Using safety equipment that's appropriate, well maintained, and in good shape can keep minor accidents in home construction from turning into serious - and costly - injuries. The National Association of Home Builders and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration offer these safety tips for residential builders:
Eye and Face
Perhaps the most effective low-cost way to improve safety is to involve the people who could get hurt. If managers are not tapping the intelligence and creativity of their employees when solving work problems, they are wasting valuable resources. If a supervisor orders an employee to do something, the worker may do it, but his commitment may be superficial. Conversely, if the supervisor asks for and uses the employee's suggestions, the employee may be more likely to adopt them enthusiastically. There may be several valid reasons why an employee fails to use protective equipment, including:
Some of these reasons relate to supervisors' attitudes; if supervisors give workers incentives to obey safety rules, the workers are more likely to follow them. However, some can be corrected with employee input. The employee may report that a safety harness, while effective at keeping him from falling off a roof, makes it difficult for him to move building materials around the roof. In collaboration, the worker and the supervisor may be able to think of ways to work around the problem. Because he played a role in developing the solution, the worker is more likely to apply it and may even suggest to his co-workers that they do the same.
One very effective way to increase employee acceptance of safety measures is to create a safety committee made up only of non-supervisory employees. The committee should meet at regular intervals to review injury reports and reports of incidents that almost resulted in injuries, identify the causes of these incidents, and recommend corrective measures. Members should suggest recommendations based on their own personal experiences on job sites. Managers should review all recommendations to see how they fit within existing procedures; it may be necessary to change procedures.
During meetings where the supervisor distributes assignments for the day's work, he should ask the workers whether they have found safety issues that need attention. He should also review the procedures for safe completion of the task. For this to be effective, workers must feel free to speak up and managers must acknowledge their opinions.
Although it is important that managers take workers' safety recommendations seriously, workers must also remember the company's bottom line. Unreasonably expensive tools and changes will hurt workers' credibility and do nothing to improve working conditions. Conversely, if workers make thoughtful suggestions, managers have an obligation to take them seriously. If they do not, workers will lose trust in them. By working together and communicating well, both workers and managers can achieve the ultimate goal: A profitable company where all can work in safe conditions.