The construction industry is unlike anywhere else you might find employment. Working in construction, you're 3 to 4 times more likely to die at work. Outside manufacturing, no other industry presents as many risks to one's health and safety as construction. On any active worksite, there is no shortage of ways for a worker to become injured on the job: falls, flying debris, moving vehicles, sharp objects, and harmful substances all pose daily hazards.
In recent years, the construction industry has worked to emphasize safety at the job site. The growing concern for safety in construction does not negate the need also to work efficiently. This dual-track purpose is why 11% of all safety specialists find employment working in construction. Their primary role is to safeguard the over 7 million people employed in this industry. They work to identify and mitigate safety hazards in the construction industry, and each one of them fills important shoes across U.S. job sites.
Construction is the third-highest employment industry for safety professionals.
Thankfully, safety professionals are getting some help from advanced technologies. The industry is more and more moving towards augmented reality (AR), building information modeling (BIM), and other technologies that change how safety teams monitor a project. It's not all that unusual today to see the use of drones or uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) performing safety audits and inspections. These 21st-century technologies can help safety professionals review operations as they occur in real-time, rather than relying solely on what people do while in their presence during random site checks.
This article highlights the role of safety professionals who work in construction and provides helpful resources around the hazard analysis process.
Importance of Safety in Construction
Construction workers operate in harsh working conditions, and numerous hazards are always present. The Worker Safety Series on Construction from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) highlights the top 10 hazards construction workers face and safety solutions for each one. In addition to the top 10 hazards highlighted by OSHA, here are some more of the many on-the-job tasks where workers are likely to find themselves in harm's way:
- Cutting materials
- Exposure to cold and hot weather
- Manually handling chemicals and solvents
- Removing debris
Those in a safety leadership position who fail to recognize potential hazards put their entire crew at risk. The Worker Safety Series, along with OSHA's construction safety topics resource, is an essential reference for people in construction safety jobs. Being armed with information is the best starting place for anyone in this role, and OSHA provides numerous resources and tools to educate about safety.
Safety challenges will appear throughout any construction project, and they may catch workers by surprise as a result of the ever-changing work environment. Managers need to be regularly updated on hazards workers may be facing so they can work to reduce the risk of on-site injuries. As you can imagine, their job duties are vast.
Job Description: What Specialists and Technicians Do
Occupational health and safety technicians held about 122,600 jobs in 2019, and the construction industry is one of the top three employers for this group. These specialists and technicians find themselves performing numerous activities to ensure a construction site is safe. Here are some of the most frequent tasks they perform:
- Analyze operations across construction sites for safety hazards
- Conduct audits and routine inspections of equipment and work practices
- Collect safety-related data to review
- Collect samples of gas and chemicals
- Design safety programs that control and eliminate threats
- Facilitate ongoing safety training, and coordinate initial safety awareness training for new employees
- If necessary, suspend activities that could potentially result in accidents
- Investigate accidents to prevent future occurrences
- Recommend measures that need to be taken to eliminate hazards
The emphasis on construction job safety encompasses protection from illness as well as injury. It's why those involved in construction safety put a significant focus on implementing personal protective equipment (PPE) measures. They work to maintain and supply work gloves, safety glasses, and other personal protective and safety equipment to minimize construction workers' illness and injury. We will highlight more on this topic below.
The Construction Safety Officer and Management
Both the safety specialist and safety officers are responsible for keeping worksites free of workplace hazards. However, their roles have different focal points. The safety specialist is focused primarily on the day-to-day activities, whereas the safety officer is focused on the entire safety system in place. While there is some overlap in responsibilities, the officer is mostly focused on the macro safety procedures. Here are some other aspects of the safety officer's role:
- Develop a comprehensive corporate safety strategy
- Lead all safety team members and oversee the execution of all construction safety programs
- Prepare and send reports to agencies such as OSHA
- Review training of all subcontractors and audit their compliance to safety protocols
In most cases, companies look for safety officers who have over five years of safety experience in construction, along with the completion of multiple training curricula. More than anything else, the officer is responsible for enforcing safety policies across all the company's operations.
Many occupational health and safety professionals perform a specific role within the construction industry. If you search Indeed.com for construction safety jobs, you will come across over 1,500 pages showing numerous safety roles needing to be filled. Typical safety-related job titles and tasks include:
- Construction Safety Manager – conduct hazard analysis of worksites
- Environmental Safety Engineer – help identify and remove contaminants from work sites
- Environmental, Health, and Safety Manager – perform ongoing maintenance of material safety data sheets (MSDS)
- Injury Prevention Specialist – evaluate workplace practices to ensure regulations are met that will prevent on-the-job injuries
- Product Safety Engineer – ensure products are safe to use and appropriate to the task at hand
- Safety and Health Representative – coach companies on proper safety procedures
- Safety Consultant – help companies understand specific safety laws and how to be compliant with those laws
- Safety Director – create company safety goals
- Safety Engineer – inspect job sites for safety hazards
- Training Specialist – communicate and train employees regarding proper safety solutions when working around hazards
These jobs play supporting but vital roles in a profession responsible for keeping people protected. To ensure this happens, all safety professionals and companies should, at some point, perform an in-depth analysis of their operations.
