One thing that differentiates the construction industry from other types of businesses is the volume and diversity of construction equipment needed to complete their projects. No other business needs quite as many tools as contractors do, and their investments in their equipment are a significant part of their bottom line.
There’s no denying construction companies are expensive businesses to run. But, even though they don’t have the store frontage or wholesale costs of other organizations, they more than make up for it in labor and equipment costs.
Considering the costs of doing business today, it’s crucial for employees to use equipment safely. These tools are expensive, but the costs of workplace injuries are even more costly. No one wants to see a team member hurt on the job, and with the cost of doing business, few construction companies can afford it.
But you can empower your employees to use equipment safely. Here are six tips to ensure safe equipment use on construction sites.
Create a safety plan
This might seem like pretty basic advice, but it’s important to mention. Every construction site needs a safety plan that addresses specifics, like how to handle the equipment.
The plan should define standards for working with specific construction equipment, like the minimum safety training required before handling a tool or what to do when an employee needs to use equipment they aren’t familiar with.
For example, if an employee needs to use a bottom dump hopper to clean up part of the site but needs training for that equipment, what should they do? In most cases, employees should consult with their supervisor before proceeding because there’s a good chance someone else should handle the job.
Equipment safety plans help cultivate a culture of safety—an environment where management and staff eat, breathe, and sleep safely. They don't just read the safety plan and call it a day; instead, they actively pursue safety in everything they do, both for the good of their fellow employees and the good of the site.
Stick to the plan
Creating a safety plan is one thing, but sticking to it? That’s another entirely. Every year, more than 1,000 on-the-job fatalities exist on U.S. construction sites. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way, but change is only possible when people follow the safety plans created to use equipment appropriately.
Include employees in the process of creating the safety plan. When they help set the standards, they’re more invested in maintaining them. Moreover, your staff have first-hand experience with every piece of construction equipment and are more than qualified to offer safety advice on proper handling.
Sticking to safety plans takes discipline from the site managers and staff. They need to not only agree to the standards but also hold each other accountable. Accountability and communication are crucial to ensuring safe equipment use on construction sites.
Hire a safety officer
Equipment safety is one of the most essential parts of running a secure, efficient job site. But if you’re working on a large project with many complex parts, you may need extra help to create and execute your safety plans.
Hiring a safety officer is a great way to promote and enforce safety on your job site. These employees help to create, maintain, and manage the safety plan. And if there’s ever any question about what to do, especially with a piece of equipment an employee is unfamiliar with, the safety officer can get them on the right track.
Having a safety officer also sends a big message to your employees. It says you’re so committed to reducing workplace injuries that you’re willing to add an entire position dedicated to keeping them safe. This a bold statement since 67% of construction employees believe companies value productivity over safety.
Use the right tools for the job
Using the right tool for the job might seem like a no-brainer, but misusing equipment is a well-known cause of many workplace injuries. In addition, every tool has a function, and every function works together to complete the project. Therefore, using the right construction equipment is always a good idea.
At times, it may seem convenient to use one piece of equipment over another, even though one is superior. For example, an employee is hanging drywall with a 150 PSI compressor. They need to start framing and should switch to a smaller compressor. But it’s far more convenient to stick with the one they already have.
So what’s the problem? Well, using a compressor that’s too powerful for the job could certainly result in injury, and if that happens, the time the employee thought they would save by using the same compressor is blown, too. So using the wrong equipment for the job is not only unsafe, but it also hurts efficiency.
Repair or replace old tools and equipment
Do you have an upgrade and maintenance schedule for your equipment? If not, you should! Old equipment is often worn down and overused, posing a safety risk to employees. Regularly repairing and replacing your construction equipment can reduce injuries caused by faulty tools.
As a part of your equipment safety plan, ensure you regularly check the integrity of your tools and equipment. Plastic guards, trigger locks, and other safety features can wear out or break off. Without them, your equipment could become deadly.
Investing in repairs and new tools is expensive, but nothing is as costly as dealing with a workplace injury. Using your budget to replace and repair old equipment will be well worth the reduction in injuries caused by old equipment.
Train your team
Jobsite training is top-of-mind for most contractors, but providing training on specific pieces of equipment isn’t as common as it should be. No employee knows how to operate every single piece of equipment, and they shouldn't have to. That’s where equipment training comes in.
Talk to your employees and find out what they want to know. For example, some may prefer to be trained on powered hand tools, while others are more keen to learn about forklifts, diggers, and other manned equipment. Whatever their needs, figure out what they need to know and provide a means for them to learn.
Investing as little as 2.5% of your total job cost in training will increase your profits by 4 to 7%. More importantly, construction equipment training will keep your employees safer by reducing their chances of injury, and who doesn’t want to invest in that?
Equipment can easily bog construction businesses down, but it doesn’t have to. With the proper procedures, construction sites can safely and effectively use their equipment to do the job.