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Construction Management: Safety & Health


- Back when I started in the construction industry, I have to say that we didn't talk
much about safety. The emphasis was on getting the job done and I've certainly
been guilty in the past of getting that job done in a manner, that when I look
back, was probably not the safest way to do things. My name's Jim Rogers, and
I've had the opportunity to evolve with the construction industry over the last 25
or so years, as we've learned from our past mistakes, found safer ways of getting
things done. All of these advances and lessons learned have really led us to
realize that safety, quality, and productivity are inextricably linked and that we
can't ignore one of these elements without having a negative impact on the
And likewise, we're realizing that we can't overemphasize any one of these
elements without taking away from those others. This is the great balancing
act that I'll discuss throughout this entire course. Managing safety and health is
an important part of the job for any construction professional, whether it's your
personal safety, the safety of your crew, or the safety of an entire project site. This
is a critical skill set, so let's run through the critical elements of safety that you
need to understand.

What you need to know

- Construction is a large and very diverse industry. We build new and unique
projects all over the world in this continuing effort to improve our living
conditions and meet our ever evolving needs. In construction our site conditions
can change every day or even hour to hour. A construction worker may be very
well aware of the hazards of their particular trade, and they might be well trained
in how to mitigate and manage those hazards. But the conditions under which
they perform that work might also change dramatically on a daily
basis, presenting them with hazards that are new or that they don't understand.
Even just getting to an assigned work station or work area could present a unique
set of hazards than an individual may or may not be trained and equipped to
handle. Think about it, do you have to climb several ladders to get to your work
area, or you are you supposed to usea temporary stair tower to get from level to
level? What about that construction elevator? Are you supposed to use
that? Construction is a unique industry. In manufacturing you tend to work at a
fixed work station inside a fixed location building one item over and over.
Your conditions, even though they may be challenging, tend not to change from
day to day. But in construction we get tasked with building a new structure of
facility in a new location and we often assemble a team of people that's new and
different from the last project. All of this makes construction exciting and
challenging as we learn to navigate these constantly changing conditions and
become adept at managing our work and our processes and our job sites.
But it can also lead to disaster when we're not aware of what's happening around
us and how it can affect each of us and our coworkers. Now if you're new to the
industry I strongly encourage you to watch our construction management
foundations course here in the online library. It breaks down the processes and
players involved in the construction industry to give you a better understanding
of what's happening on site and why. In this course we'll review some of the
hazards that are common to almost all job sites and we'll also look at strategies
to manage these hazards.
And we'll do so taking into account safety, quality, and productivity. I understand
that we have to get the job done, believe me, I've spent years making sure my
people are getting the job done and keeping our clients happy. But I've also
learned that people are not productive when they don't feel safe. And, more
importantly, I've learned that the best time to plan a solution to a problem is way
before we encounter that problem out in the field.
With that in mind, let's move on and take a look at some of the safety challenges
that we faceon our construction sites.
The Focus Four deserve your attention

- Construction sites can be hazardous places to the untrained person. But with
proper training,the right equipment, and some good choices, these sites don't
have to be dangerous places to work. One of the strategies that we use to help us
identify hazards is taking a look at what's happened in the past. We can use
statistics from incidents that have occurred in the past where people might have
been injured, and we use statistics from safety inspections if we have those
available. In the United States, we have a federal agency that's called the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, and they perform safety
inspections as a regulatory function, issuing citations to companies when the
observe unsafe work conditions.
They also track occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Now with the size
and scope of the data that they collect, they give us a pretty good place to start
analyzing incidents that have occurred in the past. When we look at these
statistics, some patterns start to emerge, and when we start to see patterns that
relate to on-the-job safety, that gives us a pretty good place to start focusing our
efforts. In the construction industry, these statistics have led to the phrase the
Focus Four.
This phrase refers to the four categories of hazards that make up the biggest
percentage of fatalities on construction sites. In fact, in the US, eliminating
hazards related to the Focus Fourwould reduce fatalities on construction
sites every year by more than 50%. Again, since these four categories of
hazards make up such a huge portion of the things that go wrong and cause
people to get hurt on construction sites, they're worth our attention.
These Focus Four hazard categories are: falls, struck-by, caught-in or -
between, and electrical.Now these are fairly broad categories, but they account
for about three out of every five worker fatalities in construction each year, so
they do deserve our attention. Let's go over each one briefly. Falls includes trip
and falls, as well as falls from heights, which, unfortunately, are still all too
common in our industry. I recently was retained to look at two serious fall
One in which a very experienced worker fell off a ladder from only about eight
feet up, and he died. And another, where a somewhat inexperienced worker fell
one story through an openingin a roof under construction and he lost most of the
use of one of his arms as a result. Now the problem here with falls is that people
don't land like cats. Falls happen in an instant, gravity pulls you down, and you're
going to land on whatever part of your body is facing the ground when you fall.
Struck-by hazards are also abundant on construction sites, from cranes swinging
loads around,to heavy equipment moving around the jobsite, being struck by a
piece of machinery can cause a lot of damage. Now when many of us think about
caught-in or caught-between hazards, the first thing that tends to come to
mind is a trench collapse. We install a lot of utilities underground, and this
requires us to have people in those trenches to do the installations, but there are
also additional areas on a construction site that can result in a caught-in or -
between type of hazard.
This includes things like getting crushed by material piles, or getting trapped in a
confined space. Last, we have electrical. Electricity poses a risk on any jobsite, and
not just to the electricians. Really, many times those electricians are going to be
trained, and they're prepared for those electrical hazards. But all the rest of us on
the site are probably working near those newly-installed electrical lines, and we
can be exposed to hazards as we work near overhead and underground power
lines as well.
Or we might need to tap into temporary jobsite power and work with extension
cords or generators, and they're going to need to be properly set up and
maintained. Each of these Focus Four hazard categories deserves our
attention, and they give us a good place to startwhen we begin to analyze the
hazards that we're going to need to mitigate on our upcoming construction
projects. Stick with me here, and let's continue on and talk about some of
thespecific conditions that can create these hazards.

