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Safety Starts at the Top: Construction Site Safety Tips

Keeping everyone safe on a commercial construction site takes a carefully implemented safety program — one that’s built from industry regulations and a comprehensive list of construction site safety tips. Company leadership also plays a big role. When leaders demonstrate a consistent commitment to safety, projects run smoothly and safely from the first day to the last.

“Creating a big, beautiful, shiny safety manual and sticking it in the corner only to blow the dust off it once a year for an audit is going to cause real challenges,” says Sandra Jury-Fleming of BVS Canada, a team with 60 years combined experience helping ensure safety across the southern Alberta construction industry.

So, how can you ensure your construction manager isn’t just checking the boxes when it comes to safety? In this article, we’ll explore the key details of safety on construction sites and how leaders can truly build a robust safety culture.

Why safety is critical in commercial construction projects

Commercial construction projects, especially hospitality and multi-family development projects, are complex ventures brought to life by the efforts of many people.

“Safety is important on all projects,” Sandra says. “However, multi-family developments are unique because they have so many moving parts and there are a lot of vulnerabilities for business owners.”

There can be many different trades on these projects, regularly bringing new people to the worksite. This can create timing issues if something goes wrong on a specific trade’s watch. It can delay the entire project or, worse, create a negative public image for you as the client.

“The owner is often seen as responsible in the public eye, even if another company was at fault behind the scenes,” Sandra says.

There are increased risks for owners if a safety program isn’t set in place by their construction manager and followed consistently by everyone on site. In contrast, when these programs are in place and properly monitored, projects run smoothly and owners can rest easy.

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Photo: Eva Urbanska Photography

In workplace safety, leaders must set the tone — and the example

When it comes to building effective safety plans, consistency matters. Leaders create safety programs, set expectations, and hold everyone accountable for following them.

Construction leaders need to set an example in how they work and implement a program, and in how they adhere to that program when it’s most challenging to do so. This means only setting foot on-site in proper gear and sticking to safety meeting schedules, even if it’s the Friday afternoon of a long weekend.

“The leaders need to steer the ship and set the tone from the beginning,” says Sandra. “And even when it gets busy, even when things get expensive at the end, or everyone is swamped, the leader has to keep things going.”

Who should set the example for safety? It could be company leadership, the construction manager, the site supervisor, or a construction safety officer. Whoever is in charge needs to guard against complacency each day.

3 critical elements to a robust safety culture

How can you be sure a safety program is solid? Here are three critical elements to a strong safety culture that you should look for in any construction management company you hire:

1. Detailed planning

What’s involved in a project, and expectations for safety standards, should be clear from the beginning. A construction manager should communicate this to all staff and contractors and include it in initial contracts. A commitment to safety should be part of what everyone agrees to in writing.

2. Walking the walk

A construction manager should demonstrate their commitment to safety daily on the job. This means taking the steps outlined in the safety plan every day. They should inspect your worksite and do walkthroughs with a safety professional to be visible in their commitment to keeping a safe worksite.

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Photo: Eva Urbanska Photography

3. Regular monitoring

A construction manager should visit the site regularly to make sure all workers follow the safety program and maintain documentation. (A safety consultant can also take on this role to ensure consistent compliance and flag any concerns). Ongoing monitoring is imperative to confirm the level of safety never falters on-site, since an enforcement officer could visit at any time and you want to be ready.

As an additional note, always refer to best practices and legislation in your industry when needed to back up your company standards.

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A strong safety culture delivers positive outcomes across the board

When a commercial construction company builds and maintains a strong safety culture and implements it consistently, it prevents dangerous incidents on-site. This protection is the most important reason to prioritize safety.

However, a strong safety culture can also protect companies from liability and loss. It can reduce delays, decrease headaches, and cut costs. Even when there is an upfront cost, organizations should consider safety programs an investment in infrastructure that will protect them and lower risk long-term.

“Injuries can shut down a worksite and change an organization’s culture while having huge cost and PR ramifications,” says Sandra.

Safety culture in commercial construction companies can also reduce shutdowns and lower incident costs, which are invisible costs you can’t forecast during the quoting stage. Eliminating these when possible can positively impact a company’s bottom line.

Construction site safety tips

To drive the best outcomes possible from a safety program, construction managers should follow a few essential construction site safety tips. It’s worth a conversation with your construction management company to see what approach they take to the following:

 

  • Assessing hazards relevant to the project and creating policies and procedures that will ensure everyone’s safety during every phase of the project.
  • Keeping up with the legislation, industry standards, and best practices to follow for each particular project. Some areas may have geographic bylaws or health and safety regulations for construction companies to consider.
  • Going digital with as much of their process as possible to increase efficiency, compliance, and organization.
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Photo: Eva Urbanska Photography

For example, can workers complete forms from their phones and in their trucks to boost compliance? (Side note: The benefits of digitization extend beyond compliance. With better documentation and data tracking, you also have more insight into project management and costing).

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Photo: Eva Urbanska Photography

Evaluating safety leadership in the commercial construction industry

If you have an important construction project coming up, it’s worth the time to find a commercial construction company with a robust safety culture. Here are a few signs you’ve found a solid partner for your project:

  • Established and documented safety programs that meet health and safety regulations for construction.
  • Leaders set an example with their workers when on-site.
  • Construction safety officers consistently implement and monitor safety procedures.
  • Everyone on-site works to meet or exceed safety expectations.
  • The company has pursued certifications to help demonstrate its commitment to safety.(For example, at Ashton Construction Services, we’re COR-certified, meaning we have an established health and safety management program in place and have had it audited by a certifying partner).
  • They have a solid track record of few or no lost time incidents. (At ACS, we have zero lost time incidents in the company’s history).
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Photo: Eva Urbanska Photography

“ACS goes over and above industry expectations,” says Sandra. “Its target has been not just to meet standards, but to exceed them, which shows in their low incident rates.”

The right commercial construction partner can help your project run safely, protecting you and every worker who steps on the site until the project is complete. When leaders set the example, and workers follow a comprehensive plan that includes hazard assessments, policies and procedures, and construction site safety tips, everyone gets home safely.

Ready to bring your next project to life? Contact our team to learn how we can help make your southern Alberta construction project a success.

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