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P.O. Box 1750, Cockysville, MD, 21030
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Construction Insurance Bulletin
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Manage Your Risk by Hiring the Right People
We can manage risk with the proper training and by making sure a job site is up to code. We all know that we need safety training, first-aid kits on site, and insurance so that we're covered if something does happen, but we often overlook safety when making new hires.
Some people are more accident-prone than others. These people might be very talented in any number of ways. They might have a promising future ahead of them working from home or joining a sales team, but construction isn't for everyone. Here's what you're looking for if you're hoping to avoiding hiring accident-prone employees:
Construction is a daytime job. It's a noisy job, and it's hard to tile a roof at a quarter past midnight. Some of us love staying out all night, but we can adjust to a morning schedule when the job demands it. Others simply can't get to sleep at a normal hour, and will wind up coming in to work on no sleep at all, guzzling energy drinks and coffee like water to make it through the day. If you have an employee who never seems to have gotten a decent night's sleep in the morning, you'll actually be doing them a favor by letting them go.
We're not here to judge. Recreational marijuana has actually been legalized in many places and some people function just fine with a little boost in their system (heck what are coffee and cigarettes but drugs, anyways?). Others... not so much. You will need to exercise your own judgement in some cases, but it's pretty safe to say that anyone coming in to work drunk or so high that they can barely stand up is a risk that you don't need.
There's nothing wrong with giving an opportunity to someone who's never worked a professional construction job before, but you're not looking to hire someone who's never even picked up a hammer, and yes, those people are out there. Don't take for granted that everyone who puts in an application is going to be able to handle basic tasks. You'd be surprised how many people don't even know to keep their sleeves out of the way of a tablesaw.
An Interest in the Work
Someone who finds the work boring is going to let their mind wander. Someone who's letting their mind wander isn't paying attention.
An Even Temperament
There's plenty of shouting going on on most construction sites. That goes with the territory. What you don't want is someone who's always itching for a fight, bickering with the other employees and complaining about the job.
Basically you're looking for people who come to work ready to work, professionals who know the job and the dangers involved. You can make a professional out of an amateur, but you can't make a professional out of someone who doesn't care.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
Ready to Get Back to Work?
Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer was trying to get on worker's comp so that he could stay at home and collect a free check at the end of the month? Funny or not, it's actually not the attitude most workers have. Injuries are no fun, and the "free money" you receive when staying at home and recovering from an injury can't make up for the cabin fever and boredom that go with having nothing to do in a day. Though the public perception of an injured worker may be that they've won some sort of lottery, if you run construction jobs for long enough you'll find that the opposite often turns out to be true: Many injured workers can't wait to get back on the job, and they might be a little too eager to strap on the tool belt and get back to work.
Assessing whether or not a worker needs a little more time to recover before they get back on the schedule isn't easy. You're in construction, not medicine or physical therapy. But, there are a few things to keep in mind that may help you to make the right judgement call:
A Little Too Soon Beats A Little Too Late
Studies have shown that the longer a worker is away from the job, the harder a time they're going to have getting back into it. With that in mind, it's often better to let a worker return to the job site and take on lower-intensity tasks while they get back into the swing of things than it is to wait an extra week and expect them to give 110% right away.
Keep An Open Line Of Communication
Make sure your worker knows that they can come to you and let you know when they can't lift a bag of cement just yet. There's plenty of work that won't agitate an injury, so let them know that it's okay if they want to handle the lighter-duties for now.
Nobody Should Be Working Construction On Heavy Medication
They don't just put that warning about operating heavy machinery on bottles of prescription painkillers in order to avoid lawsuits. If your worker is still experiencing pain and discomfort to such an extent that a couple over-the-counter Aspirins won't take care of it, then they're probably not ready to return to work.
Basically: Don't be afraid to tell a worker to take it easy when they first come back to work. Getting back to work can help the recovery process, but not when the worker is pushing himself beyond what he can safely handle.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
When to Hire a Specialist
A question we're faced with on construction job-sites on a pretty regular basis: Should we try to handle this ourselves, with the staff we have on hand, or should we hire someone who specializes in this sort of thing? For instance, almost anyone who's been working in the industry for a little while probably knows how to install a sink without any help from a plumber, but good luck getting a new house hooked up to the sewer without someone on hand with extensive experience. The trick is knowing when a job can be handled by any capable hand on deck, saving money that you would otherwise spend on a specialist, and when it's going to be a hassle, and perhaps a disaster, to skimp.
Here are instances where you should certainly hire a specialist:
If a license is required to operate a certain piece of equipment, or if you need a special permit, then maybe you can do the job just fine, but you'll wish you'd let someone else handle it when the inspector starts asking questions. Better to hire the professional than risk the fines and penalties that come with skimping.
No Hands-on Experience
Electricians, plumbers and other professionals have apprenticeships for a reason: It's just about impossible to learn on-the-job without an old hand showing you the ropes. Wiring a home isn't like making a pizza, you can't just put anyone on the job and expect them to figure it out. When dealing with a new challenge, you'll save a lot of time and money letting a specialist handle it. Go ahead and peek over their shoulder while they do it, but don't waste time, money and supplies guessing your way through a tricky task.
Mess up a piece of drywall? Big deal. Patch it up when you have time later in the week. Mess up the gas line? You might wind up out of a job, if not in jail. You can "figure it out" when you're trying to do low-risk tasks on the job. You don't want to trust your intuition when it comes to the tasks that you only get one shot at, or that might have some serious repercussions if you don't get it right the first time.
An experienced person on a construction site typically has a little bit of knowledge about nearly every aspect of the job, just as a medical assistant knows a little bit about everything at the hospital. But you don't trust the nurse to perform the heart transplant, and you don't want your gofer installing the propane heating system.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
5 Signs of a Situation About to go Awry
They say you never know when an accident is going to happen. That's what they say. The truth is that while some accidents can blindside us, there are others that are easy to see coming a mile away. You don't need a magic ball to know what's going to happen when someone reaches into the oven without an oven mitt. Here are some telltale signs of a situation about to go awry on a construction site:
The Wrong Kind of Shouting
There's a lot of shouting going on at any given construction site, but most of it is helpful. Shouting "grab us another two by four" over the sound of the belt sander, for instance. Shouting because you're mad at someone, on the other hand, is a catalyst for disaster. If you have two workers who aren't getting along, the tension and distraction of having them arguing on the job can lead to serious injury. Handle conflicts between workers before it becomes a problem, and split them up if it does.
Tools not in use need to be packed up, extension cords need to be tucked neatly into corners when possible. The less stuff there is laying around on the floor for your workers to trip on, the less likely it is that you're going to have someone out on worker's comp for a month.
We all have our "whoopsie" moments. Sometimes it's a one-off slip, sometimes it's a sign that we're not quite on our game right now. If you have a worker who's been dropping his tools all morning, maybe let him get some coffee in his system before you have him work the jackhammer.
Passing a drill up and down a scaffolding by dangling it from its extension cord, mounting the top two steps of a ladder, working without safety goggles because we're only going to be using the bench drill for a few seconds, most of us have been guilty of taking a shortcut like this at some point. Don't let your team make a habit of it.
The best way to schedule out your work for the day is to save the easy stuff for last. After seven hours of putting up drywall and installing sinks and bathtubs, you're not going to be in the right state of mind to clear out an old tree stump with a chainsaw and a winch.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
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