The challenges in fall protection

- Let's talk about falls in construction or more specifically, the different types of
hazards on a construction site that create a risk for falling and getting
injured. When we talk about fall hazards, we can really divide the discussion up
into two parts: Trip and hazards, and hazards that pose a risk of falling from
heights. Let's talk about trip and fall hazards first. I feel like many times we don't
talk much about trip and fall hazards on construction sites. I mean after all, don't
we have bigger things to worry about? I don't know, let's think about it for a
If I string a power cord or two across a walkway or I don't take the time to secure
a temporary stair tread that's loose or warped, or I don't take the time to
stop and pick up some debris that's scattered around. Odds are, no one's going
to trip over it today, right? And even more, if someone does trip, odds are they're
probably just going to stumble and they aren't going to get seriously injured,
right? Yes, these things are probably true. Odds are these things are not going to
cause a serious injury today. But another phrase for playing the odds is that
you're gambling.
And anyone that's ever gambled before will certainly tell you that no matter what,
even when the odds are in your favor, you are eventually going to lose. And that's
what you need to keep in mind when you look at something that's a trip
hazard and you find yourself thinking, odds are that it'll be fine today. The
problem when you gamble with safety is that it only takes one time and you don't
know when that one time will happen, whether it's going to be you or a coworker,
whether it'll just be a little stumble or if it's going to be somebody who's carrying
something that falls and twists their back.
You know of all the serious injuries we talk about, those one time shocking
incidents we always read about, it's really those back injuries that make up the
biggest portion of insurance claimsrelated to on-the-job work injuries. You really
need to think about this concept of playing the odds when you're looking around
the job site and remember that your personal well-being and the well-being of
your coworkers is not the right thing to be gambling with. Okay let's move on to
falls from heights. Working at heights is always an ever-present hazard on
construction sites.
We work on multistory buildings, we have work that needs to be done on the
roof of the building that we're constructing, we build bridges that span over
roads and rivers. And any time we're working on above the ground, there's a risk
of falling. And the interesting thing here is that when we talk about the risk of
falling, a lot of us tend to think about those conditions where we're working way
up in the air. But in reality, many of the falls that result in serious injuries or even
in fatalities actually occur from a relatively short distance off the ground.
If we look at some of those statistics here in the United States, we see that fatal
falls from ladders actually account for almost a quarter of all of our deaths from
falls in construction. Now sticking with those ladders, over 15% of these fatal falls
from ladders were from a height of 10 feet or less and more than half of these
fatal falls were from heights under 20 feet. So we're not that high up in the
air. What do we do to protect ourselves and our coworkers from these hazards
related to working at heights? Well, really the issue of fall protection can
easily take up an entire class all on its own.
And the answers also really tend to be site-specific. But at the core, it comes
down to a couple of things. Number one, you need to recognize when
people need to be protected. In other words, just how high off the ground do
you need to be before you protect people? Now I'm going to say that there are
no hard and fast rules here but there are some standards or regulations that
specify when you need to take action. And being aware of these standards or the
trigger heights for fall protection are a good first step in analyzing when you
need a fall protection plan.
In the United States, we have this set of national regulations established by
OSHA, the government entity that I mentioned earlier. And these rules generally
set six feet as the trigger height for requiring fall protection when you're working
on a construction site. In other words, once you're near an edge that's six feet
from the ground, you need fall protection. Now of course, there are lots of
exceptions to this six foot rule. For example, if you're working are
scaffolding, guardrails aren't actually required until you reach a height of 10 feet.
And if you're a trained structural steel ironworker, you may not be required to
have fall protection until a height of 15 feet or even higher if you're connecting
beams and columns.And there are actually no hard and fast regulations requiring
fall protections on most portable ladders at all. Does that mean that there's no
hazard when you're doing something like working on a sign or caulking
windows from a ladder 20 feet up the side of a building? No of course not.
Just because there's no specific regulation doesn't make it safe. Remember this is
construction.Our sites and conditions change every day and that brings me to the
second point on fall protection. You need a competent person to evaluate the
site-specific conditions and make a plan. We spend a lot of plan in the
construction industry. I spend a lot of time as a consultant and a trainer, teaching
employees when they need guardrails and what the requirement for those
guardrails are. We teach them how to use personal fall arrest systems that consist
of one of those harnesses, a tether, and an anchor point.
And on some sites, we talk about using safety nets as a means of fall
protection. But the bottom line is that conditions vary and many times the
hazards presented at one site are not going to be the same as the hazards we
encountered on the last site. That's the reason that the most important
component of any fall protection plan is a proper evaluation by a competent
person, a person that not only recognizes those trigger heights I discussed, but
someone who understands the work that will need to be done and will
incorporate all of those work conditions and requirements into a plan that will
protect people when they're working up there at heights.
We overlook this far too often in construction. Quite often, we train our
employees about fall protection regulations and how to use the different
components and pieces of those fall protection systems, but we forget that this
doesn't necessary make them qualified to pick the overall system and the pieces
and parts that are right for any one given situation. So please, don't overlook the
importance of that competent person working to come up with a proper fall
protection plan.
In fact, this is so important that we'll discuss it in more depth a little bit later. For
now, let's move away from falling and we'll move on to the hazards that might be
above us.
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What’s overhead

- I talked about the fact that we often work at heights on construction

projects. So it stands to reason that if there's work going on above the ground,
there may be some hazards related to things falling on us when we're working on
the ground. Just like fall hazards, the hazards related to something falling on us
from above, are constantly present on most construction sites. The fact is, if
there's work going on above us, there's always going to be the possibility for
something to get dropped. And when there's material constantly being
transferred from the ground, up to the upper levels of a project, there's a risk of
something falling, or of someonegetting struck by a load, as it makes its way from
the ground up to the work area.
This simple fact, and this ever-present hazard, is the reason that most
construction sites these days require everyone that sets foot on the site to wear a
hardhat or a helmet. Even a small piece of material, something like a small bolt, is
going to cause an injury if it falls from 20 feet above you, and hits you on the
head. Again, this is why we wear hardhats, it's one more way to keep those odds
in our favor. Of course, a hardhat's not going to protect us from everything.There
are heavy loads being moved around construction sites, and being hoisted by the
crane to those upper levels, and this is where awareness and training comes in.
Many times, this training falls on the company, or the personnel that are moving
those materials around the job-site. For example, crane operators: they're
trained to plan routes for moving material that don't take that material over the
top of people. Operators of equipment like forklifts, or reach lifts: they're also
trained not to hoist loads over people. And when we have conditions, like people
working on scaffolding, we train the scaffold directors to either install toe
boards that keep people from kicking debris off and on to the people below, or
we create controlled access zones to keep people out of those hazardous areas.
But again, this all relies on everything being done according to plan, and nothing
ever going wrong. I feel like we keep coming back to those odds. Odds are, the
people moving things around the job-site are trained, and they won't drop
anything. But I know, for myself, I'm not really willing to bet my life on those
odds. This means that we all need to be aware of overhead hazards on
construction sites. And it means that each individual needs to be aware of the
places that they should, and should not, be standing.
Sometimes we take this for granted, and we just assume that everyone knows
where it's safe, and where it's not. But I'm here to tell you, people don't always
know. This is why a little training, and a little orientation session, can go a long
way. If you're a supervisor, and you have people arriving on your site for the first
time, some conditions may really dictate that you take a few minutes, and orient
them on things like, where the crane lifting locations and routes are, or how
limited access zones have been marked.
And, speaking of those limited access zones, that would be something that's
important for everyone to understand. Generally, when I mark an area with yellow
caution tape, it means that all personnel need to be aware of specific hazards
when crossing into that caution zone, and there should generally be some signs
posted that identify those hazards. But when I put up red danger tape, along with
signs that read Authorized Personnel Only, that generally does not mean that
every worker on the site is authorized. In fact, it generally means no-one's
authorizedto cross that red danger tape, unless they know why it's there, and
they've coordinated with the people who put it up.
Now, likewise, don't make the mistake of feeling like an off-limits area is common
knowledge.And when it comes to safety, really don't make the mistake of telling
yourself that something is just common sense. I've been on many construction
projects throughout my life. I've seen things go right, I've seen things go
wrong. What's obvious to me, is not going to be obvious to someone that's
new. For example, I would never decide that it would be a good idea to sit under
the scaffolding to eat lunch; too many hazards overhead.
But someone who's new, or without much experience or training, may very well
decide, after half a day working in the heat, that the shady area under that
scaffolding, does look like a good, out of way place to site and eat. Unless you
spend a lot of time on construction sites,looking up as you walk just probably
isn't second-nature. But on a construction site, it's a habit that can save your
life. Learn to pay attention to what's going on overhead, and teach that habit to
others. While you're looking up, one of the things you're likely to see, is overhead
You need to be aware that the majority of these overhead power cables are not
insulated. When you look up at these lines, you're generally looking at bare steel
power cable. And if you touch it with something that's conductive, like an
aluminum ladder, for example, that electricity is going to run through that ladder,
and then through you, because you've formed a new circuit, a new path to the
ground. This can be a fatal mistake. Watch for those overhead power-lines.Stay at
least 10 feet away from them. That means keep your ladders, your heavy
equipment,your scaffolding, and you, at least 10 feet away.
And if we're talking about a crane, you need to be even farther away: at least 20
feet, unless you make some fairly extensive special provisions to reduce the risk of
electrical contact. I also want to remind you, that even though I said earlier that
we teach those crane and lift operators not to route loads over people, please
keep in mind, they cannot always see you. The crane operator will try to plan, to
fly their load around the site, using a route where people aren't working. But if
you happen to look up, and you notice a crane load suspended overhead,
remember to give it the right of way, stop and let it pass, regardless of who you
think is doing things right.
We've talked about being safe at heights, and watching out for what's
overhead. Let's continue, and get back to looking at what's down on the ground.

