Jobsite Safety

April 01, 2005

Personal Protective Equipment: The First Line of Defense

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has estimated that by protecting workers from falling off scaffolds, 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths would be prevented every year.

Today's builders can't afford to ignore jobsite safety — an issue that affects a team's health, morale and productivity with just one misstep. In addition to liability, finances take a hit through insurance costs and violation fees. Further still, an unsafe jobsite, littered with dangerous materials and unsure footing, puts customers in harm's way during a walk-through. A safety policy isn't enough. A comprehensive process must be in place that keeps safety top of mind on the jobsite, every day.

Builders must comply with federal regulations and the Construction Safety and Health Standards from OSHA, but many builders choose to go above and beyond the basics, a choice that further protects their employees and liability. Manuals, inspections, third-party consultants, on-staff safety experts and periodic training are some ways companies have worked safety into their procedures to keep it top of mind on the jobsite. These methods vary from builder to builder, but a successful process demands regularity. Putting discussions on jobsite safety on the schedule, on a regular basis, will keep employees in tune with good safety practices at work.

Train and keep training

Periodic training sessions help to consistently remind employees about safety, like a gentle nudge to keep employees on the right track. It provides the opportunity for employees to focus on how to use gear, avoid falls, work safely around dangerous equipment, follow good methods during excavation and electrical procedures and other important issues. These days, builders have more options than ever for training, including consultants, videos and workshops such as "Toolbox Talks" from the National Association of Home Builders. The Internet also has expanded training opportunities including "webinars" and online courses. These training programs need to be incorporated into jobsite safety routines as an integral part of a company's risk management process.

"A jobsite's safety process builds upon having a policy to ensuring consistent training of those policies. Smart companies go further to ensure accountability and then, even further, to assess the success of the process by putting a measurement system in place," said Glenn Cottrell, Director of Builder Universities at BuildIQ, who oversees the company's relationships with GIANT builders.

Customize and localize

Some builders have several layers of safety procedures to ensure their employees apply best practices in safety on the jobsite. Among these is Morrison Homes, which took the initiative to customize online courses so that the content matched the training its employees were receiving on the jobsite.

"We have legal obligations to OSHA, but we want to know what we can do above and beyond that to raise the bar," said Cregg McGaha, vice president of Construction for Morrison Homes. In addition to the company's annual safety training, Morrison Home's employees participate in a 10-hour construction Safety and Health Outreach Program through OSHA. McGaha wanted to enroll employees in a set of online training courses that followed OSHA standards, but on the jobsite, Morrison Homes was teaching more detailed safety training.

As a result, McGaha and his team worked with BuildIQ to develop coursework that mirrored the company's unique practices in the field. The company then made the coursework mandatory for all employees. The courses provide consistent awareness and reminders to the importance of safety, and also motivate employees to acquire new skills and competencies as a part of their own career development. Through this process, the employees' skills progress, as the divisions' practices progress, as the company's process for ensuring safety progresses. The focus of the jobsite safety process at Morrison Homes is to make it better, with responsibility held at each level of the company.

"You know what the federal standards are, but we want to continuously improve," says McGaha. "The challenge is that safety is market-specific. I wish we could have a magic bullet for every issue, such as fall protection, but the issues are different in each of our divisions."

If training is one half of the process, then the other half is accountability. While Morrison Homes enables employees to receive the training they need to be responsible and safe on the jobsite, the company ensures accountability at the top, too. Monthly checkpoints, or audits, involve site walk-throughs by either the division president or vice president of construction. Each division shares the responsibility of safety on the jobsite. The process ensures both good homes and safe jobsites through overall awareness and reinforcement. The monthly checkpoints include checks on the subcontractors. Although not required, Morrison Homes offers trades the opportunity to take a 10-hour training session through OSHA.

In response to divisional safety needs, Morrison Homes uses monthly reporting to earmark important issues in each division. The monthly reporting acts as a barometer to show a trend that in turn identifies the issues to be covered in the division's annual safety training. Everything is driven at the local level, with the executive level of the company providing strong support.

Cover all the bases

Implementing a good jobsite safety process requires establishing a framework of checks and balances. With Morrison Homes, this framework involves additional resources, such as a third-party safety consultant and online coursework. Within this framework, Morrison provides a safety manual and training, and performs monthly audits and weekly inspections on the jobsite.

"There's a sequence of events involved," said McGaha. "Just as you need to know the steps to install a sink, you need to know the steps to keep safety on the jobsite running like it should."

Remember that a comprehensive jobsite safety process doesn't just protect the construction teams and trade contractors. Sales representatives walk the site, and customers visit, too, sometimes on their own accord. Are they safe? Similar to other construction processes, jobsite safety issues lead back to quality. A safe jobsite is a clean jobsite, and it sets an example to customers on how much a builder values quality. Establishing a process that works at many levels can help to put your worries to rest and keep your employees at work — safely.

More information on BuildIQ can be found at


Personal Protective Equipment: The First Line of Defense

Jobsite safety is more than a set of standards. It's an ongoing process of checks and balances. An easy step in the process is ensuring your teams are equipped with the right equipment for the job. All workers on your jobsite should have a hard hat and other appropriate safety gear, often called personal protective equipment (PPE), and know how to use them for the jobs they're doing. And when they're doing dangerous work, they should be protected from falling, from being struck or crushed, and from excavation and electrical hazards.

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