Loss Control in Construction

Safe operations within a construction company are determined by everyone in the process. To be as effective as possible loss control efforts must be adopted by management, supervisors, coordinators and workers alike. Let’s look at the responsibilities for each of these roles.

Management Responsibilities for Loss Control in Construction

The construction industry is very competitive, and these pressures are driving profit margins to the point where any cost that does not add value is eliminated. The direct and indirect costs of accidents can add a substantial overhead burden to contractors and can result in financial disaster if accidents continue to occur. With the focus on the bottom line, management should quickly realize that it must take action to prevent accidents. Management should ensure that safety policies and practices support total worker involvement in loss control activities.

Additionally, in today’s competitive market, construction businesses that have experienced accidents and subsequent insurance losses, may find they are not able to bid on future contracts. Many construction projects require the bidders to provide their experience modification factors (EMF) and those businesses with an EMF greater than “one” are generally eliminated from competition.

Communication. Management should make every effort to ensure that the need for accident prevention is widely communicated throughout the company. A signed policy letter, stating the goals and desires of the firm with regard to accident prevention, should be provided to every worker. Management must also "walk the talk" and ensure that its actions support the policy statement. This should include involvement of key leadership within the company, through personal attention and contacts, to support the message.

Both good and bad news should be shared by management with the work force. This is to ensure the workers realize their impact on success and financial results. In person communication by top management is recommended, but it should be followed with written results for specified periods of time.

Coordination. Loss control implementation involves a significant amount of activity and requires coordination across many business functions. Responsibility for coordinating this effort should rest with one individual manager. It is important that the individual selected have a good understanding of the fundamentals of the business operation, as well as knowledge of loss control principles. This coordinator should monitor the ongoing efforts of the firm to implement loss control procedures and serve as top management's eyes and ears out in the field. It is important that the individuals report to senior management and maintain objectivity regarding actions needed to further the loss control effort.

Procedures. Once management has established the safety policy, it is up to the loss control coordinator to create the procedures necessary to promote that policy.

Procedures describe the steps to be followed in specific areas to ensure consistent actions by all workers within the company. At a minimum, these procedures must address the requirements of Federal, State, and local regulations. They should also describe the actions necessary to administer the program. Senior management should review and approve any procedure prior to its implementation. The following areas should be addressed:

  • Prejob planning.
  • Employee selection, orientation, and training.
  • Supervisor training and participation.
  • Employee participation/safety meetings.
  • First aid and medical treatment.
  • Safety inspections and audits.
  • Accident and incident investigation.
  • Documentation and recordkeeping.
  • Work rules.

Each area should address its own proper sequence of activities to be followed when performing specific types of work. These procedures should include the use of proper tools and materials and necessary personal protective clothing and equipment.

Duties and Responsibilities. In order for a loss control program to be successful, each level of management within the firm must have assigned duties and the authority to perform these duties. It is particularly important to hold the construction site management team responsible for controlling losses on the project, within the established company policy and procedures.

Workers should also understand their responsibility to follow procedures and help create a safe work environment. Supervisors should ensure they initially train each worker on the policy and procedures and follow-up with observation of each work site.

Delegation of Responsibility. Each member of the field management staff should be accountable for controlling losses for his/her assigned part of the project. They should be aware of the costs of insurance, costs of any losses, and the erosion of profitability by the occurrence of accidents. They should:

  • Maintain a focus on proper pre-job and pre-task planning and ensure that the principle of "planning the work and working the plan" is adhered to by all.
  • Maintain a continuing check for unsafe conditions and practices.
  • Keep in close contact with crew foremen to determine problems, safety needs, and effectiveness of planning efforts in promoting safe work practices.
  • Review the implementation of the company loss prevention program, including job safety inspections and accident and incident investigation procedures.
  • Report and take prompt corrective action on any unsatisfactory conditions or practices.
  • Ensure that crew supervisors and foremen are setting the right example and are comfortable with their knowledge of the loss prevention responsibilities assigned to them.

Jobsite management effectiveness hinges on the capabilities of the first line supervisors and crew foremen who are directing the day-to-day activities. The foreman should:

  • Immediately report and correct unsafe conditions and work practices.
  • Instruct individual employees in safe work practices.
  • Promptly report, log in, and treat all injuries and accidents.
  • Fully investigate accidents and recommend corrective action to jobsite management.

Supervisory Responsibilities for Loss Control in Construction

Safe operations are determined on the jobsite, not in the home office. Effective loss control programs are a result of the involvement and commitment of all members of the construction team, from the chief executive officer to the worker on the jobsite. However, in accomplishing the desired objectives, supervisors play the most pivotal role. As the principal representative of management (seen daily by the workers performing the actual construction work), a supervisor has direct control of the activities of the workers.