Traffic, traffic, traffic

- Let's spend a few minutes, and talk about traffic. Traffic is everywhere, both
onsite and offsite.In fact, one of the bigger occupational risks comes from
driving. Sometimes we don't think about driving and traffic accidents as being an
occupational hazard, but in reality, it's where many on the job injuries occur. If
you drive for work, or you supervise people who drive company vehicles, the
name of the game here is to be aware, drive defensively, and don't drive
distracted. Just like any other activity, employees should be properly
trained before they take the wheel of a company vehicle.
They should understand the company's expectations and policies, and they
absolutely need to be prohibited from one of today's most hazardous
habits, texting and driving. There's no room for discussion here. You just cannot
text while you drive. Statistics from many different sources show that you're at
least 20 times more likely to be in a traffic accident if you text and drive.Using
your brain to form that thought, then using your brain and your sight to find and
guide your fingers to that keypad, even to send a one word reply, just uses too
many of the facultiesthat you need to drive safely and respond quickly to
changing road conditions.
At the management level, you need to incorporate policies to support this, and
help your drivers not drive distracted. For example, does your office send texts to
your drivers while you know they're on the road, and then get upset if they don't
respond immediately? It's an easy trap to fall into, and the best way to avoid
this is to formulate policies that work for your company and it's activities, when it
comes to communicating from the road. Do you have them find a spot to pull
over? Do you have them wait until they reach their destination? Use apps that
store incoming texts until they're not driving, or even use systems that read
incoming messages so the driver can decide what's best in a given situation? It all
depends on your company's circumstances.
But take the time to figure it out in advance, and don't leave this up to the
individual drivers.Driving is bad enough, and traffic can make it worse. But what
about when you actually work in traffic? You know, those projects that include
street improvement work. These can be tough.And if you've ever worked next to
speeding cars and trucks with only a traffic cone to separate you, you know what I
mean. Planning and following the local rules for lane closures and traffic control is
imperative. Your directions to motorists need to be clear.
And lane closures and detours need to be obvious. Leave buffer zones between
the lane closure taper, and your actual work area, in case someone's not paying
attention. Stay aware of traffic, and use a spotter or flagger if the situation
warrants it. Ideally, you want that traffic slowed down before they get to your
actual work zone. These situations also call for high visibility clothing, so that
drivers can see you, day or night. Speaking of that high visibility clothing, if you've
been in the construction industry, you might have noticed a trend towards
requiring those safety vests, or high visibility shirts on all job sites.
This is because there's so much activity on many sites, that it pays to be highly
visible.Equipment tends to move fast on a construction site, particularly all of that
large earth moving equipment. These operators are trained to use these large
pieces of machinery, to move dirt fast. And I can tell you that, right or wrong, they
generally assume that you will stay out of their way. The big hazard here comes
from the fact that these equipment operators generally can't see people walking
on the ground.
They can stop, they can turn on a dime, and they cannot hear you. So, mixing
people walking around with heavy earth moving equipment, is just generally a
recipe for disaster, but it does happen. And in this case, there just needs to be a
buffer zone, or a meeting with the equipment operators to make sure that they're
aware of the presence of people on the ground. And if you're one of those
people, give that equipment a very wide berth. Last thing on watching out for
traffic: a common situation that I see on projects, particularly when the project
has different areas at various stages of completion, is the scenario where
someone has to drive the company truck with the tools and supplies, to their
work area, and they have to go through an area where that heavy equipment's
Again, the key here is to remember that those equipment operators probably
cannot see you.They will not hear you honk your horn. Right or wrong, if you
don't give them the right of way,you're bound to lose if you collide. One of the
things that we see people do in this situation, is to use those tall flags on smaller
trucks that will be allowed on the site, to give the equipment operators that
higher level visual warning that something may be on the ground below
them.Traffic's tough.
Stay visible, stay aware, and don't drive distracted.

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Cranes and obstacles everywhere

- We've covered quite a few conditions that can be safety hazards on

construction sites. We've looked at trip and fall conditions, hazards related to
working at heights, hazards from overhead that fall into that struck by category
we discussed at the beginning of the chapter, and hazards from things like traffic,
equipment, vehicles. But before we wrap up this discussion on safety hazards we
need to look at a few more obstacles that we tend to encounter on many
sites. I've mentioned cranes a couple of times already, but I want to revisit this
piece of equipment that's very common on construction sites.
They have some unique properties that you need to be aware of. Cranes come in
all types and sizes from truck mounted boom cranes to heavy lift cranes to tower
cranes, and all of these tend to have some features in common when it comes to
hazards that we need to be aware of.When I talk to people on construction sites
about cranes the first thing I try to make them aware of is the fact the operator
will not be paying attention to you no matter who you are or what you're
doing unless you're the one person that's signaling that crane.
That operator is trained to watch the signaler and the load that they have
suspended, and that's it. This means that if you're standing or walking near a
crane it's your responsibility to be aware of its movements. Many cranes have
what we refer to as a large swing radius, and that radius can extend outside of the
space that's occupied by the crane's supports. Standing inside that swing radius
would fall into that caught in between hazard category.
In other words, there's a big potential to get crushed between the crane's
counterweight and the crane's outriggers. Yes, obviously the best safe practice
here would dictate that this entire swing radius area be barricaded off, and it
should be. But everyone should be aware of the hazard and understand just how
large some of these crane movements can be and how fast they can happen. And
cranes aren't the only thing with an extended swing radius, either. Many types of
lifts, including reach lifts for personnel, have a counterweight that sticks out and
gives it a large path to travel that would be extremely dangerous to anyone
standing in its way.
These personnel lifts are typically operated by somebody up in a basket who is
trying to moveand get into position to get their work done and they don't always
look down to see who is in the way. Again, proper practice says they should
barricade off their work area or use a spotter on the ground but they don't always
do that, so people need to know not to stand near this equipment. While we're
navigating our way around the job site let's talk about trenches and
excavations. Many sites are going to require the installation of underground
utilities, and that means we're going to have to dig a trench.
Again, just like fall protection, trench safety could take up an entire course and
anyone workinginside a trench needs to have that very specific training in trench
safety. This will usually include things like how to classify soil types so we know
when the sides of the trench need to be shored or how far back we have to
slope or bench a trench to avoid the risk of getting caught in a cave in, and that's
all a little beyond the scope of this particular course. But I do want you to
recognize trenches and excavations as hazardous areas and recognize the
fact that if you haven't been trained in trench safety you shouldn't be inside of
one on a job site.
Let's look at one last obstacle you might encounter while you're walking around
the project. On any site we're going to need materials to build with. Sometimes
these get delivered and moved immediately into place, but many times they get
delivered and stockpiled. Stockpiles of materials can present another caught in
between hazard because sometimes they're not always stacked very well and
these piles might not be completely stable. Again, the common threat here is
knowing where it's safe to stand and walk.
Don't assume that every pile of materials on the site is perfectly stacked and
stable. Things move and shift, and sometimes the piles get bumped by
equipment causing them to come tumbling down, and when the piles get stacked
really tall an equipment operator on the other side might not even know where
you're standing. Learn how to recognize these hazards and obstacles. If you need
to walk around the job site to find something and you're not sure where you
should or shouldn't be, ask somebody.
No one wants to see anyone on a project get injured. Keep yourself safe by
getting the proper training for your task and by not playing those odds. Keep
others safe by helping them to do the same and by being proactive when you see
something that isn't safe. We've covered quite a few safety hazards on job
sites. Now stick with me and let's continue on and look at some common health
hazards that we might encounter on a project.

