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Basic Safety Principles

small_dot Overview
small_dot How is Safety Created
small_dot Employers Responsibility
small_dot Day to Day Safety
small_dot Program Outline

Important Resources

Cal-OSHA Consultation - Besides investigations and citations Cal-OSHA also has a "nice guy" branch which is designed to help employers. Its called Cal-OSHA Consultation Service. They publish an excellent pocket safety book and answer questions. Their local branch is in Oakland and you can call them at 510-622-2891.

Professional Help - Bill Sanborn is president of C.H.A.S.E. Bill is the major local safety and environmental consultant for construction. If you need help with a safety program, training or fighting a citation call hin at 408-374-9565

Lead - Occupational lead exposure can be a problem for workers who demolish existing work, sand or scrape old paint or use a heat gun. Information is available from the California Department of Health Services. You can contact them at 510-622-4332 or on their website at www.dhs.gov.ohb They are not an enforcement agency.

ToolBox Talks Tailgate Topics - ToolBox Talks are the best of all the tailgate topic collections with real and useful detailed information. They are designed to really teach safety - not just hold a meeting. $149.99 for a loose leaf book of 55 - that's less than $3 a session. Download a sample HERE then Call 650-591-4486 to order or use our Form. To get your binder.

Construction Safety Overview
Construction has a poor reputation for safety. This is because as an industry we do little about it. If the industry as a whole paid more attention to workplace safety there would be less work related injury and illness and all the groups which feed off of workplace problems; The army of regulators, legislators, insurers and medicators, who follow us, would be greatly reduced in numbers. In reality it is unlikely that construction will correct the poor safety trend without outside intervention and so the above mentioned groups will probably be with us for some time to come. In California construction safety is regulated by Cal-OSHA. Cal-OSHA enforces both Federal and State regulations and has the power to issue citations and levy fines.

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What is Safety and how is it Created
Safety is behavior. People work safely because they behave safely. Creating a safe workplace is a matter of creating safe behavior. In this sense safety is not just instruction, it is also management and supervision in creating a behavior modification program and enforcing it through supervision.

A safety program begins with management creating a goal and then implementing a plan. One of the key elements in extracting safe behavior is measurement. The rule is "What you measure is what you get". As an example, let's look at your typical construction company working on a large project. They talk a lot about safety and hold various meetings in which safety and safety regulation is discussed. But when the project is over what is really measured? The final measurement is "How much did it cost and how long did it take." When it comes time to hand out raises and other rewards the same "How much did it cost and how long did it take", measurement is used. Unless safety performance is included in project measurement and employee performance review, it will never become a behavior.

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What is the Employer's Responsibility
Basically, an employer is responsible for the welfare of their employees. This includes employees that are injured accidentally and employees who are injured because they stupidly disregard instructions and fail to use common sense. Much of the illness and injury liability is spread through the mandatory requirement for Worker's Compensation Insurance. However, lost time, fines, and higher insurance rates belong to the individual contractor.

The employer is responsible for training an employee, providing a safe workplace and supervising that employee to make sure they are working safely. There are about 56 mandated construction trainings for things such as lockout / tag-out and confined space entry. The law in California also requires that an employee be trained for ANY hazardous undertaking.

Employers can also be responsible for the safety of other workers on their jobsite; this is shown in the following true story about a maintenance supervisor and the employee of a trucking subcontractor. The names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.

Bill was maintenance supervisor for Big Bucks Manufacturing. Sally drove a dump truck for Shoestring Trucking. A third company, Low Ball Construction, was hired as general contractor to build an addition to the Big Bucks site. Bill, the Big Bucks maintenance supervision was the point of contact for the project. Low Ball Construction hired Shoe String to bring in gravel for the foundation.

One day Sally was dumping gravel on the site. The gate on her truck was not operating properly and just as she was cursing at it Bill walked by. "X%&**$!!!" Said Sally to Bill, "This gate hasn't worked right for months and someday it's going to hurt someone". Bill replied: "Yeah, that looks like a piece of junk", and kept going. The next day Sally was seriously injured by the truck gate. In the coming lawsuit Sally collected from Big Bucks because they knew about the unsafe conditions (the gate on Shoestring's truck) but did nothing to correct it. Note that the Owner, Big Bucks, had some liability simply because they knew about the problem. Although Big Bucks was an owner, the same vicarious liability can apply to general contractors.

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Day to Day Safety
Safe behavior often gets lost in the press of day to day workload. First line field supervision has to overcome the tendency to work unsafely "just this once in order to get the job done" and replace it with planning to avoid situations where work deadlines and safe working behaviors come into conflict. Supervisors should immediately stop any unsafe practice or correct an unsafe condition. Worker's should be made responsible for unsafe behavior and immediately notified and possibly disciplined when working unsafely. Corrective action is the most important part of getting safety behavior in the field. Employees who consistently ignore safe working procedures should be given warnings, suspended and eventually terminated.

Safety Program Outline

1) Establish a goal of Safety
2) Create a safety program
3) Educate management and supervision
4) Begin measuring safety as a part of job performance
5) Make safety, and planning for it, a job site priority
6) Make employees responsible for, and accountable for, safe behavior

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