Construction JHA: Job Hazard Analysis
A fundamental reason why injuries occur at work is individuals don't know what hazards even exist. A job hazard analysis (JHA) solves the unknown by identifying the dangers of specific work practices and then uses that information to reduce the risk of injury to workers. Also referred to as a job safety analysis (JSA), this analysis helps construction safety professionals by arming them with insight into what makes specific tasks risky. It helps them address and remove hazards before anyone has the potential of getting hurt.
At its core, a JHA identifies step by step how to do a particular job. Since not all jobs are performed in the same manner or under the same conditions, each task's actions will involve different routines and practices. These differences will expose various hazards. Therefore, every job must be diagnosed for potential risks by studying each job performed across the worksite.
Before you begin a JHA, you will need to have some information nearby, and you'll need to be ready to ask some tough questions. You will also need the following information:
- A full printout of the OSHA standards applicable to the industry
- Company reports showing accidents and near misses
- Injury rates for occupations employed at the construction site
Click the image for a job safety analysis template.
When determining which jobs to tackle first, prioritize the jobs with the highest injury or illness rates. You will find all this type of information on our main Construction industry resource page. We break down injury data across each construction sub-industry and specific occupations, too. Focus on areas where OSHA has found frequent safety violations. Most likely, these are areas that will show up as pain points within your operations, too. Here are some JHA website links that might be helpful to you as you prepare to perform your company's JHA:
Our article on PPE Safety Hazards Assessment can help, too. It outlines the six stages identified by OSHA in performing a thorough hazard assessment.
After the JHA is complete, construction safety managers often create construction safety checklists that act as the first step to protecting your workers on-site by implementing protocols and reminders to improve safety at work.
The Construction Safety Checklist
One of the essential resources for any construction project is a daily safety checklist that documents all your safety measures, policies, and recent injuries where hazards may still loom. Unlike the JHA, which is more discovery in nature, the checklist is geared towards providing a final list of what needs to be observed daily by the safety manager. Using it ensures your project meets contract standards while maintaining work quality and performance.
As we highlighted above, technology helps safety managers perform their roles, even with checklists. A digital safety checklist can help safety managers save time entering notes and provide more thorough documentation of worksite activities. Digital checklists even help professionals take and upload photos of actual work sites.
Regardless of the checklist you choose to use, using one ensures your workers stay safe during their time at work. Here are some checklist links to other sites that might be helpful to you:
MCR Safety 360° Assessment
MCR Safety is here to help! On our 360° Protection Program page, you can sign up for a safety professional to assist with the hazard identification process. We have over 40 years of experience in the field of PPE. Over that time, our team has performed many assessments for construction companies.
By signing up for one of our local representatives to visit your worksite, you will be leveraging a vast collection of insight we've accumulated for the industry. You can see our research and knowledge at work in all the information we've presented across our ten different construction sub-industry pages.
Even though we have extensive construction experience regarding PPE, our team will start from scratch when we visit your site and perform a personalized 5-part process. It involves evaluating, measuring, and analyzing your specific operations to determine the PPE that is best for your worksite.
What are the requirements for a job in safety in industrial construction?
- Occupational health and safety technician or specialist job aspirants should hold a bachelor's or associate degree from an accredited college or university. Typical courses for the construction safety profession consist of physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. Applicants should be certified by OSHA, and obtain certifications such as the OSHA 500, OSHA 501, and OSHA 510.
How to become a construction safety manager?
- A construction site safety manager is not typically an entry-level position. Job applicants need years of experience working in occupational safety before advancing to the management level. But first, they usually earn a bachelor's degree in a field like construction management, engineering, or occupational health and safety. Occupational health and safety careers in construction are considered job zone three, which means these jobs require vocational school, related on-the-job experience, or an associate degree. Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training through a recognized apprenticeship program. Once they have the credentials, they are often called upon to coordinate, supervise, manage, or train others to accomplish health and safety goals.
It is also helpful to be fluent in multiple languages, such as English and Spanish, as the construction workforce is highly diverse. After completing educational requirements and working in the field for some time, it is recommended that safety professionals become certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP), which designates qualified construction site safety managers as Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs).
How do you write a job safety analysis for construction?
- A job safety analysis (JSA) identifies the dangers of specific tasks within jobs to reduce workers' injuries. In our article on PPE Safety Hazards Assessments can, you will find plenty of helpful information, along with resources provided by OSHA. A hazard analysis overview is also available for you to read through at safetyworksmaine.gov.
Arming Safety Managers With Knowledge and Protection
The front line of defense for construction workers against on-the-job injuries are those working in construction safety roles. They're the first responders of workplace safety, meticulously monitoring construction safety checklists so when workers finish their workday, they can return injury-free to their families.
If you're a construction professional, we encourage you to check out our dedicated Construction industry page, covering hazards and recommended PPE across ten individual construction pages.
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For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
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