Hazardous chemicals

- In the construction industry, when we talk about occupational safety and

health, we do tend to focus maybe a little more on the safety side of things. But
now I want to shift gears a little bitand I want to take a look at that health side of
the issue. I think health issues in construction don't get as much attention as
safety issues because many times the way things work in construction, our
exposure tends to not be as constant as it would be for instance in a
manufacturing plant where something like exposure to a hazardous
chemical might be constant throughout the entire day shift.
The result is that many times, again not always, but many times the health hazard
is not immediate on a construction project. The sickness that might result from
exposure to hazardous chemicals might need to build up over time, maybe even
a long period of time, and the resulting illness might occur far enough in the
future that it's not even immediately associated with that construction work that
we did in the past. Now this does not or should not make health issues any less of
a concern and we need to pay attention to things like exposure to hazardous
chemicals on our construction sites.
Here in the US we have regulations that are commonly referred to as right-to-
know regulationsand these dictate how chemicals are marked and labeled so that
we can see and understand the hazards of the materials that we're working with
or even the materials being used by others that are working next to us on a
construction site. Things like paint, solvent, glues, epoxies,coatings and cleaning
agents will all come with what's commonly referred to as a safety data sheet or an
This sheet is divided into 16 parts and it tells us what hazards are posed by the
product, what we need to do to protect ourselves from those hazards and what
first aid measures might need to be taken in case of accidental
overexposure. These sheets also tell us how to store and handle the material, how
to clean it up if it's spilled, and what effects it might have on the environment if it
gets into the food chain or the water supply. So these sheets are incredibly
important. Most of these sheets should be generated and produced according to
a systemknown as the GHS system or the Globally Harmonized System of
Chemical Classification.
Now this globally recognized standard insures that all the safety data sheets all
contain those same 16 standard sections and the chemical hazards are properly
classified and noted in a way that's easy for us to understand using a standard set
of globally recognized symbols that will give us pictures of what the hazards
are. Again, there's a lot of really useful information on these sheets and they're
not difficult to read or understand. If you're wondering how to handle a
chemical or what personal protective equipment you should be wearing, this is
always the place to find it.
These sheets will even tell you what route the chemical can take into the body so
you understand why certain personal protective equipment's required. In other
words, sometimes chemicals are hazardous to us if they're inhaled. Other times
only if they're ingested. And sometimes they can be absorbed through the
skin. Once you know this information, it really becomes easier to not only protect,
again, the people working with the chemical but it gives you information that you
can help plan the overall construction work and schedule to avoidplacing people
next to those hazardous operations.
The safety data sheets aren't just for liquids or chemicals either, there are solid
materials that come with an SDS, particularly if that material is going to be heated
or used in a way that could produce dust or fine particles. In the case the SDS can
tell you things like for example if you weld this particular metal, it's going to
produce hazardous fumes. Take the time to look at the hazardous chemicals you
might be using or getting exposed to on a project. Get a copy of that safety data
sheet from the supplier.
Make sure that the sheet represents the actual product that you're using and
heed the warningsfor proper handling and storage and for required personal
protective equipment. Believe me, it will pay off later in life to take a few extra
steps now to avoid being exposed to chemicals that can cause health issues
later. Hazardous chemicals are one potential health issue on a construction
site. Let's continue and look at a few more.


- Noise is an issue that I think gets overlooked far too often in construction. It's
easy to overlook. It's one of those hazards that's not likely to cause an immediate
injury or even to have immediate consequences. It's one of those things that
builds up over time as loud noises take their toll on your hearing and all of a
sudden one day you realize you're having trouble hearing people or picking out
details in conversations. Or like me, you end up with a permanent ringing in your
ears. The real trouble with all this is that once the damage is done. The doctors
really don't have a way to fix it.
Back when I was a teenager and running a jackhammer out on the construction
site for the summer. No one told me I needed to wear hearing protection. And
really to be fair, I'm not sure I would have worn it if they did. Back then, hearing
protection consisted of those big, bulky earmuff type things. And it was 110
degrees out most days where I worked, and they really didn't looked cool
anyway. At the time, I certainly did not understand the consequences of not
wearing hearing protection, which at this point in my life is a constant and very
loud ringing in both ears, that by all current medical opinions is permanent.
Trust me, you don't want this. Protect your hearing. Fortunately this is one of
those areas where technology has helped. Effective hearing protection these days
can be simple, cheap and use very small ear plugs. These days, you can even get
very small in-ear plugs that allow you to hear normal sounds at safe levels like
people talking, but then they block out any loud, harmful sounds. Depending on
the work being done, you or the company may have to do a little research to
determine noise exposure levels, and then match that with the appropriate
level of hearing protection.
But this is really not that hard for someone experienced in this to do. On
construction sites though, we're often exposed to loud noises, again not from the
work that we're doing, but from the work someone else is doing next to
us. There's a lot of ways you can handle this. These days you can actually a get
smart phone app to measure noise levels on your own if you want to go that
far. But really the rule of thumb is that if you can't hear someone next to you
talking at a normal volume, you probably need hearing protection. So again, take
advantage of these cheapand effective earplugs.
Keep them with you. Know how to put them in correctly and put them in when
it's loud on the site. Believe me, when you get older you will be really glad you

