have among the highest rates of accidents with roughly 80 percent of these accidents the result of unsafe activities. As superintendents, it’s essential to be sure workers feel safe and appreciated when onsite, but also that they feel empowered to be responsible for their own safety.
So, to help make sure that safety is a chief concern, a construction superintendent requires a team committed to inserting safety into every aspect of the project as well as being given the right processes and tools. Moreover, the superintendent must be devoted to the project’s safety as well as holding everyone on the jobsite answerable for safety.
Obviously, a superintendent can’t do it without help. He/she must have partners that are fixed on making the project successful. If possible, this team should include a safety professional to pay attention to health, safety and environmental concerns.
Furthermore, communication performs a significant role in keeping the project safe. The superintendent needs to work with their safety professional every day, including morning and afternoon sessions. By working hand-in-hand with the safety expert, the superintendent can be sure that those safety issues are being dealt with effectively, so they are then able to focus on budgeting and scheduling issues.
Let’s face it, superintendents influence behaviors, which affects how safety is valued by everyone. Workers need to understand that safety is more than simply a target or a training program; it’s a fundamental value that needs to be taken seriously during every phase of a job. The superintendent must strengthen behaviors by assessing threats and hazardous activities with their team and constantly working together to hit upon safe solutions.
The superintendent needs to create and maintain a safety culture
Creating a top-notch safety culture doesn’t take place overnight. Securing buy-in from employees demands a top-down tactic. “Safety First” can’t simply be lip service provided to workers from upper management. A commitment to safety really should be one of the basic principles of a company’s culture.
Because a robust safety culture begins at the top, the superintendent needs to establish a steadfast devotion to safety. Consistency is vital and safety must be emphasized at every opportunity. As an example, a superintendent can’t simply stroll by a worker standing on the top rung of a ladder and not correct that behavior. The superintendent must hold everyone accountable for safety every single day.
This dedication creates a culture of safety so that every single worker – not just the superintendent and the safety professionals – turns out to be responsible for safety. This not only increases safety, but also quality and productivity. The superintendent has to be certain that health, safety and environmental issues are part of each communication, so they develop into an essential part of every task.
When safety becomes a priority and is rooted culturally inside the company, and is put into practice by every worker, every day, as expected, it helps to keep the project on schedule and on budget.
Here are several ways a superintendent can improve and build upon the company’s safety culture.
Make safety a top priority
Jobsite safety needs to be ranked above everything else, including costs, productivity, timelines, etc. Your employees are your #1 resource and demonstrating that their safety is your highest concern implants confidence and creates trust.
Placing safety first will also help cut costs and boost productivity. Accidents result in cost overruns and project interruptions. Cultivating safety means less days lost attributable to accidents and injuries.
Training, training and more training
For a safety culture to be effective, safety must be central to a company’s culture. Training is one sure way to instill this.
In fact, the appropriate training is perhaps one of the easiest ways to boost your company’s safety culture. It demonstrates to workers that you’re committed to keeping them healthy and safe.
Training cannot be a never-to-be-repeated occurrence. Rather, safety training must be an ongoing effort to help support best practices. Continuous training will help workers to hang on to what they’ve been taught and keeps safety top of mind.
To begin, all new employees must be offered comprehensive training on safe work practices and all pertinent OSHA guidelines. Employees should be capable of identifying unsafe working conditions. Workers also need to be trained on the safe operation of machinery and equipment irrespective of their skill level. Obviously, employees should never be permitted to operate any equipment or machinery until they can demonstrate they can do so not only skillfully, but safely.
But safety training shouldn’t stop with new employees. This is one of the mistakes sometimes uncovered when investigating training programs. Repeated and ongoing training not only emphasizes a devotion to safety, but it also keeps it atop the minds of your employees.
Make sure to employ site inspections as teaching instances when safety procedures are not being obeyed. This can be performed as one-on-one training for unique events or to the entire team if it looks as if the issue is more widespread.
Make a plan for every project
There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” safety plan.
Long before a job begins, widespread planning needs to be performed to pinpoint those tasks that will be happening onsite and how to best plan for would-be safety threats. With an assist from other managers, preventive measures should be put into place and then shared with workers. Of course, the applicable tools and equipment must be made available.
The superintendent just might want to consider zoning, which involves blockading spaces where specific tasks are taking place, mounting catch platforms, nets and other safety devices, all of which are an essential part of the safety planning procedure.
By permitting only those working on a job within the zoned areas, it helps to avert bystander injury. This practice also lends a hand to making sure that workers within the zoned areas have the right protective gear and tools for that particular job.
One-third of all construction fatalities are due to falls – from buildings and ladders, as prime examples – making them one of the highly significant safety concerns for which to make plans. Appropriate scaffolding needs to be erected, holes in the structure must be cordoned off or otherwise supervised and additional would-be fall hazards should be planned for prior to the start of any construction.
Manage the risk
Less apparent factors demonstrated to trigger safety concerns should always be well thought-out when creating and executing a safety plan. According to a study authorized by the Associated General Contractors of America, most construction site fatalities occur between 10:00 a.m. and 3 p.m., peaking at noon. What does this mean for the superintendent?
Schedule your safety meetings around noon early in the week and be sure there is a clear protocol for safety during lunch breaks.
The AGC report also reveals that smaller construction firms with one to nine employees represent a much greater fatality rate than bigger firms. If you are at a smaller company, don’t make safety planning any less imperative.
Get workers involved and invested
Assemble a safety committee that consists of employees from every level of the company. They should be participating in reviewing and updating your safety program, shaping jobsite-specific safety plans all through the preconstruction stage of every project and helping detect probable hazards and safety issues.
Produce a corrective action plan with participation from employees. Be sure everyone is mindful of the plan to help guarantee it’s carried out and enforced as intended.
Put together an incident response team for every jobsite comprised of a few employees who have at least some basic first aid training. They should be aware of what steps to take when an injury takes place to mitigate any remaining hazards and dispense first aid to any injured workers.
Employees who are engaged in the process of creating and improving your safety culture will have a sense they are invested and are more apt to take safety sincerely. They are also more likely to communicate their concerns if they believe their input is appreciated.
Stay atop the rules
OSHA is continuously releasing new rules and making changes to current rules with the aim of helping owners deliver the safest work environments feasible.
In order to remain in conformance with OSHA rules and standards, the superintendent should remain up to date with all the rulemaking changes that will have a potential impact on the company. There is always a period of time for the public to reply to any recommended rulemaking with written opinions or evidence for or against a proposed rule, along with a request for a public hearing if one isn’t previously arranged. This is a chance to make your voice heard if a potential rule could adversely impact your business.
Go above and beyond the standards
Don’t think of following OSHA standards as the bare minimum to remain in conformance. Simply doing the minimum to stay compliant can result in complacency. To actually have a successful safety program in force, you really need to be be going above and beyond the regulations proclaimed by OSHA.
This doesn’t mean you have to make extensive changes to your present safety program or policies. Look into what you’re presently doing and decide if there are procedures you can instigate to enhance safety. Recurring accidents involving the same type of work activity is almost certainly a good sign that your safety program needs an upgrade.
Never stop improving
Your company may very well have an outstanding safety program, but, as the adage goes, there’s always room for improvement. Take stock of what’s working appropriately as well as those areas that just might need some tweaking. Make sure to get everyone engaged in the process. After all, your workers are the ones on the jobsite day in and day out and are doubtless the best suited to help uncover shortcomings in your safety program and propose recommendations for improvement.