Worker Health and Safety Must Be the Primary Concern on Every Construction Site
No matter how big or small a construction site is, the primary concern for employers and workers must always be on health and safety.
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If you’re an employer, you have responsibilities to create and manage a healthy and safe workplace, which includes a legal obligation to meet the requirements of law and policy for your industry, including occupational health and safety regulations in your province.
Employers need to know how the work activities are being coordinated, and communicate to the prime contractor of any undertaking likely to create a hazard for a worker of another employer, as well as provide the prime contractor with the name of the person designated to supervise that employer’s workers.
Workers are at high risk of serious injury, disease or death when work activities are not coordinated and communicated on the worksite.
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Here’s a look at some of the health and safety responsibilities that employers must address before work begins:
- Managing risk – One of the first steps is managing risk at your construction site. This involves thinking about what might cause harm to your workers, and determining whether you have in place the measures to prevent that harm from happening. Planning and coordination of the work is essential for reducing the risk of injury at multiple-employer workplaces and ensuring workers are healthy and safe while at work. Effectively managing risk in your workplace involves three steps: identifying hazards, assessing risks and controlling those risks.
- First aid – Employers are responsible for first aid in the workplace. To determine the first aid needs of your construction site, first you’ll need to do an assessment. Then, you can review the findings and take necessary steps to put proper first aid procedures in place. For example, determining how many occupational first aid attendants, first aid rooms, and first aid kits and supplies are required.
- Health and safety programs – These are aimed at ensuring workers are protected, risks are minimized, and a healthy and safe workplace is maintained. All employers must establish some form of health and safety program at the workplace. The type of program you need depends on the number of workers you have and the risks associated with their work.
- Training and orienting workers – Employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are properly instructed and trained on how to do their work safely. This includes providing safety orientation for new and young workers, and training them on the basics. It also includes training workers on their site specific tasks, and providing supervision and ongoing training so they continue to work safely. Finally, it includes ensuring that workers know their rights and responsibilities.
- Supervising for health and safety – Supervisors play an important role in promoting and maintaining workplace safety on constructions sites. Their words and actions demonstrate how they view and value health and safety, and reflect the company’s values. Supervisors are well-positioned to be safety champions. Effective supervisors are intentional and purposeful in promoting health and safety. They are required to perform regular safety activities, such as inspections, observations, investigations or crew talks.
- Workplace inspections – These are an opportunity to identify hazards and assess risk at the construction site on an ongoing basis. As part of a proactive injury-prevention process, inspections reveal the current state of the workplace and any activities that can be seen. Workplace inspections can help to identify hazards and prevent unsafe working conditions and practices from developing.
- Falls from elevation – In British Columbia, falls from elevation are still one of the leading causes of injuries to construction workers, and falls from ladders reflect the highest proportion of construction-related falls. Proper planning, supervision, training, and use of fall protection can reduce or eliminate the risk of falling from ladders, buildings, roofs, and scaffolds. In addition, employers who ensure the right tool, equipment or process is selected for the job, will reduce the risk of injury to workers who are required to work at elevation.
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Workers also have health and safety responsibilities at construction sites. They must:
- Be alert to hazards. Report them immediately to your supervisor or employer.
- Follow safe work procedures and act safely in the workplace at all times.
- Use the protective clothing, devices, and equipment provided. Be sure to wear them properly.
- Cooperate with joint occupational health and safety committees, worker health and safety representatives, provincial prevention officers, and anybody with health and safety duties.
- Get treatment quickly should an injury happen on the job and tell the health care provider that the injury is work-related.
- Follow the treatment advice of health care providers.
- Return to work safely after an injury by modifying your duties and not immediately starting with your full, regular responsibilities.
- Never work under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other substance, or if you’re overly tired.
Everyone has the right to return home safely each day. It’s up to everyone to play a role in ensuring that happens.
Carol-Anne Boufford is a Prevention Field Services manager with WorkSafeBC.