Of all the workplace deaths in 2013, approximately 1 in 5 were in the construction industry—two workers per day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, workers being struck by objects, electrocution, and being caught-in or between heavy objects. Nearly all deaths could have been prevented through effective work planning, education of workers, and enforcement of safety requirements.
A PCL employee filling out a PSI.
Effective safety techniques begin with planning. Large construction projects invest in safety planning long before the first shovel hits the dirt. For example, PCL Construction is already in the safety planning phase of the billion-dollar Los Angeles International Airport Terminal project a full year before mobilization. Construction safety planning is the most effective and proactive way we have to identify potential hazards, develop procedures, and implement corrective actions that will prevent injuries. There is no better example of this than planning for fall protection.
To effectively plan for fall protection, the safety professional must be involved early in the planning process. At PCL, we use a Construction Hazard Assessment (CHA) to identify the major project risks and plan for controls. At this stage, the emphasis is on developing engineering controls, such as fall protection railing systems, use of aerial lifts, imbedded attachment points, and modular construction at ground level. Using the CHA, we then develop a comprehensive Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for specific work tasks. Steel erection and placement of heavy infrastructure on a roof are examples of tasks that require careful planning to protect workers from falls. From the many JHAs that are prepared for a project, a fall protection plan is written to serve as a one-source document that outlines all fall protection requirements and specific procedures for the project.
The most effective planning tool is the Pre-Job Safety Instruction (PSI), which is used at most construction companies under a variety of names, including Safety Task Planner, Pre-Task Safety Assessment, and Safety Task Assignment. No matter what it’s called, the purpose of a PSI is to give detailed instructions to workers before the start of their task. For it to be effective, all crew members must participate, and help in identifying hazards and corrective actions. It is not meant for the supervisor to complete without input from the workers. Furthermore, the PSI must be done at the specific site where the work will be completed. For fall protection, this is extremely important, since the crew can work together to identify fall protection attachment points and conduct an inspection of the fall protection railings in the area where they will be working.
Is planning always 100% successful? No, sometimes hazards are overlooked and a worker will be injured, but nearly all tasks are much safer (particularly those where falls are a risk) when planning is conscientiously carried out and comprehensive.