The Penalties for Poorly Documented Construction Job Site Safety Training Can Be Severe
A robust job site safety training, reporting, and documentation process protect your workers and your bottom line. Don't wait till it's too late.
Though there is still a level of uncertainty and demand fluctuation, the U.S. construction market is building back to pre-pandemic levels. According to Dodge Data & Analytics, construction starts will climb this year and next from a 9% pandemic influenced decline in 2020. This year, U.S. total construction starts are forecast to increase, moving from $778 billion to $810 billion, before climbing another 8% in 2022 to $877 billion, overtaking the 10-year high point of $856 billion in 2019. Moreover, if even a modest infrastructure deal is struck in Congress, the commercial construction outlook could soar even higher.
Construction demand and activity are generally high going into the second half of 2021 but fraught with enormous challenges. Material shortages and stubbornly high costs are plaguing the industry and tearing away at profitability. In addition, labor shortages, especially among skilled tradespeople, are creating additional productivity, profitability, and delivery issues.
If you’re in construction, no matter what sector, whether you’re a General Contractor or Sub-Contractor, you know all of this. You’re dealing with it every day on every project. The challenge of juggling labor and material costs, schedule pressure, owner changes, and far more is part of why you signed on. Your job site and office teams try to squeeze every board foot of profit out of every project. But are you looking in all the right places to mitigate the risk of lost profit?
The Cost of Safety Non-Compliance on the Job Site
As anyone who has worked in the construction industry knows, getting accurate information from the job site to the office and vice versa is a daily, sometimes hourly, challenge. Significant record-keeping duties fall to your construction project management staff that become difficult to manage in the face of the often chaotic and stressful challenges of simply keeping the job site running smoothly and getting the project built. This article will zero in on one critical area of job site documentation: safety meeting minutes.
Conducting regular safety training on the job site is highly recommended by virtually every construction site safety and training institute and, of course, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The requirements for OSHA safety training in the construction industry are covered in Standard Number 1926. In addition, construction industry experts agree that a robust safety training, reporting, and documentation process protects your workers and your bottom line from an overall risk mitigation and prevention perspective.
OSHA maintains guidelines for construction site safety and compliance that are easy to follow. They can help you understand and implement their recommended best practices including conducting, “daily planning meetings, huddles, toolbox talks, or tailgate meetings to engage workers in the safety and health program.” OSHA also maintains strict regulations on reporting construction job site illnesses, injuries, fatalities, health hazards, and safety issues. Be aware, however, that many states have their own regulations that may be more stringent.
During an OSHA inspection, you may be asked to produce documentation showing the minutes from any job site safety or toolbox talk you’ve conducted and, more importantly, hazardous condition, illness, injury, or fatality report documentation. OSHA’s inspection guidelines state that they will review “records of work-related injuries and illnesses” while on the job site. Therefore, it’s imperative that you have safety meeting minutes and any illness and injury reports well documented and easily accessible.
Safety meeting minutes also document your company’s adherence to the established:
- Accident Prevention Program
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements
- First aid program
- Hazard communication program
The costs associated with non-compliance or outright violations are staggering. As of January 2021, the penalties are:
- Serious Other-Than-Serious Posting Requirements: $13,653 per violation
- Failure to Abate: $13,653 per day beyond the abatement date
- Willful or Repeated: $136,532 per violation
OSHA maintains a “Top 10” list of violations most frequently cited. The seriousness of job site safety training non-compliance is further illustrated by this recently publicized and tragic case in Colorado. Simply put, do not put your workers at risk for injury or loss of life. With proper safety training and documentation, you can help mitigate unsafe or outright dangerous working conditions to improve the lives of your workers and protect your business.
Building a Culture of Construction Job Site Safety
Creating and maintaining safe job site work conditions should be the top priority of every construction company and construction project manager. To help communicate job site safety requirements to your workforce, conduct and document safety meetings and toolbox talks at the project kickoff and throughout your time on the job site. Regularly scheduled, consistent, and documented safety meetings are essential to building a strong safety culture and reinforcing your company’s commitment to protecting its workers.
Thorough, Well-Documented Safety Meetings Can Help:
- Educate workers on safe work practices
- Compliance with state and federal OSHA safety training, documentation, and reporting regulations
- Provide training on new safety guidelines, policies, and procedures
- Increase worker safety awareness and reduce complacency
- Mitigate liability issues
Build the Foundation for a Safety-First Approach
At the kickoff of a new project, hold a safety meeting with all employees on the job site to cover the risks and workplace hazards present throughout each construction phase. Project kickoff safety topics covered should cover:
- Safe practices for all work being performed
- Safety measures that will be in place
- The job site trailer or office location
- The designated safety manager
- Material, tool, and PPE storage
- Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Potential site hazards
- Basic first aid practices and the location of first aid kits
- Directions to the nearest hospital
- Accident, injury, or hazardous conditions reporting and documentation procedures
- Emergency action plan
Continue Building a Safety Mindset Throughout the Project
To emphasize your focus on job site safety throughout the build, conduct and document safety briefings daily or weekly. These short, informal meetings, also known as toolbox talks or tailgate meetings, should be held first thing each day or at the beginning of each shift.
These meetings are a great way to reinforce safety basics, focus on high-risk work performance, and inform workers about changes to the job site and working conditions that may have occurred since their last shift. Be sure to discuss and document any accidents or injuries and the preventative measures you will implement to prevent such events in the future.
To be more efficient, break your safety meetings into smaller groups to focus on individual trades, sub-contractor roles, or work activities for specific individuals. For example, don’t hold a toolbox talk on site-work safety if only electrical work is scheduled that day.
When additional elements that can create unsafe conditions are present, such as bad weather, use your daily safety meetings to remind your workers to be extra cautious. In addition, any unsafe work practices you observe during site inspections should be a topic of your next safety meeting.
Your toolbox talks should also highlight observed safe working practices to provide positive reinforcement and acknowledge workers who embody your safety-first culture.
Tips to Conducting Successful Toolbox Talk Safety Meetings
- Keep the meetings as brief and relevant as possible
- Use the time to have employees inspect their equipment, tools, and PPE to ensure they are performing correctly
- Focus on one subject that pertains to the work being performed that day
- Involve your workers by asking questions or having them demonstrate safe work practices
- Cover any changes to the site or working conditions
- Allow for Q&A at the end of the meeting
- Construction management staff should document the date, all who attended, the topics covered, site conditions, any injury reports, and more
- Beyond OSHA’s excellent resources for safety training, there are other resources online for safety meeting topics, including the AGC’s Construction Project Safety-Management Best-Practices Handbook.
- Regularly evaluate and adjust your daily or weekly safety meetings as needed to ensure you’re providing your employees with the knowledge to keep them safe on the job site and reinforce your safe work culture.
Whether you’re a General Contractor or Sub-Contractor, building a culture of workplace and job site safety is imperative to care for your workers and the overall health of your business. Documenting your safety meeting minutes can protect you from costly OSHA regulatory compliance penalties and worker liability issues. CMPRO can help your on-site project management team record and report job site safety meeting minutes quickly and easily. To find out more, visit our website at cmpro.com.
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