The supervisor should be thoroughly familiar with the duties and responsibilities of all parties involved in the loss prevention program. It is essential that the supervisor who has overall responsibility for the production, quality, cost, and scheduling of a project also be held principally accountable for jobsite safety. The directions and priorities determined daily set the stage for successful loss control programs.

As the company representative on the jobsite for management, the supervisor should understand the economic impact of accidents and incidents. He/she should understand the mechanics of direct and indirect accident costs, as well as overhead implications for workers compensation and other insurance coverage. A supervisor is in a position to make intelligent decisions in directing the work activities and increasing the awareness of the individual workers on the impact of their actions.

Field management. Construction supervisors are the primary project leaders and should be held accountable for the project's safety performance. They should also be the principal implementers of the company loss control policy and procedures. In fulfilling the obligations of this role, the project leaders should:

  • Work closely with the safety coordinator (designated by upper management) to gain knowledge and insight into the principles of loss control, as well as the company policies and procedures.
  • Require workers of all levels on the jobsite to comply with the established work rules and other applicable loss prevention procedures.
  • Continually check the jobsite to determine the level of implementation of loss control procedures and to assess the practices and site conditions. Any unsatisfactory conditions should be promptly reported and corrected.
  • Work closely with the crew foreman to be assured that they are leading by example and requiring all workers to follow safe work practices. Continuous communication should help to identify any problems or opportunities to inform site management of actions that might be needed to improve the safety conditions. Sufficient authority should be delegated to them along with the responsibility for the performance of their crew.
  • Hold periodic group meetings and weekly tool box meetings and promote other means of communications with workers to ensure awareness of site safety. Recognize outstanding performance and promote feedback and involvement of the workers in the loss control program. Communication should flow back to senior management to notify them of areas where help is needed and areas where there was superior performance.
  • Require site supervisors of all levels to follow proper pre-job and pre-task planning procedures. Individual workers should be aware of the job requirements and procedures prior to the start of work - "know before you go."
  • Maintain jobsite performance records, statistics, and other means to assess the level of implementation. Take corrective action for potential problem areas.
  • Establish specific elements of the loss control program, such as emergency evacuation procedures, medical treatment, and site coordination.

Supervisors/Foremen/Crew Leaders. The attitude of individual workers toward the company loss control program is dependent upon the attitude of the supervisor. Supervisors are individuals who are relied upon in any safety management program. The foremen and crew leaders must be held responsible for the safe work practices of those they are directing on a daily basis. This is appropriate since safety is intertwined with quality and productivity for which the foreman is also held accountable.

At times, supervisors may not be able to perform what is asked of them because they lack proper training. Regarding safety, many will drift from day to day, unsure of themselves, hoping that nothing goes wrong. They see themselves caught in the middle of an unfriendly situation - between upper management and the work crews. The supervisor or crew leader absorbs complaints, ill feelings, and unreasonable requests from both sides. He or she stands alone, a buffer between labor and management subject to hindsight and guesswork.

On the other hand, properly trained and supported supervisors and crew leaders can effectively guide crews to safe and productive work habits in a positive manner.

To fulfill supervisor/foremen/crew leader’s obligations, the following suggestions should be considered:

  • Determine the level of knowledge and job requirements of each individual worker. If there is a gap, the foreman should ensure the proper training or support is provided and maintained.
  • Give special attention to new or inexperienced workers since they are most "at risk" on the jobsite.
  • Get thorough knowledge of the work activities, sources of danger and other hazards, and the means to protect against them.
  • Check the job frequently to determine if the proper procedures are being followed. Be sure that potential hazards are being safeguarded and that no new hazards have developed. This includes verifying that personal protective equipment is being worn and used properly and that all other equipment is being properly used.
  • Conduct periodic safety training sessions (e.g., tool box meetings) to refresh crew members with safety performance indicators, lessons learned from previous accidents, and other pertinent information which will promote safe work.
  • Require that all injuries and incidents be promptly reported and fully investigated. As the most knowledgeable individual working with the crew, the foreman is in the best position to determine what went wrong, why it happened, and how future occurrences can be prevented. This information should be shared with management so that recordkeeping requirements can be met, as well as benefits derived from the insight gained through the investigation.
  • Report and record the performance of the crew and any problems with the implementation of any element of the loss control program.
  • Recognize that the safety of everyone on the crew is dependent upon the activities of each individual and those working around them. The foreman must promote the consistent implementation of safe work practices by each crew member and must lead by example.

Supervisors/Foremen/Crew Leaders Roles. The main roles of supervisors, foremen or crew leaders are as follows:

  • They should participate with upper management in the development of supervisory safety goals.
  • They should adhere to company regulations, rules, and procedures.
  • They should promote and provide safety training for crew members.
  • They should immediately respond to unsafe behavior and working conditions.
  • They should conduct incident investigations and safety audits.
  • They should communicate back and forth between upper management and the work crews.
  • They should encourage worker participation whenever possible.