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Respiratory hazards
- The last category of health hazards that I'll cover, are respiratory hazards. One of
the things that we tend to do on construction sites, is we kick up a lot of particles
into the air. Now some of these particles are small enough to breathe in through
our nose and mouth. And some are small enough to make it all the way into the
airways in our lungs. And then some of these particles are small enough to pass
even further through our lungs, and enter into what we call the gas exchange
region, where these particles disrupt the basic function of our lungs, which is to
get oxygen to our blood.
Now these are really small particles. They're called respirable particles, and they're
tiny. About five microns in size, meaning that they're much smaller than we can
see. But the particles that we're breathing don't have to be that small to cause
harm. Now when we talk about respiratory hazards on construction sites, a lot of
people think about asbestos. This was a mineral. It was very common in
construction products like drywall and ceiling tiles, due to it's fireproofing
properties. Unfortunately, when this material is disturbed later, like when we go in
and do renovations, it fractures into particles small enough to enter our lungs,
and it causes a very specific type of lung cancer.
Another material that used to be common in construction materials, was
lead. Lead paint was really common in the industry at one time. So, again, today
the issue is that when we do renovations, and we sand off the lead paint, those
small particles can get inhaled, and make it all the way into our bloodstream. And
the consequences there can be damaged brain cells, the liver, and even our
reproductive organs. Another common respiratory hazard on construction sites, is
what's commonly referred to as silica dust.
Now silica is one of the most common elements on earth, and it's really present in
almost all sand and gravel. The issue in this case, is not that the sand is
hazardous, but rather that when we grind, or cut, or we drill, or jackhammer,
anything that contains silica, we create those very, very small particles that we call
crystalline respirable silica. And these particles are really only ever created during
those types of operations.
And they're just of a size and shape that allows them to enter the tissues in our
lungs, and our bodies just don't seem to be able to get rid of them. So they sit
there, and they cause permanent scarring in the lungs, which makes it difficult to
breathe as this condition progresses. Now silica exists in concrete,
asphalt, drywall, drywall mud. Virtually anything that contains sand or gravel
products. So, this is a common issue in construction. So what do we do about all
of this? In cases where we can reasonably expect exposure, we need a respiratory
protection plan.
Now this plan needs to fit the site-specific conditions, in order to properly
estimate those exposure levels. And, again, it takes a trained and qualified
individual to do this analysis, and work up a plan. The plan might take one or
more, of several different approaches to control the exposure. First, it might
consider eliminating the hazard, by substituting a product that's not
hazardous. Not always feasible, but always the best choice if it is. After that, we
look for different engineering controls to lower exposure.
For example, using a wet saw when we cut masonry blocks, instead of a dry saw,
helps eliminate that silica dust. It knocks it down before we can breathe it. Or,
using a proper vacuum attachment with a filter on something like a grinder, that
can suck up the dust before it becomes a respiratory hazard. Now next in line in
this hierarchy of controls, would be what we call work practice controls. In other
words, can I limit the amount of time a person is exposed, and keep them at safe
exposure levels that way? After all these other methods of control are
considered, and we determine that exposure levels are still too high, then we turn
to personal protective equipment, or PPE.
And I really do want to analyze all those other methods of exposure control
first, and use those to the fullest extent possible, because PPE is my last line of
defense. Using PPE really says, I can't control the hazardous levels that I or my
people will be exposed to, so I'm going to have to have them breathe through a
mask that filters the particles out of the air. Now the use of a respirator shouldn't
be taken lightly. Yes, they work.
And these days they work really well. They're smaller and more comfortable than
they used to be, and manufacturers make some really high-efficiency
filters. However, for these to work properly, you have to breathe all of your air
through the filter. There can't be any gaps. The mask has to fit tight against your
face, and it has to form a seal. You have to be fit tested, to make sure that they're
going to work, and, for somebody like me, I'd have to shave in order to get that
proper seal between the mask and my face. No matter how efficient the filter, it's
always going to be harder to breathe through that filter, than it is to just breathe
So this means that we have to consider a person's medical fitness, before we put
them in a respirator. Or, really a medical professional needs to consider it. So, for
example, someone with asthma, may or may not be medically cleared to breathe
through a respirator. Respiratory protection is important anytime we're stirring up
dust that might contain hazardous materials.But another condition might
be when we're applying materials or coatings that are hazardous to breathe. For
example, painters using a sprayer in an enclosed room, is a good example of a
procedure that needs respiratory protection.
Take respiratory protection seriously. Get a competent person to properly
evaluate any condition where you can reasonably expect hazardous materials to
be kicked into the air. Pay special attention to any demolition or renovation
operations, where you may not always have good data on that material that
you're disturbing. I know in construction, we do tend to focus more on those
safety issues, but you need to protect your health too. It's really hard to recover
from some of these conditions, and some of them are just not fixable.

The great balancing act

- Any time I talk about being a construction management professional, I talk

about the fact that your job is to manage safety, quality, and productivity, and I'm
going to tell you that these things need to be balanced, given equal weight, and
managed together. I use the analogy of a three-legged stool, where each of these
elements, safety, quality, and productivity, is one leg to the stool. Give one too
much attention, or don't pay enough attention to another, and the stool topples
over. That's because these elements are inextricably linked, and we've known this
for a while.
We have several very well-respected studies that prove this fact. Safety, quality,
and productivity are linked, and they all need equal attention. Now because I say
that these elements all need equal attention, I'm not a safety-first guy. You won't
hear me use that phrase. And that bothers some safety people, but really, it's not
just safety that's first. After all, we did get hired to do a job, and if we don't do
that job in a productive manner and produce the results the owner expects to
see, then working safely is kind of a moot point, because we won't have any work.
Likewise, if we get hurt and we can't do any work, then the productivity and
quality issues go out the window as well. That's the great balancing act for the
construction management professional. Working safely to produce a quality
product on time. Now let's hear from a few other professionals about how safety
planning plays into the way they do construction. - I can't think of many more
industries or professions where safety has such a huge emphasis.Manufacturing is
probably the only other industry I can think of where you have so many moving
You've got equipment, you've got a lot of humans packed into a very small
space, and they all have tools in their hands generally, right, so there's a lot of
opportunity for human error and for injury on any jobsite. And as an employer,
and as a project team leader, I take that very seriously. I mean, my number one
job is to make sure everybody goes home safe. And that is above and beyond
meeting the schedule, meeting the cost requirements, that's number one.
And we have to find a way to do all those things in tandem, right? So safety, and
schedule, and cost all have to play together, because sending somebody home
with an injury just because we had to make them rush to get the work done is not
acceptable. So when you talk about how safety planning and safety
processes play into the way that we do construction, a lot of it has to do with the
pre-planning that goes into the job. So on a concrete job, for example, we look at
casting-in attachment points for the safety rails.
We look at casting-in attachment points for the lanyards that people use when
they tie off. We look at how we scaffold buildings, and how far up we're putting
people, how long that scaffold's up, how long are the people on the scaffold. So
we look at all of those activities, and not just from a what's the fastest way to get
it built standpoint, but what's the safest way to get it built. And a lot of times, and
this is where you can start to see the evolution of safety in construction, what
people have begun to realize is that the safest way to get it built is often also the
most productive, because people work more productively when they know
they're in a safe, secure environment.
They have less rework, their efficiency, their units that they put in place over a
course of time improves, because that whole mentality of worrying about their
own physical safety is off the table at that point. And that's what we try to drill
into our supervisors and our foremen, that this is actually going to make them
perform better in the end. We just need to get used to that idea,wrap our heads
around it a little differently. - As many visual tools as possible we like to use.And
we like to take all the work that's done in design and pre-construction, and
through the BIM process, and actually make it usable for the field.
One of the... One of the main things for logistics, just for example, which is what
I'm over, we've created a model which is roughly to scale, but we have all of the
surrounding area, we have buildings, we have the construction project, we import
files from, you know, CAD files from the structural engineer, from the architects,
into a sketch-up file. But we've created a working logistics plan that's kind of a
living document.
We can modify it as we go, and we can look ahead. We can show, very easily... We
can show our entire team where we're going, what the project site is going to
look like four, five weeks from now, what it's going to look like five months from
now. So that's one tool. It's a visual tool that we use in order to communicate our
logistics plan to an entire team. We can use that to communicate it to an
owner, but we can also use it to communicate it to every guy that comes on site.
Before they walk on site, they know exactly what the job is going to look like at
any point in time. So that's one deal. - As a project manager, a successful job is
when you've completed it safely, when you've completed it profitably, and when
you've delivered a quality product.

