The construction industry is inherently dangerous. It ranks up there with mining, oil and gas, and the military in terms of the potential for workers to have serious or fatal injuries in the line of work. Even more, every type of construction comes with its own unique safety risks. Carpenters work on ladders with saws and other tools that can easily cause injury. Electricians are working around live electricity where the wrong move can be instantly fatal. Earthwork contractors are at constant risk of accidents with heavy equipment and cave-ins when doing excavations.
Suffice it to say, with all of this risk to the safety of workers and personnel on a construction site, safety management is critical. It makes sense to have a complete and well-thought-out construction safety plan developed and reviewed by all members of the project team before starting the work.
In this Article
Purpose of a Construction Safety Plan
A construction safety plan is a comprehensive document that you should ideally develop during the preconstruction phase of your project. It serves as a planning tool that outlines the risks or safety hazards that could potentially occur during all of the activities involved in building the project. It then follows up with corresponding controls or safety measures that you plan on putting in place to prevent those hazards from occurring.
Think about it like a preventative guidebook to all of the ways somebody could get hurt on your job site. The construction safety plan, also sometimes referred to as a site-specific safety plan, outlines the potential hazards that you expect to be exposed to during the course of construction. It also details the various requirements for safety training on-site, as well as how the safety standards are to be enforced and managed during the project.
Typically, the construction safety plan outlines training requirements for personnel to understand the hazards they could be exposed to on the job site. This safety program orientation training is administered for everyone who will be on the job site, including the general contractor’s team, as well as subcontractors.
Not only is the construction safety plan an important risk mitigation tool, but it’s also an important document to show compliance with OSHA regulations. In the event of an OSHA inspection or incident follow-up, an OSHA safety officer will usually ask for you to provide a construction safety plan for them to review. Being able to produce a well-articulated and complete construction safety plan can be the difference between meeting compliance and potentially adverse consequences, including fines or worse. Always ensure you have a thorough and complete employee training and site safety plan for any project you construct to ensure workplace safety.
What to Include in Safety Plan
While there are many different styles and safety plan templates available, there are some basic elements that you should consider including in every safety plan that you create. Here are some of the key pieces to include in yours:
Emergency Procedures – Outlining what everyone should do in the event of an emergency or a serious safety accident is a crucial safety consideration. This includes locating and providing directions to the nearest hospital, as well as the closest Level-1 Trauma Center, should a worker get seriously injured and require advanced medical care. Additionally, a safe muster point, or multiple, should be established if an accident does occur on-site. (Note that it’s important to have emergency contact information, including emerging phone numbers, and contact information for the health administration in case there is a serious incident).
A communication procedure, usually three loud airhorn blasts, lets the workers know that they need to proceed to the nearest muster point. This way, there is accountability for all of the construction workers, letting you know who was affected by the accident and who was not.
Project Safety Training Requirements – Explaining the safety training requirements is extremely important and will usually include broad safety training, like the general project safety orientation and OSHA 10 or 30 certifications, that apply to all personnel entering the job site. Beyond that, you should outline potential risks, occupational safety, and what activities or trades require special safety training or certifications. For example, if fall protection, hot work, or trench safety training is required for construction workers in conditions that are exposed to those respective hazards, it will typically be highlighted in this part of the construction safety plan.
Personal Protective Equipment – Make it clear in your safety policy what personal protective equipment, or PPE, is required. Typical requirements include safety gloves, safety glasses, a hard hat or construction helmet, boots (sometimes steel-toed), ear protection, and a hi-visibility vest. Be specific; sometimes the contract will require a special type of PPE, like Cut Level IV gloves or Class II Hi-Vis vest. Make sure you pay attention to the safety requirements outlined in the contract and use good judgment in thinking about what PPE may be needed for each activity and the corresponding hazards.
Heavy Equipment/Tools Safety – Heavy equipment and power tools can be some of the most dangerous items on a job site. Make sure you detail any inspections you want workers to make before operating equipment or tools, and also outline best practices associated with using equipment or tools on the job site to mitigate the potential for an accident to occur.
Housekeeping – While this is often deemed trivial, making sure you have organized, clean, and workable site conditions is one of the easiest ways to avoid safety incidents from occurring on your site. The construction safety plan should include daily housekeeping requirements that should be followed by everyone on the worksite, including self-performed crews and subcontractors. Making sure materials are staged in an organized manner and the site is clear of trash and debris allows for safe movement across the site, both for workers and equipment, and contributes massively to preventing accidents, both large and small, from occurring.
The safety plan can include much more, including safety procedures for specific work activities, a hazard communication plan, and the location of any first aid kits on the construction site. Ultimately, as you develop this document, you want to make sure that you understand and address all of the potential safety hazards that you can think of happening on the job site.
Training Your Team to Follow the Site Safety Plans
As you develop your job site safety plan, a key piece to making sure it is a living and well-understood document and not just a planning tool is to share it with all of the members of the project management team and make sure that the management staff is enforcing the standards set forth within.
This usually starts with a staff meeting at the beginning of the project, where you conduct a thorough briefing of the safety plan and make sure that all members of the project management team understand what is prescribed for managing safety throughout the course of the project.
As the project progresses, taking preventative measures to identify safety issues, like reoccurring safety inspections, enforcing trade safety meetings, as well as daily job site walks, with various members of the project team and reviewing the site hazards will help to make sure that the conditions on-site meet the standard outlined in the safety plan. Managing job site safety is a continual process, and training your team should be a continuous effort as well. Leading with an active safety culture on your project is the best way to mitigate injuries or accidents that have catastrophic consequences.
Creating a robust and detailed safety plan is an essential part of every safe construction project. It is in your best interest to put effort into developing the safety plan, communicating it to the team, and managing the safety on site by regularly performing inspections to ensure the project meets the standards established in the safety plan.
Not only will this mitigate costly safety incidents from occurring, but it will help foster a culture of safety on the job site that will improve morale and ultimately lead to a more productive work environment.
Further Reading: Read our guide to financial risk management in construction.
The CrewCost Team consists of men and women who have worked in the construction industry as project managers, general contractors, sub contractors and more. They share their decades of experience on our blog as a way to help other contractors grow healthier and more profitable businesses.