P.O. Box 1750, Cockysville, MD, 21030
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Authorization Required

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There aren't that many "top secret" construction projects. Maybe you'll be asked to build a toolshed for the President someday, or you'll install toilets in the pentagon, but... probably not. That being said, it is nevertheless of the utmost importance that, with rare exception, only those who are a direct part of a project should be allowed on a job site. Here's why:

- Your electrician's brother doesn't know your safety procedures. He doesn't know the on-site paramedic's number, he doesn't know how to operate a radio, he doesn't know where you keep your first-aid kit, he might not even know what an OSHA sticker means when he sees it on a container of flammable liquid. He may be a great guy, but that doesn't mean he has the proper training to manage the hazards inherent to a jobsite.

- Liability. If an outsider is hurt on your site, chances are that it's going to be a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive than if a worker, who knows the risks of the job, sustains an injury.

- Your reputation. It can be tough to get work in construction once word gets around that some teenager wandered onto your project and lost a toe while playing around with a belt sander.

There are exceptions, sure. Those exceptions do not include "We really wanted a pizza and didn't feel like meeting the delivery guy at the gate." Any visitor for whom you make an exception should be loaned a hard hat and briefed on basic safety, and you shouldn't be leaving unauthorized personnel to wander around and check out the sights on their own. Whether they're just dropping something off or taking a tour of the job site, make sure that they have a guide.

Construction sites are full of stairways that end in a thirty foot drop, doors leading out to patios that aren't quite finished, second floors with no railings, dangerous equipment, live wiring, you name it. Workers know their way around those hazards, visitors might not.

5 Things to Stop Being Lax About

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Safety is in the details. Not to say that things like fire drills, on-site medical staff and building maintenance aren't important, but accidents are frequently caused by minor things creating a domino effect leading to serious injury. Here are five "no big deal" safety concerns that we would be well-advised to treat with a little more caution:

1. Proper Footwear

Not such a big deal in a carpeted office, but seriously important in a kitchen setting, and literally life-saving on construction sites. You don't want people navigating scaffoldings in flip flops.

2. Loose Clothing and Hair

Ever see The Incredibles, where the superhero costume designer absolutely refuses to put anyone in a cape? Same principle.

3. Skipping Lunch

The lunch break isn't just a chance to grab a bite to eat mid-day, it's there because you simply cannot be alert and safe working eight hours straight. If someone wants to pick up an extra hour, let them do so at the end of the day.

4. Proper Eyewear

Sure, it's a pain in the neck to go grab your goggles every time you use the tablesaw, but even if you're lucky enough to avoid a serious eye injury, a piece of sawdust in your eyelash creates a momentary lapse of attention that can spiral into serious injury.

5. Lunchbreak Drinking

Some employers look the other way when it comes to drinking, as long as it's not technically "on the job," and their employees aren't getting totally loaded. But even a couple of beers, and even in a low-risk setting like an office or a restaurant, can become a catalyst for an accident. Something as simple as a paper shredder or a deep frier can become very dangerous in the hands of even a mildly intoxicated employee.

Your employees might think you're a bit of a stickler, but they'll thank you in the long run. Even a minor slip-up can lead to a major situation.

Take Note

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The memory is a fascinating thing. There's an interesting breakdown of how memories work at www.tbiguide.com/memory.html if you have the time and interest to read it, and if you don't, we'll break down the article's key points:

The Different Types of Memory

The brain is not a tape recorder, it's more like an oral history. Even in your own mind, stories are passed down through time, changing shape with each retelling. A memory has several stages, listed below:

- Immediate Memory.

Immediate memory is sort of like playing the shell game, and trying to remember which cup initially held the rubber ball. Here, your memories are, if not quite perfect, not embellished, not filtered through guesswork or "I suppose what must have happened next was..." thinking. This is the type of memory that is engaged when you're right in the middle of something, like fixing your morning coffee for instance, and remembering that you already put in one spoonful of sugar before you put in the second.

- Short Term Memory.

Short term memory could be defined as a thirty-minute span of time wherein a memory a memory is still fresh, but fading.

- Long Term Memory.

We recall long term memories after a day or a few weeks or even a decade. Long term memories involve some detective work. When you look at a brick wall, you're not seeing every brick, you're seeing maybe five or six of them, and your brain is telling you "I don't have time to look at all of these, but we can safely assume that there are hundreds of bricks here, so just take my word for it." Long term memory works a little like that. Your brain fills in the gaps in order to make sense of the story.

Now here's what all of this has to do with the subjects of safety and insurance: You're going to need an accurate report following any accident, but if you wait a day or two before writing anything down, you're going to wind up with a version of the story that isn't very precise, because your brain is telling you "Well Jerry tells me that he slipped on the stairs, so someone must have dropped some food, and his ankle got twisted so I suppose he landed on his foot..." Your brain can't help it, it's just trying to make sense of what happened, because that's the nature of the human brain, but you don't need to tell a story, you only need to record what happened as you experienced it, first hand. So taking notes while your short term memory is still fresh is absolutely vital.

Managing Random Chance

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No matter how dedicated you may be to workplace safety, you will never totally eliminate the possibility of danger. That's why you have insurance, after all. If you could guarantee a 100% safe and riskless work environment, you wouldn't need to take out a policy. Unfortunately, life just doesn't work that way.

A worker with a perfect safety record might their first mistake a tremendous one, a machine might have a defect and catch fire after years of loyal service, a company car could have a blowout, and all of this could happen in spite of top-notch training and regular maintenance. Safety is not so much about eliminating the possibility of danger as it is about embracing the random nature of life and being sure that you're able to manage risk. A professional poker player's strategy is not "hope for good cards," but to bluff and strategize and play the table so that they can handle the bad hands and make the most of the good ones.

The question then is: what can we do to better manage risk?

Like poker, managing risk on the job is a numbers game. A poker player knows how likely it is that they're going to score a pair if they trade two cards in, a construction site manager should know the risks associated with any given task. Here are some numbers worth knowing:

- According to OSHA, fall protection standards violations were the most common violations found in 2014 during state and federal inspections. Related to this, scaffolding violations come in at number three.

- Second on that list: poor hazard communication. Making sure that people are aware of hazards will allow them to better manage those hazards.

- The construction industry accounts for around one in five workplace deaths, with falls contributing to 302 out of 828 construction site deaths in 2013.

- Other leading factors in the "fatal four" are being struck my an object, at 10.1%, electrocutions at 8.6%, and caught-in/between at 2.5%. It's estimated that better managing these risks could save nearly 500 lives a year.

Since OSHA was founded in 1971, workplace deaths have been reduced by 67%. There's no reason we can't bring that down another 67% with tighter safety standards on the job.