Group of workers during job site safety orientation.

Safety Orientation for Your Job Site

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

An effective way to reduce potential hazards and risk on a construction project is to create a site safety orientation program. We’ll walk you through how to perform a proper site safety orientation for construction projects, including the program elements, such as project layout, a safety incentive program, orientation for new workers, safety responsibilities, safety rules, and site organization and planning considerations.

In the construction industry, there is usually a steady influx of new workers. Some work directly for the general contractor on a long-term basis, and others are assigned to a job site on a temporary basis (subcontractors). This results in a wide variety of safety knowledge and creates added risk at the beginning of a construction project. An effective way in which to address this situation is to create a site safety orientation program, designed to create an appropriate level of knowledge among all workers, regardless of prior experience. Research at construction projects has proven that site safety orientations are a useful means to improve safety performance.

The overall plan for site safety preparation should cover all activities that need to be accomplished within each phase of the scheduled work to help reduce potential risks and hazards. A well-structured site safety orientation program should consist of several elements, regardless of the type project or the status of completion. These key elements form the basic structure to organize the project-specific information into a coherent presentation. This program should be modified throughout the course of construction to anticipate tasks associated with the project.

Project Familiarization

The purpose of project familiarization is to give each worker basic information concerning the purpose and structure of the project. It should address items, such as the scope and purpose of the project; the size, composition and type of construction (e.g., poured concrete, steel frame, tilt-up, or masonry block); the duration; key project milestones and associated target completion dates; the owner and owner's representatives; the principal contractor/subcontractors; and how the project will be managed. This overall understanding gives each worker a sense of what is the 'bigger whole' to which they are contributing their specialized expertise.

Orientation of Workers

Each worker should receive site safety orientation prior to beginning work, including a copy of the written safety program and procedures applicable to the proposed project. The orientation should include the following:

  • Safety rules – Explanation of the company and any owner/client safety responsibilities and policies.
  • First-aid facilities — indicate where first aid facilities are located and how they are to be utilized.
  • Accident reporting — explain the required procedures for reporting accidents and injuries.
  • Tool box meetings — state when and where they will be held, who is to attend, and that attendance is mandatory.
  • Personal protective clothing and equipment — specify when such protective equipment is required for a work assignment, and when their use is mandatory.
  • Reporting unsafe acts or hazardous conditions — encourage workers to report unsafe acts or hazardous conditions immediately to their supervisor so they can be corrected.

Project Layout

The purpose of this element is to provide specific geographical information about the project and various aspects of the work. This allows the individual worker to understand where they are in relation to other phases of the project. Several important aspects of the site plan, as well as the project footprint, should be included in discussions. It is important to review the locations of, and safe access routes to and from, various areas throughout the project site. Key areas that need to be identified include:

Geographic Limits of the Project Site

  • Location of boundary lines/principle project work area.
  • Restricted entry areas, such as demolition zones.
  • Security locations or checkpoints, and storage and staging yards.
  • Adjacent property, structures, or other ongoing projects.

Environmental Concerns

  • Hazardous elements.
  • Chemical spills and hazardous waste and trash disposal areas.
  • HazMat on site.
  • Protected areas and wildlife concerns.
  • Good housekeeping and material recycling practices.

Temporary Services

  • Proximity to needed medical and emergency services and facilities.
  • Drinking water, showers, sanitation, toilets, and showers.
  • Electricity, gas, and telephone and cable lines.
  • Security, lighting, fences and gates, guards/dogs, and guard houses.

Trailer Layout

  • Contractor’s office and workers, suppliers, and visitors areas.
  • Tools, equipment, and storage areas.

Material Storage and Staging Areas

  • Site warehouses, locked sheds, and outside storage areas.
  • Special provisions (fire protection, prevention, and environmental) for fuel service and storage.

Vehicular Traffic

  • Worker arrival/departure times and parking areas, and visitor parking areas.
  • Material deliveries areas.
  • Suppliers (e.g., Postal, office supplies, lunchwagon, etc.).
  • Construction equipment (within the site) and emergency vehicle areas.
  • Internal traffic network, flow patterns signs, signals and barricades, and temporary roads.
  • On-site worker transportation and equipment movement areas.

Pedestrian Traffic

  • Visitors and temporary service areas.
  • Lunch/break areas.
  • Access to office/trailer facilities.

Project Nuisance Items

  • Fugitive dust, fumes, and gases.
  • Vibration and blasting.
  • Storm water runoff and streams or rivers.
  • Traffic (local and highway) and noise.
  • Local railroads, airports, and train and bus stations.

Since some of these areas will change over the course of the project, particularly as the project moves closer to completion, it is important that the information be kept accurate and current. The planning and site layout process also facilitates the construction management process by taking the project team through the entire planning sequence in advance of the actual start of construction on the site.

Safety Incentive Program

The owner's expectations for safety performance are appropriate for inclusion in the orientation. Usually based on the type of project and dollar value, the owner usually will offer a safety incentive program. If the project has a safety incentive program open to participation by the individual worker, it should be discussed and outlined in writing. Management will set a specific plan, based on zero-days of accident-free time and a demerit point system for warnings of acts that can cause a potential accident. These are reported to the foreman who keeps a log on all workers. Workers are aware of the status and summaries are posted or reviewed during toolbox safety talks. At the conclusion of the specified time period, the awards are given with the proper recognition for all other workers to be aware of. The process is usually repeated more than once during the project’s lifetime.

Safety Responsibilities

The various safety roles of the key individuals within the project should be thoroughly outlined in relation to the overall safety program of the project. The specific duties of each individual worker should also be addressed. There are several aspects of a good site safety program including:

  • Worker training requirements.
  • Proper personal protective clothing and equipment.
  • Hard hats and other mandated protective equipment.
  • Good housekeeping and hygiene issues (e.g., trash and clean-up, eating and break areas, drinking water, and sanitation).
  • Accident and injury reporting.
  • The role of the individual worker in identifying and seeking correction for potential hazards.
  • The role of safety coordination and communication among various trades and workers, and safety supervision and work coordination issues.
  • Any other administrative safety requirements.

The object of this element is to instruct the workers in the project of the safety expectations and goals, and the desired approach on how to achieve them. A worker should understand their role in the construction and safety process.

Safety Rules

This element addresses site-specific work rules and should consist of two parts. The first part should include general issues that will remain applicable throughout the entire course of the project. Some of these general issues are items, such as conducting job hazard analyses, use of equipment, fire protection and prevention, safety intervention, hazard communication, use of specialized personal protective equipment, inspections, and any other work practice that is essential to worker safety and the projects outcome. Toolbox discussions and other mandated functions should also be reviewed for understanding.

Any specific work actions required by OSHA or any other local codes or ordinances, the owner, or special needs for the project should be clearly identified and discussed in the second part of this element. Since this element will address task specific issues, the content of this part should be continually updated throughout the course of the project. The relevancy of the site orientation program is crucial for safety and the project’s success.


1. ISO Services, Inc. Engineering and Safety Service. Pre-Construction Surveys. Construction Management Report CM-20-18. New York, NY: ISO, 2000.

2. Engineering and Service. Pre-job Planning. Construction Management Report CM-20-04. New York, NY: ISO, 2000.

3. Engineering and Safety Service. Traffic-Control Through Construction Areas. Construction Management Report CM-75-11. New York, NY: ISO, 1999.

4. Malcolm, D.V. Construction Safety Planning. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1995.

COPYRIGHT ©2001, 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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