The limitations of safety as an add-on

- Yeah, so safety has evolved quite a bit. I think I was lucky enough that I think I
made it in when the evolution had already kicked in quite a bit. But I can go back
and remember talking to the old guys 25 years ago and they would tell me how it
use to be done and there's a huge shift from that. But even in the last 25 I've seen
a huge emphasis on making sure everybody goes home at the end of the day in
at least as good a shape as they started that morning. Deep Yard Construction is
a very safety focused company, moreso than the majority of general
contractors, but I think one of the biggest evolutions is the fact that it's harder
and harder to say that the large contractors of today are that much different from
everybody else.
I really think the idea of a safe workplace has now gotten into almost every nook
and cranny. I did do some consulting a few years ago for a TI on a restaurant, and
I walked in and I couldn't believe it, everybody was in there working in shorts, no
hard hats, they had a mezzanine with no guardrail anywhere on it with a guy
working a foot from the edge with his back turned to it.
So, it is still ongoing, it's still out there, but it's becoming less an less. A lot of this
was dictated through OSHA and some things like that, but a lot of it was just
common sense, it didn't make sense, it didn't make cost sense even if you want to
put it into dollars and cents kind of stuff, to not work safe. There's too much
liability now. If somebody does get hurt it could cost you much, a thousand times
more than what it would cost to prevent that.
And I think people will realize that. I'd like to think a lot of the safety is done for
the right reasons, too, because we truly care about the people out there. - As
safety did begin to come to the forefront of the industry we did what seemed
most natural, we added it on. And, honestly, at that point we probably added it
on as more of a compliance response. Safety regulations were starting to be
enforced and no one wanted issues with another regulatory agency, so we all
started buying those canned safety compliance plans and they told us the things
we couldn't do, and some of us even started hiring a safety manager or
appointing some existing employee to be in charge of safety.
This was the era of the safety cop. And if you've been in the industry for a
while you know what I'm talking about, the safety cop. That person that drove
around and rolled up on the job site to look us over and tell us what we were
doing wrong and write up the people that were workingin an unsafe
manner. Now sometimes that was a real safety cop or regulatory inspector, and
sometimes it was our in house safety cop or safety manager. But in any case, the
effect was typically the same, we all did things in a certain way until that safety
cop rolled up on the job and then we started doing things the way we knew they
wanted us to do them, and then when they left we went back to our way.
As ridiculous as that might sound it really was a necessary step in our
evolution, we had to start somewhere and being forced to follow an established
set of newly adopted rules, that's a typical starting point for our industry. And we
did continue to evolve. We began to see the importance of working safely. We
began to at least vaguely recognize that safety, quality, and productivity were
probably tied together, and hopefully some of us even started to have a better
understanding of how important people really are in this industry.
We eventually got to where I believe many companies are today and we've
adopted the concept of conducting a job hazard analysis, or JHA as the safety
people like to call it. This is great. It's a step in the direction of really using what
we call an active safety and health management system, or some people call it an
injury and illness prevention program. And in these we strive to look ahead and
see what we can implement in the way of prevention rather than just establishing
a set of rules and then reacting when something goes wrong or the rules are
The problem is that this still treats safety as an add on. That sends the wrong
message and it prevents us from fully integrating safety, quality, and
productivity into our planning. Let me explain why I say that. The way I see many
companies, trade contractors and general contractors alike, handle the process as
this. The construction management team sits down and they develop a plan to
get the job or the task done. They identify personnel and resources they'll
need and they form a schedule.
Then, once that's done, they pass this plan on to the safety manager and ask the
safety manager to perform that JHA. So think about this, they hand off the plan
and they say look for any potential hazards in what we've already laid out and
planned and tell us what we need to do about it. Now this is better, it's
proactive, but it's still an add on. What we need to do is forget the added step of
the JHA. Just do what I call a task analysis.
Look at the work to be done and consider safety, quality, and productivity all at
the same timewith all of the relevant personnel at the table. Don't forget, our field
personnel can have a completely different perspective on the work to be
done and that can provide really valuable input into the process. When one
group plans the work and then asks another group to figure out how to work that
plan safely you can easily overlook a better solution. Let me give you an example.
I did some safety consulting work for a general contractor who was planning and
scheduling a project that included work that would need to be done inside of a
confined space. They put it on the schedule, they planned the process, and then
they sent it to me to come up with the rules and procedures for working safely in
this confined space. Once we were all done with our pieces of the process it was
all sent out to the field. Now later on, when I went out to inspect the progress, I
arrived to find that there was no confined space on the job.
Turns out that in the overall plan that space needed to be demoed in a later
phase of construction, so the superintendent, luckily, resequenced the schedule
to get rid of that space earlier. Now that's what happens when you treat safety as
an add on. In this case they got lucky because the superintendent was sharp
enough to realize all of the issues and worked with the project owner to
rearrange that sequencing. His actions resulted in work that was safer and more
productive, and this is what we need to strive for in all of our tasks.
The way we get there is by incorporating all three elements, safety, quality, and
productivity into a task analysis together at the same time with all of the relevant
parties at the table.

Preplanning is the key to success

- I've talked about moving away from that add-on approach of a separate job
hazard analysis,and moving towards a more all-encompassing task analysis
approach, an analysis that considers safety, quality, and productivity as equally
important, and inextricably-linked components. The only way this works is to plan
in advance. And again, I just think this is one area in the construction industry that
we need to get better at. We need to change our approach and our way of
thinking. Let me use an example again, to explain my statement.
I'm back as a consultant for one of my general contractor clients. And we have a
contract to work at multiple remote sites for a government agency. Given the fact
that our work was being performed inside of active facilities that needed to
remain up and running, this agency was really involved in construction means and
methods. One of the contract requirements from that owner was that a written
hazard analysis had to be performed on virtually every task to be completed on
the project. These had to be submitted and approved way in advance of the work
even being scheduled.
Now predictably, this was like pulling teeth with our trade contractors, our
subcontractors. The universal response from all of them was, "No, no, we do a
JHA on site every morning, "out in the field. "We do that so that we can make
sure "we take the day's field conditions into account."We couldn't possibly do it
in advance." Well, of course the problem here was that they were going to have
to do it in advance, or they wouldn't even be let through the gate, so what
commenced was this big struggle between all of the parties, with the trade
contractors really just feeling like this was another useless contract
requirement that was going to cost them time and money.
Now when I got involved, I took the approach of trying to get them to take a look
at the request from a different perspective. All of these jobs, remember, were in
remote locations. We really just wanted to see that they had each looked at all of
their tasks and planned them out in advance, based on the actual, site-specific
conditions, so that they could come up with a plan of attack that would be safe,
and productive, and get the job done according to plans and specs. I tried
explaining that part of the challenge on these projects was the fact that if they
arrived on site unprepared, if they brought the wrong tools or they didn't
have the correct safety equipment to tie off, for example, the work was going to
be shut down, and then we would lose a day or two in the schedule because they
couldn't just run down the street to get what they didn't bring.
Now unfortunately, what most of them did was they generated what I would
call the generic job hazard analysis, the one that says something like, "Well, we're
going to use a ladder "to install this light fixture, "and here are the hazards of
working on a ladder." Or one of the more specific ones was, "We're going to use
a powered scissor lift "to install the drain line from the roof "down the outside of
the building, "and here are the hazards of working on a scissor lift,"and then
here's what we're going to do about those hazards." They were taking that safety
as an add-on approach, where they asked their safety person to generate these
JHAs without really sitting down, like I've talked about, and analyzing their
work, to consider safety, quality, and productivity as a whole.
On the scissor lift issue, I questioned if this was actually the right piece of
equipment for the job, based on what I remembered about the height of the
building and the uneven terrainwhere they were going to be required to
work. And I also pointed out that the JHA didn't seem to take into account the
fact that this work was going to be done adjacent to a high-voltage switching
station. Of course they responded in protest, stating that the JHA was
appropriate for working from a scissor lift, and they felt they had fulfilled their
contractual requirements.
In a sense they were right. They did complete a JHA, it identified the hazards of
working on a scissor lift, so the general contractor passed it through and let the
work start. Now to me, predictably, what happened next is that they delivered the
scissor lift to the crew on the site,and then they struggled to try and maneuver
that scissor lift into place with no level ground to set up on. And when they did
that, it leaned dangerously toward that electrical switching station. So they got
shut down for two days while they worked to get the correct piece of
equipment sent out to the job site.
My point here is that pre-planning doesn't work when safety is an add-on. If they
would have looked at the task to be completed, with someone who had actually
been on the site, and approached it from the standpoint of: what's the safest and
most productive way to do the work shown on the plans, they could have shown
up with the correct piece of equipment and been ready to do the job. They would
have actually saved time and money. By the way, I'm not saying to drop that daily
hazard analysis exercise either.
That's still a very good thing to do at the start of each shift, since conditions
change on site so often. It helps to ensure that your upcoming activities align
with your plan, and that everyone understands what's expected, and reviews safe
practices for that particular day. But the crews at the work site still need that
master plan, that pre-plan task analysis to refer to, so that they have what they
need before they get there. Otherwise, they will tend to make do with what they
have, and that can lead to disaster.

