Everyone knows that a safe working condition means better quality and faster progress, right?
It is no secret that the construction sector is growing. It is also no secret that the skilled labor force does not exist to meet the demand. As unskilled and young workers moving into the building trades, health and safety issues can creep in.
One tragedy of losing an entire cohort of skilled workers in the economic collapse of 2007 is losing practical jobsite knowledge. Not just tricks for cutting clean stain-grade winder stairs (even if framed by a homeowner), but also general safety-during-process lessons:
- How to safely cut teeny-weeny pieces of wood
- How to carefully set a ladder
- How to tie-off efficiently when working on a roof
These topics sometimes end up in construction magazines and books, but they frequently do not because of liability fears.
Most of this jobsite-safety knowledge is passed along first-hand on jobsites and in shops.
Then there are solutions to health and safety problems that workers on jobsites devise that never make it into books, magazines or even YouTube. Some, do, however, like in the video above.
The commercial construction workers featured in this video are union members, so safety is more baked-in to their process than it is for typical residential construction jobsites.
In one example some concrete cutting guys come up with a dust control solution for keeping the air clean in a school they were working on. The answer involves a couple of vacuums, some filter boxes, and a lot of vacuum hose. The system keeps machines clear of the work zone and clears the air, too.
Many people have no idea how dangerous concrete dust is, but silicosis is not pretty.
"A lot of guys can generate 60 or 70 pounds of dust every day that would normally go into the air"
—George Weymouth, Operations manager, BAC Local 3
Another simple solution to a multiple-hazard situation: a dashboard-mounted mirror reduces the strain on the crane operators neck, from looking up and down always. Not only does this put a lot of stress on the operator's neck, but it pouts the ground crew at risk.
"If the crane operator's nort comfortable, how can anyone else be comfortable?
You have to be comfortable in what you're doing, you have to know everything's working properly, that all the sight lines are clear; it just makes fopr a safer job."
—Butch Bradley, Crane operator, IUOE Local 4
A carpentry skeptic learns that implementing anti-strain habits is pretty simple
"One thing we specifically that we looked at during the study was stacking the forms. We were able to decide that it was good if people could stack the forms in a staggered manner so that it was less dangerous for people to climb on top when you hooked up a form to fly in the hole."
—George West, Carpentry foreman, UBC Local 108
We've changed attitudes with the laborers and the other tradespeople. We know what's available for us to work safely, and we're always looking for innovative ways to make this job easier and less strainful on our bodies and also make it more productive for the contractor.
James Gaine, Laborer Steward, LIUNA Local 223
And that gets to one benefit of working safer on a job. If you are not concerned that your scaffold will collapse, you can install that WRB more carefully. Or make that piece of five-piece crown molding look like it grew on that architrave.
If you are worried about your ladder set, scaffold, fall protection, you'll do a cruddy job. Slower. And maybe you'll also fall.
This somewhat dated video winds up by talking about the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron MI and Point Edward Sarnia on Ontario employed a full-time safety officer and was completed three times faster than typical projects like this—with no serious injury. It also saved over three million dollars in insurance costs alone.
"Everyone has a consciousness of what we expect to get done for work, but also we expect a guy to go home every night and try to be in the same condition that he was when he came in—although a little bit tireder."
This video was made possible under a grant from the National Institutes for OccupationalSafety and Health