Accidents on construction sites continue to affect the success of major construction projects across Canada. Not very long ago, we were shocked by a fatal accident at a Toronto construction site; and who can forget recent incidences in Calgary and Toronto, where scaffolding fell to sidewalks below, risking the safety of unsuspecting pedestrians? Incidences like these can be both traumatic and costly for everyone involved. As such, project owners and managers share a responsibility to champion site safety. Whether working at heights or with heavy equipment, having proper protocols and procedures in place will ensure the safety of the team, the public and the site itself – not to mention profitability.
It can be extremely difficult to ensure site safety when working with heavy equipment, at dangerous heights, and maneuvering machines through complex spaces. Large scale projects involve large scale risks, which call for meticulous planning. If you’re unsure where to start, contact someone who specializes in risk: an insurance broker can help you identify loss control techniques that minimize risks to members of the public, construction site workers and your valuable equipment.
The following outlines six key risk factors and the important steps you can take to mitigate potential losses and increase your chances for project success.
A key culprit of accidents on construction sites is fire. Permits for hot work clearly outline safety procedures, but it’s easy to take fire safety for granted when you work with it every day. Poor adherence to safety policies can have disastrous effects and is a common cause of onsite injuries. When working on a heat applied rooftop, for example, you must have fire extinguishers within easy reach and a team member should be tasked with “fire watch” once work is done for the day. The same applies to welding work or cutting operations.
Temporary heating appliances with an exposed flame are another cause of fire damage. Improper ventilation can not only cause carbon monoxide poisoning but also start a fire if used incorrectly. A little diligence can go a long way to prevent such serious fire risks.
We’ve been experiencing weather turmoil in all parts of Canada – from damage due to storms, snow, and ice buildup. Sites become more vulnerable as severe weather patterns continue to rise across the country. Strong winds and hurricanes can cause steel frame buildings to collapse under extreme wind, putting projects on hold and resulting in major business implications for project owners. Such incidences can be easily prevented by assigning a team member to monitor the weather to ensure the site is properly braced before a storm. This type of assessment should be business as usual for an experienced contractor, but an insurance loss control consultant can offer advice as well.
Construction sites and heavy equipment are magnets for adventurous children and curious neighbours. Adequate security, signage and fencing can ensure your site is keeping these members of the public safe in the surrounding areas. It is recommended to fence the entire perimeter of the site and install guardrails around dangerous areas such as excavation holes or open pits to minimize the risk of anyone getting hurt.
To protect your heavy equipment, the construction site, yourself and your team, make sure to post the signs at the entrance that require visitors to wear proper equipment, such as hard hat and safety footwear. This is key to protecting you against liability claims, should an accident occur. Site offices should be instructed to prevent visitors from wandering around, in order to minimize risk on the construction site.
Loss control consultants pay special attention to housekeeping on a construction site. Housekeeping is a very simple thing to control and one of the easiest safety measures to put in place. It is recommended to establish this as a best practice on site. For instance, clearing out piles of debris can help prevent flammable materials from lying around. Flammable liquids such as gasoline need to be stored safely and securely to prevent accidents.
Site Safety Management
One of the key methods of ensuring site safety is to appoint a site safety manager to oversee all protocols and conduct routine inspections, including the proper inspection of machinery and heavy equipment. If the boom of a tower crane were to fall because a support pin came out during high winds, for example, imagine the destruction to the project, let alone the possibility of serious harm to individuals below. Cranes must be inspected and reported on a daily basis – and this is just to supplement the annual inspections of a qualified engineer, not to mention the inspections required after a repair has been done. All of this due diligence should be recorded in a log book for review during any site inspection.
A comprehensive site safety plan should be at the foundation of all construction projects. A good plan will address everything from fire prevention and weather events to site security and housekeeping, and should outline a schedule for routine inspections. Get to know the guidelines and be a champion for site safety on your worksite. Once you have a quality plan in place, it can easily be updated for other projects and it’s a great sign to your insurance company that you are committed to operating a safe site. Improved safety experience typically results in an insurers’ stamp of approval – potentially at a better rate.
Rob Cruickshank is the Underwriting Director for Property, Construction and Engineering Insurance at RSA Canada, a leading home, auto and business Insurer. Rob has over 25 years of experience in the property and casualty insurance sector and is a member of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) and Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada (NIAC). Additional site safety information can be secured from your local chapter of the CCA. This article first appeared in in Heavy Equipment Guide, January/ February 2011 issue.