Coordinator Responsibilities for Loss Control in Construction

Loss control activities should be integrated into the normal operating procedures of any company. As learned through experience, inspections do not create quality. The same concept holds true with loss prevention where safety inspections only indicate a level of achievement. Loss control should be built into the management process and implemented with consistency throughout the company. As a result, coordination of loss control activities requires that someone oversee the entire safety process – a loss control coordinator.

The loss control coordinator should represent senior management, have thorough knowledge of the business, and have the authority to cross into any aspect of the business. The principal duty of this individual should be to coordinate the company loss control activities. The loss control coordinator should try to maximize results, while minimizing duplication. He or she should be leading the loss control effort and guiding the training of the workers and supervisors to help integrate loss prevention principles into every aspect of the company.

The level of activity involved in fulfilling these responsibilities is significant and requires emphasis on interpersonal skills. The loss control coordinator must be able to communicate as effectively with the employees in the field as with senior management. In small firms, the role of coordinator could be filled by a senior manager involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. In a large company, it is unlikely that safety activities would get the necessary attention unless assigned to an individual. This dedication of the individual will ensure that loss prevention get the time and attention it requires.

Safety policy management. As the foundation for an effective safety management program, a written company safety policy is essential. The safety policy has to be clearly written and comprehensive, not wordy or long-winded. It should take up no more than a single, double spaced, typewritten page. A clear effective safety policy should take only a few minutes to read. It should be signed, personally, by the top person in charge (e.g., Owner, Chief Executive Officer, or President).Additionally, it should include the following:

  • The company safety policy, by extension, should cover the safety of everyone involved with the work on the jobsite. This includes managers, supervisors, foremen, work crews, subcontractors, vendors, service persons, and visitors.
  • New hires should be trained on the safety policy during their orientation and it should be reviewed with the entire workforce on a quarterly basis.
  • The safety policy's components should be strictly enforced.

A key function of the coordinator is to see that safety is more than just a written program. Safety must be enforced and integrated into all parts of the company's culture ("everyone is responsible") and it is the coordinator's responsibility for making sure this is accomplished.

The coordinator must also actively supervise the company's safety management improvement plan. This is a realistic, well-thought-out plan that makes continual improvements to the existing safety management program. As the project proceeds, there is always something on the job that can be improved. New workers are hired, new materials and construction methods are introduced, regulations and conditions change, and new challenges constantly arise. Coordinating these new activities is extremely important.

Duties and responsibilities. The coordinator's responsibilities for loss control should include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Assisting the chief executive in the development and communication of the loss prevention policy for the company. The coordinator is the proponent for loss prevention and, as such, has a significant responsibility in promoting the message of loss prevention. The policy and procedures for loss prevention should be clearly presented to the workers of the company. The adherence to the guidance contained in the documents can reduce accidents and improve the profitability of the company.
  • Conveying effective communication between upper management and the workers.
  • Developing procedures to implement the company loss control policy. This promotes the consistent, daily implementation of proven safety techniques. Work rules that incorporate the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety regulations, should be established to guide the daily work activities of supervisors and workers on the jobsite. In addition, the necessary administrative procedures to document the implementation of the activities and adherence to regulatory recordkeeping requirements should be specified.
  • Establishing the duties and responsibilities for loss prevention within all levels the company.
  • Incorporating loss prevention into standard operating procedures. This program should include worker selection, orientation and training, worker participation, pre-job planning, first-aid and medical treatment, safety inspections and audits, accident and incident reporting and investigations, the proper use and maintenance of equipment, and work rules for conducting specific tasks.
  • Establishing cost accountability procedures, which include direct and indirect accident costs, and safety performance indicators, for measuring and evaluating program effectiveness.
  • Establishing an orientation and training program. This should address the needs for indoctrinating new workers and supervisors in the elements of the company loss control program as well as provide ongoing refresher training.
  • Coordinating the communication of information related to the loss prevention performance of the company. This would also include communication to senior management of issues requiring special attention and should include recommended corrective actions.
  • Assessing company performance. This should include the collection of safety statistics and accident/incident reports and other records and documentation. These should be reviewed against the safety goals of the company and the results communicated to senior management and the work force. In addition, periodic field assessments should be conducted to determine the level of compliance and the consistency of implementation across the company, of loss prevention procedures.

Worker Responsibilities for Loss Control in Construction

Safe operations are determined on the jobsite, not in the home office. Effective loss prevention programs are achieved by the involvement and commitment of all members of the construction team, especially the workers on the jobsite.

