The construction industry faces daily safety risks, such as working at great heights, operating heavy machinery, or even cleaning certain pieces of machinery. In 2017, the top three standards most frequently cited by OSHA for any industry were fall protection, hazard communication, and scaffolding. That same year, Missouri Employers Mutual policyholders in the construction industry also experienced the most lost-time claims from fall incidents.
In this high-risk industry, every business must have safety standards in place. These standards are essential not only for an organization’s employees, but also for subcontractors they hire throughout the course of a project.
Business owners who frequently work with independent contractors know that they’re often treated as employees of the business under work comp law. Because of this, companies hiring contractors are increasingly wary of their safety standards.
Nick Andres, production manager at Mid America Precast, has experienced this firsthand. “Owners, general contractors, are really stressing safety for their suppliers and their subcontractors,” Nick said. “They want to make sure they don’t have problems on-site with a company that might not be as safety-conscious as they should be.”
Nick and company leadership have put several practices and policies to enhance the company’s safety culture and reduce hazards.
Vibrating system prevents trips
Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries. But companies can mitigate or nearly eliminate the risk for these injuries with loss prevention techniques. In an attempt to offset the risk of frequent slip, trip or fall accidents in his shop, Nick Andres, Plant Controller at Mid America Precast, applied for and received an MEM Safety Grant in 2017 to purchase a casting table vibrating system. This system helps his employees avoid fall injuries by using vibration to remove any bubbles from their architectural precast materials—a process that was previously manual and led to greater risk of injury. Since the installation of this equipment, Mid America Precast has not filed a related claim or near-miss incident.
When it comes to construction sites and workplaces, there are numerous places an employee may experience a slip, trip or fall. At Mid America Precast, an additional fall risk existed with their on-site 50-foot tall crane. With the help of two MEM Safety and Risk Consultants, Dale Muenks and Brad Minor, Nick worked through the logistics of retrofitting their workspace to comply with an OSHA compliance rule, which requires fall protection at elevations of six feet or greater for the construction industry.
“Nick and the management team have been great to work with and have been very proactive about reducing safety hazards in their workplace,” says Dale. “Brad and I met with Nick to look at some areas employees were exposed to fall hazards and the type of work they were doing. Nick took the lead from there and put together a fall protection system that provides protection for the employees.”
Lifelines prevent falls
Nick contacted a local safety technician to advise Mid America Precast on the best way to protect their employees with this rule in mind. They installed a lifeline to prevent future falls, making every employee safer and the company compliant with OSHA’s fall protection requirement.
“It was a difficult thing for us to find a way to alleviate the fall risk here because the crane and rigging lines got in the way,” Nick said. “It was a bear to figure out how to address the problem of that risk, but we did it.”
In addition to upgrading certain safety protocols and equipment in the workplace, annual staff training helps support efforts to create a safety-minded culture within your business. Nick provides training to all his employees and additional training to those who use specialized equipment to ensure everyone can go home at the end of the day injury-free.
Return on safety for companies and subcontractors
Safety can directly impact your company’s efficiency and productivity, as well as decrease insurance costs. For a company hiring contractors, it’s important to consider how unsafe practices can affect your bottom line. A lower bid on a project might seem attractive, but if the company’s safety standards are sub-par, the job may cost you more in the long run.
The best way to protect your employees and your business is to pre-screen subcontractors before hiring them. Ask for certificates of insurance to ensure they have work comp coverage before the job begins.
Finally, ask questions about the business’s safety policies. Ensure you’re working with companies like Mid America Precast that include safety as an essential part of daily operations.
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