1. Be Aware of What is Going On.
I’ve never stopped to think about this before! In 40 years of site management I’ve only ever had two notifiable accidents; neither sustained serious injuries; neither got us prosecuted by HSE and both guys got fired for their stupidity! I often say site managers have to swan around the site looking important, but while they are at it they have to keep their eyes skinned and be AWARE of everything that is going on!
2. Site Set-Up and Safety.
Before the start onsite make sure that the layout is designed with safety in mind. All the Welfare facilities there? Separate pedestrian and vehicle routes? Containers and stacked materials allowing free and safe access for the delivery wagons, fork-lift trucks and by foot?
3. Site Induction.
At least in the UK, probably in most other countries these days, when people arrive on site for the first time they have to be given a Site Induction. This involves telling them of any special health and safety aspects of the site and what they must and must not do. It is also an excellent opportunity to assess the competence of these men for looking out for their own safety. This induction may take up some time! I heard that on the London Underground it takes three days! Their H&S documents have to be examined and recorded to make sure they comply with legislation. At the other end of the scale I’ve had men arrive and I’ve taken one look at them and judged them to be very experienced. To them I’ve just said “You found me. I bet you know where the Canteen and toilets are, too. If you see anything unsafe going on, let me know fast. Off you go then!” The reply was usually “Works for me, Boss!”
This is a look at their H&S documentation which includes, in the UK, their Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card. This will tell you what exams they have passed and what they are qualified to undertake on a construction site. The other thing to look for is a First Aid Certificate, just in case! It might even be beneficial to have a look at their trade certificates if they have any.
The perceptions of risk keep changing so make sure your men’s education is up-to-date. The other thing is on-site training. On big threat to your accident rate is new apprentices! We were all young and foolish once, but don’t we wish we didn’t get youngsters on site!!! They have to be carefully watched and their sense of self-preservation developed. Things like if they are to cross a vehicle access route, stop and look both ways. Up ladders: one hand for the job and one hangs on to the ladder for safety. Working at height: don’t lean over the rail to admire the view! The safe use of tools is very important. I still shudder when I think of this incident. Looked out of the site office door as someone came in. Outside someone was using a circular saw and about to take his fingers off with it! Ran out there screaming at him and disaster was avoided. Made sure his ganger man taught him better before he was allowed ear another one!
First thing every morning have all the Foremen and Ganger Men congregate in the Site Office. Give them a quick briefing on anything unusual likely to happen that day. Ask if any of them are likely to be up to something which increases the risk of accidents. It used to be that all these people were issued with hand-held radios; today they have their mobile phones. Make sure that everyone has everyone else’s numbers so communication can fast and efficient.
7. Proper Equipment.
Make sure all equipment on site is suitable for the purpose and well maintained. This includes safe storage of materials. A pallet load of bricks falling on someone is not good for health! Make sure all plant and machinery is suitable, well maintained and well handled. Reversing vehicles; always make sure someone is behind it, signalling it on and keeping pedestrians safe and out of the way. Then there are the tools that the men bring with them to work with on site. Are these all suitable for the tasks and well maintained? Finally there is the non-work stuff to consider. Welfare facilities okay? Plenty of water available for drinks? Shade from the sun; shelter from the rain; somewhere to warm up? IF working on contaminated land, are there adequate decontamination facilities such as specialist clothing to don on entry and shower facilities when exiting the contaminated zone?
This takes us back to Practice No. 1 but we’ll add to it. On the walkabout we are making gentle corrections to activities and practices which may possibly lead to an accident. We are also looking for something more dangerous! “The man who is an accident looking for somewhere to happen!” Now, if we have paid proper attention to all the forgoing this will be a new development in someone’s working practice and approach to accidents. Instantly stop him working on whatever he was doing! Take into the office for a private chat. What you’ll usually find is that is private life is in turmoil and has got him screwed up! Family member terminally ill in hospital; house gone up in flames; van written off and no cash to replace it – things like that. Be sympathetic; don’t fire him but offer him a short-term simple and safer job such as labourer for the site welfare facilities. He’ll be very grateful and the rest of the workforce will be even more safety conscious and think you are wonderful!
We have seen innovative ideas and legislation that has made construction sites far less prone to accidents. Safety helmets; goggles; steel toecaps; safety barriers; warning signs – and the list goes on! Just be aware of innovations coming about which will make your construction site less prone to suffering any accidents – and implement it. These innovations can be brought about by new legislation or simply by a new invention someone has come up with. Don’t try to avoid any expenditure the implementation of these innovations may incur!
What we often see these days are notices on site perimeter fences showing the number of site accidents there have been on the project. This is really good and improves the perception of construction in the minds of the general public. But what should never be done is attempting to cover up an accident that has occurred! The information will leak out anyway and result in the company getting a dreadful reputation and not getting invited to tender for future work! Worse than that, though, for the site manager! He has a legal responsibility for health and safety on the site and, when HSE get to hear of the accident and following cover up, he will be looking at a jail sentence!