One of the most effective ways a company can gain the cooperation and respect of its work force is by eliminating the perception that all safety rules and procedures are "management" driven. The best way to accomplish this is by asking the workers to help develop and accomplish the required safety goals. High-performance work teams consisting of workers and managers are supposed to perform routine and special work tasks without a lot of supervision and direction. Workers are expected to pursue and achieve safety, quality and productivity through a good detailed safety program.

It is extremely important to have workers' involvement in safety at the jobsite. Workers (or their representatives) should be involved in:

  • The preparation of safe operating procedures.
  • The selection of personal protective clothing and equipment.
  • Administrative decisions that pertain to the workers.
  • Safety meetings.
  • Site audits and safety investigations.
  • Observing other workers behavior.

By encouraging workers to participate in the project safety program and reinforcing them when they do assist, everyone on the job should benefit. Workers who take an active role in developing procedures are likely to follow those same procedures and see that other workers also abide by them.

Duties and Responsibilities of Construction Workers

All workers must follow the required regulatory laws and regulations as well as any company specific safety rules. Everyone on the job must abide by the safety requirements for the project.

All workers on the jobsite should understand their own safety responsibilities. These safety responsibilities are requirements of their positions - they're not optional. It is suggested that workers should abide by the following:

  • Use personal protective clothing and equipment, when required and in the manner for which it's intended.
  • Be held responsible for acting in a safe manner, and assist fellow workers, visitors, or anyone else on the jobsite to do the same.
  • When required, participate in safety and skills training sessions. Workers should add whatever information they can, including pertinent examples, insights, suggestions or questions to the training session. Workers should always challenge questionable practices or decisions that they are not comfortable with.
  • Follow established working procedures and continuously look for more effective, and safer ways to perform tasks.
  • Eliminate, isolate, and immediately report unsafe conditions whenever and wherever they're preformed.
  • Approach fellow workers who may be performing unsafely and, encourage them to stop and review the correct way to perform the work. This is probably the most difficult thing to ask workers to do. When one worker takes it upon him or herself to approach another worker about safety, it's a major sign that the safety program is effectively working.

Worker Safety Representatives. Workers who show a true concern for safety are good candidates to be chosen as a jobsite safety representative.

Worker safety representatives need to be familiar with the safety management principles and be knowledgeable of jobsite safety rules and procedures. They do not have to be the most experienced workers. They should be familiar with all job tasks to be able to field questions and answer them with some certainty.

A worker safety representative may be labeled "company person" at first, and may take a lot of abuse (some good natured and some not). They should be prepared for this, and assume responsibility for not letting unsafe practices begin or continue with or without unnecessary comments.

Additionally, training is critical to a worker safety representative's success. He or she should be able to lead tool-box meetings and know how to audit, run incident investigations, and communicate between the supervisors and the work crews. He or she must know how to tactfully resolve safety issues between supervisors and workers and know when its necessity to go to higher levels of the company to resolve any dispute.

The worker safety representative cannot be afraid of conflict. There will be differences of opinion, and differences in interpreting rules and procedures. If a person is very shy, quite, and avoids interacting with individuals, that's probably not a candidate to select as a worker safety representative.

One thing that worker safety representatives need or will find very helpful is a course in conflict management. Much of their time can be spent trying to convince workers of the logic of safety and following safe procedures. It's also a good idea to rotate the worker safety representative, every year, until all individuals who are qualified for the position have a turn. This will result in a well-rounded crew when it comes to safety, and may result in more knowledgeable work crews. If this rotation is successful, these individual crew members will be more reluctant to give any worker safety representative a hard time.

Training Sessions for Construction Workers. Workers can also participate in the safety program by running training sessions, or by helping to prepare and conduct meetings on topics they're familiar with or have expertise in. If several workers have been sent to a hands-on training seminar and have become competent persons (for example, in the erection and use of scaffolding), these workers should help instruct appropriate safety training sessions.

Workers experience can be extremely useful to instruct fellow workers on what they have learned through actual field experience. This knowledge can be a positive addition to what can be taught along with the use of text books and other training materials.

The record for safety is determined on the jobsite through the cumulative effort of all company personnel. The commitment and involvement of each individual is the key factor in creating a good safety record. However, through guidance of the daily activities of the jobsite workforce, site management plays a significant role in determining the final outcome. If site supervisors care about loss control and show this concern through their actions, it will be widely recognized by all workers and the results should be positive. It is critical that all levels of employees in a construction business recognize the importance of their role and fulfill their duties to the best of their ability.

For more information on loss control and managing business risks, check out the American Family Insurance Loss Control Resource Center.

COPYRIGHT ©2005, ISO Services, Inc.

The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.


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Related Topics: Protecting Your Business , Employee Safety , Safety Programs