Proper implementation
- I'd like to build a little bit on this concept of pre-planning, and take a look at
how to really implement this task analysis approach that I've been discussing. To
really be successful here, it's important to remember just how different
construction sites can be from those fixed manufacturing sites, that I've
referenced a few times. At a manufacturing facility, I can make safety as an add-
on work, because if I'm in charge of safety, I can walk the plant, and I can make a
list of things that I see as unsafe conditions, and then I can sit down with
management, and we can take steps to fix these things.
This works because I have a facility to walk, and that facility, and its
operations, are generally going to remain unchanged from day to day. In
construction, this is just not the case. At the start of the job, I don't have anything
to walk, except the conditions that we'll see on day one,when we break
ground. And those conditions will change every single day, once we start
work.This is why pre-planning is so critical. And I do think this starts with the
general contractors,setting the conditions, setting the rules, and working to
manage the overall site conditions, and then sequence the work in an organized
manner, to allow the subcontractors, those skilled tradespeople, to have a basis
to plan their tasks.
One of the key elements of proper implementation, is a site-specific safety
plan. And what I'm talking about here, is in addition to that company safety plan
that you already have. This is something that's unique to this specific project, and
it should address the site-specific conditions, and the actual sequencing, and
schedule, of that job. Again, let me go ahead and use one of my actual projects as
an example. In this case, my client's getting ready to break ground on a 600,000
square foot, high bay warehouse building.
So we sit down, as a team, to develop a site-specific safety plan. Sitting down as a
team is really important, because, even though this is a relatively simple
structure, it's really just a big concrete box, it's really big, and it does have some
site-specific challenges, like the sewer lines on this job are going to be really
deep, and much of the work on the roof is going to be donein the summer, when
it's over 105 degrees. And, again, it's just a really really big site.
So sitting down as a group, lets us all ask each-other questions, to develop a real
plan for this project. Yes, we're supposed to be developing the site-specific safety
plan. But really, we're also developing the plan of attack for this job, at the same
time. Let's take a look at the roof on this job. Again, it's a 600,000 square foot
building. Even though it's a flat roof, it still has some peaksand valleys for
drainage, and it's so big, that when you stand on one side of the building, you
can't see the other side.
And it's going to be hot up there. So the first question is access. Now, the project
manager's input was that, on the last project, they just installed the
building's permanent fixed ladder, and put a roof hatch in, and let everyone
access the roof that way. Sounds somewhat reasonable.Except that this particular
building is about six times larger than the last building we built. And we're going
to have way more people working up on that roof at any given time, because
there's quite a bit more mechanical equipment up on this particular roof.
So, in this case, we decided that using a single 24 foot tall fixed ladder, for every
single persongoing up and down from this roof, was just not safe, and probably
not productive, either. You can't carry your tools up the ladder, you have to haul
them up in a bucket every time. And if you realize you need something, and
you're working on the far end of that building, it's a long walk back to that
ladder. And really, with all the people who would need to access that roof, all day,
every day, for several months, I wanted to cut down on the risk of all of them
using that tall fixed ladder several times a day.
We also identified some issues with unprotected roof edges. In some areas, the
concrete parapet walls were not going to be tall enough to provide fall
protection. One approach here, is to simply alert the trades of this issue, and
remind them that they would be responsible for finding a way to provide
protection for their personnel working on the roof. And sometimes this is
fine. But here, with the size, and the schedule, and the fact that it's tough to even
keep an eye on this all day long, every day, we decided to look at alternatives.
In the end, we developed a plan that said, as soon as the concrete walls were
erected, the general contractor would install two stair towers in opposite corners
of the building. And we would install steel cables as guardrails in any area where
the parapet walls weren't going to be tall enough to provide fall protection. And
we drafted this plan well in advance, and we made sure that the trades were all
aware of it. This allowed them to take these actual conditions into account, not
only when they were planning their work, but when they were bidding it, as well.
Now, hopefully this avoided some of the extra money that tends to get put into
bids to accountfor unknown conditions. Plus, in this site-specific plan, we're
able to dictate some things. We're able to mandate that the stair towers be used
for access, in lieu of any extension ladders, unless we approve it in advance. And
this really contributes to the overall safety on the project. The lesson here, is that
to really implement all of this correctly, the project needs a plan. A plan that
considers safety, quality, and productivity.
Then the trades can build their own plans on top of that for their specific
tasks. And don't forget that sometimes plans need to be reworked. Sometimes a
change in schedule, or sequencing, is going to require a new look at the
plan. And remember to get input from the field. This really helps with buy-in, and
implementation, later on.

Creating a culture of learning

- I mentioned earlier that I'm not a big fan of the phrase Safety First, and I'm also
not a real big fan of the phrase create a culture of safety. I just think these things
overemphasize a single important element, and it can lead to ignoring the
others. I understand it, and I understand why we needed to use phrases in the
past like safety first, and why we needed to emphasize the creation of a culture of
safety. We just ignored safety too long in construction. And I can say that from
personal experience, working all over North America and consulting on
projects all over the world.
We had a need to overemphasize safety because we ignored it for so long, and
instill this sense of safety not being that important. I do get that. But now, I think
it's time to start pulling backon our overcorrection. It's time to start placing equal
emphasis on safety, quality, and productivity, because that's real life. We have to
complete the job we're being paid to do. We have to make money doing it, and
we have to have everyone go home every day uninjured and healthy.
I think that the way we pull back on our overcorrection towards safety without
losing the attention it needs is by beginning to emphasize a culture of
learning. The people that work for us and with us need more opportunities to
learn and improve. As a company, I think you're much better off promoting this
culture of learning. Promote the fact that you want your employees to learn and
grow, and then create opportunities for them to do so. People generally want to
grow and get better, and as they do, they feel better.
They grow a sense of loyalty, and the company benefits in many ways. By creating
a culture of learning, and enabling a system that allows people to learn
about both what they need to know for their jobs and what they may want to
learn to better themselves, you can create a sense within the organization that all
of it's important, safety, quality, and productivity. And it helps you stress that it's
not acceptable to skimp on any of these elements.

Recognizing leading indicators

- Okay, we're balancing safety, quality, and productivity now, we're preplanning
our tasks and taking steps to properly implement that plan, and we've created a
culture of learning to show everyone in the company that this is all important and
to emphasize that we realize that people are a critical component in construction
work and we want them to be healthy and to grow.Now, how do we stay on
track? Well the key here is to develop a system to track leading indicators.
Let me explain what I mean. In the past we typically investigated incidents that
resulted in property damage or bodily injury, and if we did everything right, we
did it really well, we should have done an investigation and determined the root
cause of the incident and then we wrote all this up in a lengthy report. Eventually
that lengthy report got read and someone developed some steps to prevent the
same type of incident from occurring on the next job. That's all good and it all still
needs to be done, but the problem is that this is all stuff that's already happened.
These reports are what we call lagging indicators. Again, when something
happens that root cause investigation needs to be done to prevent similar bad
incidents in the future, but what I would really like is some indication that
something bad may be about to happen so that I can prevent it rather than just
reading about it after it occurs. The way we begin to do this is by tracking leading
indicators. And this is really one area where I feel like technology can help us and
make this possible now, where it would've been very difficult to do in the past.
I'm going to say that leading indicators are mistakes, near misses, even rework
and delays. Any of these little incidents that would not warrant a full root cause
investigation is still an indicatorof something that's not going as planned. And
when enough of these things occur and they're all related to the same function or
location on the job, or the same individual, they can be signs telling us that
something bigger is about to occur.
Now why do I say that? Well, simple, for one thing as far back as 1931 an author
named Heinrich published a book called Industrial Accident Prevention. And this
book presented a relationship between near misses, minor injuries, and serious
injuries. In fact, in the safety world, we often illustrate this relationship as a
triangle or pyramid and we refer to it a lot these days,many people call this
Heinrich's Triangle and it shows us that there is this relationship between these
In his book, he said that for every 300 near misses we're going to have one minor
injury, and then for every 29 minor injuries we'll have one major injury. Yes, in the
industry we all like to argue just what those specific numbers are, but we do all
agree that a relationship exists. So knowing this it makes sense that if I can
track those near misses and do things to prevent themfrom continuing to occur, I
can begin to avoid those injuries.
And when I talk about these types of near misses I am talking about the little
things, the things that by themselves probably need no follow up because they're
self corrected or they're immediately corrected by someone else. Things like
walking by and seeing an individual leaning over too far to the side when
they're working on a ladder. In this case you'd probably walk by, you remind
them, they correct the behavior, and you move on. But ideally, anyone that
observes this would just take a few seconds to take out a smartphone, open an
app and record the incident.
Again, by itself this incident probably needs no follow up. But if multiple people
report similar sightings of that same individual doing the same thing, that tells
you as a construction managerthat you have a problem brewing. You need to
intervene and correct this behavior before they fall off the ladder and get
injured. Now this ability exists now, it's simple. There are several ways to do it
with a smartphone and a number of different apps that are out there, and it's
time to develop systems to begin tracking this data and then delivering it in a
meaningful way to the project management team to give them those leading
indications of things that might be about to go wrong on the project.
Then we can start to act to prevent the injury instead of always working to
react once an incident occurs. Like I said, I do think that the thing that makes it
possible for us to start working on systems of tracking leading indicators is the
smartphone. Let's continue and see what else the smartphone can do for us and
talk about some additional technologies that can help us to improve safety,
quality, and productivity.

