The $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which goes through Congress, will bring massive investment in rebuilding crumbling highways and bridges, among other things.
With road construction projects expected to increase, many construction workers will be in moving traffic jobs, and therefore their safety will be a top priority.
This is where Construction Dive has a say Casey Banks, Senior Regional Risk Control Consultant at Travelers, on how the safety of employees in infrastructure projects can be guaranteed and safety-conscious employees can be hired and retained.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Why is it important to screen new workers?
CASEY BANKS: It is important to spend time recruiting people who show a commitment to safety. Our claims data show us that around 48% of construction accidents occur during a worker’s first year of employment, regardless of their industry experience. While it can be tempting to fill a vacancy quickly, hiring an employee who puts safety first can help prevent injury.
To attract the right candidates, we recommend starting with a well-written job description detailing your company’s security requirements and the key features of the position, including any physical requirements. Then use a behavioral interview process that asks candidates how they fared in practice to get a better understanding of how they might do on the job. This can help you identify those who share your company’s core security values.
Networking can also be a powerful tool. Ask others in your industry who is a good fit for your company and review potential referrals from existing employees and other relationships. And remember, the recruiting never stops. You can always keep an eye out for potential hires – this way you can build a solid pipeline of potential employees and be ready to act quickly if a position becomes vacant.
What if a worker is hired? How can managers increase the importance of security practices?
In addition to recruiting and hiring qualified employees, ensure that effective processes are in place for the induction, training and other support of your employees.
After hiring an employee or group of employees, you want them to be fully aware of the company’s values, your expectations, and their responsibilities. This can be achieved through proper pre-planning, onboarding, and staff support. Because all construction sites have unique risks, create site-specific training with bespoke safety practices to familiarize workers with your safety culture.
In addition to a general safety overview, creating an orientation based on your workforce helps employees deal with and retain safety information. With a multi-generational workforce, mentoring programs can provide less experienced employees with the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge to help them do the job safely, while ultimately building a stronger team environment on the job site.
Employee engagement is another great way to nurture a safe and resilient workforce. Regular communication on safety, quality, schedule, continuous feedback on both positive and risky behavior, and focusing on people’s strengths are good ways to build and maintain that commitment.
Finally, make sure security doesn’t stop at the supervisory level. On-site managers are often the eyes and ears of the company so their leadership can help promote safe practices.
What steps do you recommend for companies to ensure subcontractors and other partners are on board?
The first step in reducing the risk of working with subcontractors and third parties is knowing who you are hiring. This begins with a comprehensive pre-qualification and subcontractor selection process that also gives the subcontractor an indication that your company values safety and quality and is committed to working with contractors who share a similar commitment. Subcontractor assessments may include interviews with senior officers and reviews of OSHA quotes, testimonials, and licenses, as well as workplace safety inspections and safety procedures reviews.
The next step is to put in place an effective risk transfer program to mitigate the risk. This goes beyond prequalification and focuses on contract management. This process includes a review of all order files – including signed contracts, authorized contract language changes or exceptions, and contractual insurance requirements of the subcontractor – before a subcontractor enters the site.
Reviewing these documents will help ensure that the contract language is correct and that the subcontractors have the correct insurance and coverage. It is important to maintain a consistent process across all subcontractors.
On such projects, workers are often very close to through traffic. What can be done to protect them?
A good starting point is to create a written traffic management plan. This includes working with state and local authorities from the start of the project to reduce the speed limit posted, monitor traffic speed and use speed boards to let drivers know how fast they are driving.
Whenever possible, install positive protection such as concrete bulkheads, mobile barriers, and crash damper trucks and trailers to ensure physical separation. Internal traffic control plans, which define the internal traffic flow, safe areas for workers, staging areas, walking routes for workers and rooms to be avoided, are also valuable.
Technology can be used to monitor traffic flow and activate additional warning panels to alert drivers to impending conditions.
Finally, the use of burglar alarms, highly visible personal protective equipment and nighttime area lighting, as well as individual employee training and training on the benefits of traffic during work can all help reduce the risk of accidents.