Banning cell phones is a mistake

- When I talk about technology and safety, I think it's really important to mention
cell phones again, or more specifically smart phones. Smart phones tend to get a
bad rap sometimesamong safety professionals, and we've all complained about
somebody being on the phonewhen they should be paying attention to someone
else, or getting too many calls, or being too much of a distraction. I even talked
about them earlier as a hazard when texting and driving.But while all this is true, I
do think that smart phones can be an incredible tool on a construction site, as
long as they're used properly.
Is it okay to chat about your weekend plans when you're walking around a
construction site?No, probably not. Do I want to see the crane operator having a
phone conversation when they're picking a load? Absolutely not. But I also don't
want to see the smart phone banned on a construction site just because some
people misuse them. This is really a case of proper training, and I think that used
properly, the smart phone can do incredible things these days.Yes, I can use it to
call for help in an emergency. But I can also use it to just call for
instructionswithout having to go walk across the job site.
This could save me from doing something unsafe, or from having to navigate
down several ladders to get help. But today, they go way beyond that. I can use
them to document conditions. I can take pictures of unsafe conditions and
immediately email that picture to the person that needs to get it fixed. Likewise,
my crew can send me pictures with questions about safety conditions that they're
unsure of. I can get apps to track and measure safety conditions,and even help
with inspections.
I can get apps that do things like measure lighting levels and noise levels. I can
get apps that measure angles, like is that ladder setup too steep? And on a large
site, I can use the phone's built-in GPS to locate myself, and maybe even other
people on my crew. And then, don't forget the fact that the smart phone can be
used to store and read all of our safety documents, and to review safety training
anytime it may be needed. And with all of this, I think we're still just realizing the
things that we can do.
Yes, people need to use smart phones correctly, and they should not be a
distraction that causes safety issues on the construction site. Just like we
shouldn't text while we drive. But used correctly, I do think the smart phone, the
one that's probably being carried around by almost everyone on the job site
anyway, is an incredible tool that can help us be safer. Stick with me.Let's look at
a couple more examples of digital enhancements to safety.

Identify hazards on digital drawings

- If you have ever watched almost any of my other courses here in the online
library, you might already know that I'm a huge fan of digital drawings. I think it's
one of the biggest advances in the construction industry that we've seen in a long
time. And I think we're really only just beginning to realize it and take advantage
of it on a large scale. Even just the ability to carry around a small tablet instead of
the huge, heavy roll of drawings has to improve safety. But I'm going to give you
one more reason to go digital. On a project that is completely adopted digital
drawings, one like I showcased in our Construction Technology course, everyone
would be syncing the drawings on their device, whether it's their tablet, their
laptop, or even their phone, with the master set of drawings that's being
maintained by the project manager.
And this would be done frequently, ensuring that everyone always has the
latest set of drawings. Now, at a minimum, this helps avoid rework, which in itself
can reduce exposure to hazardous conditions. But it also gives us a new
ability. That is the ability to add a layer of safety information to these
drawings. You see, with paper drawings, this just was not practical. Yes, I could
markup the master set in the construction office, but I couldn't make copies every
time a safety condition changed, and then run them around to everyone on the
job site.
And there's no way that they're all going to stop in the trailer and check the
drawings every single day for new markups. But now, in a digital world, I can open
my digital set of construction drawings, and I can add a layer of safety
information anytime. If a hole just got cut in the roof today, or a limited access
zone just got established by the masons while they're installing bracing, I can add
this information to the drawings and date it. This will give everyone the ability to
see the new hazard right on the construction drawings while they're
planning their day's activities.
This opens up a huge number of possibilities when it comes to getting
information to the people out there at the work face. And I really think that we
need to start taking more steps to take advantage of this right now. Okay,
obviously I think that digital two dimensional drawings are really cool, and I think
they're a huge step up from the rolls of plans we used to carry around. But stay
with me here, and let's move to the next video and talk about digital three
dimensional drawings, and see what those can do to help us out.

Use BIM to identify hazards early

- We can't very well talk about digital drawings and construction without
discussing BIM, or building information modeling. These digital, three
dimensional drawings are fast becoming the standard method of design, and in
fact today, many designers just flat out design this way from day one. They start
by creating that digital, three dimensional image or model, and then they
generate those two dimensional plans that we typically see in the field. So, how is
a design tool going to help with safety? Simple, we need to start using those
three dimensional digital models throughout the construction process, as well.
There are many advantages to using a BIM model in the construction process, but
for this course let's stick with safety. Remember, I stressed earlier that the key to
success in safety is pre-planning. Now think about the kind of pre-planning that I
can do if I have a three dimensional building information model that I pull apart. I
can use this to actually build the job digitally, before I even set foot on the
project. Utilized to its fullest capacity, I can step through the model using the
information from my construction schedule, and I can build the project in my
office on the screen, and I can see not only where the hazards will exist, but when
the hazards will exist.
This is an incredible tool because once I see the where and the when of the
hazard, whatever it is, an unprotected edge, an open hole, confined space,
whatever, once I see this I can make a determination on how to handle it and who
to assign it to so it doesn't get missed or overlooked later during that sometimes
frenzied construction activity. It may even give me the opportunity to re-
sequence work, to avoid creating that hazard in the first place.
It's probably obviously by now that I am a big fan of digital in construction, but
let's hear from one of our experts in the field and get their viewpoint. -
Construction technology, being able to model conditions, being able to build
these buildings before we put a shovel in the ground,you know, through building
information modeling, through visual aids. What we are able to show in a virtual
world, we can look at constructibility, we can look at conditions that maycreate
unsafe conditions for the installation of any piece of equipment.
We use a lot of visual tools to communicate with our guys on a daily
basis, changing conditions on a site. We can show them without putting them in
harm's way and ahead of time before walking out onto a job site, areas where you
are cleared to be, areas where you're not cleared to be. Where we're going to be
picking things with a crane, where your no fly zones are.
There's a lot that we can communicate visually to guys without putting them in
harm's way to try to keep them safe. - Anytime I can solve a problem on the
screen before I have people in the field staring at that problem, I always improve
safety, quality, and productivity. Let's start to wrap things up and move on to take
a look at a few more things that I think that technology has in store for the future
of construction safety.