Welcome to meteorological fall, or as some prefer to call it, pumpkin spice season! This month, as part of a look into the "Construction Alliance" and the "Construction Guidelines", we are going more in depth to discuss why "Safety Considerations", are an important part of construction, but one that comes with some risk.
Before we go much further, as an Architect and Specification Writer, let me be clear that it is up to each individual and company working on a construction job site to set up a policy for how they deal with safety and legal requirements surrounding it. It is important that, at a minimum, anyone setting foot on a job site must comply with the Contractors safety program, no if's, and's, or but's about it.
Why be concerned about safety?
I think it is safe to assume that the majority of those reading this agree that safety is, or should be, priority number 1 for everyone. Careful reading and understanding of the General Conditions is important for anyone stepping onto a job site. In the American Institute of Architect's contract documents A201-2017 General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, safety of persons and property is addressed in Article 10. Similarly, ConsensusDocs 200 Standard Agreement and General Conditions Between Owner and Constructor addresses safety in Article 3, Section 3.11 Safety. Both documents state that the responsibility of safety is that of the Contractor/Constructor.
Who should be concerned about safety?
We have already identified that the Contractor has the legal responsibility to maintain a safety program on the site. However, everyone needs to understand the risks of harm to persons or property if those safety programs are not followed. Each individual is responsible not only for themselves, but for those around them. Speaking only as a design professional now, I feel it is our responsibility to ask the question of the superintendent or designated Contractor safety personnel if we see something that appears dangerous.
For example, there may be a large hole in a floor, or an unsafe looking ladder situation. We have not taken the required OSHA courses that Construction workers have taken, but if you see something that appears to be out of place or potentially dangerous, what harm is there in asking a question? It may have to do with means and methods, in which case, you'll learn how they are doing some of the work. It may be that they are in the process of protecting the area. It may be that it is a serious situation that hadn't been seen yet. You may have kept someone from getting hurt by simply asking a question.
There is a big difference between asking a simple question and trying to be a safety professional. Chances are, you are not a trained safety professional, so don't act like one. Remember, it is the Contractor's responsibility, not yours. When you go looking for trouble, you may end up in the hot seat.
Where do I find information about job site safety?
The United States Department of Labor has set up the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and has specific requirements that apply to construction and employee safety, www.osha.gov. Contractors spend a lot of time and money training their personnel to be knowledgeable in those areas. The AGC of Missouri has an entire part of their website set up to deal with safety, training, and compliance, www.agcmo.org. Please take a few minutes and look around the websites to see what is available to you. If you need help setting up a safety program, consider reaching out to the AGC. They are there to help.
Let's talk for just a minute about personal protective equipment. Many Contractors have requirements when you go onto a job site. Follow those! Not all job sites are the same and some Contractors are a little more lose with their requirements. There are minimum levels of equipment you should own if you make regular job site visits, close toed shoes with solid soles, hard hat, eye protection, ear protection, and a safety vest, just to name a few.
When should we think about safety?
All the time! Safety is an ongoing concern and should never be too far from your mind. OSHA, Contractors, sub-contractors, insurance companies, and many others have an interest in keeping accidents to a minimum. Not only is it financial, it is personal. Everyone is entitled to go to work to earn a living and go home to family and friends.
Two Final thoughts!
In St. Louis, like most areas of the country, we have 2 seasons, road construction season and non-road construction season. Driving is becoming even more and more crazy every day. I beg you, please, please slow down for the men and women working on our roads. Is it going to matter if your late, if you hit one of these workers and they never get to go home? If you see Barrel Bob, listen to him, slow down to the recommended construction zone speed, and put the phone down!!!
I'm not sure everyone has dealt with work site accidents, but from personal experience, I sincerely hope everyone takes safety seriously. My father was a bricklayer, over the course of his career, he had 3 job related accidents. All fully preventable, had the proper procedures been followed by him and others. Two of them involved falling off of a building and spending a little time in the hospital to heal broken bones and internal injuries. The other was a little slower and ended up killing him. He was one of those old school mechanics who hardly ever wore respirators or masks when dry cutting concrete block, the silica and smoking eventually caused lung cancer.
Please make certain to read the guideline "Safety Considerations", follow all safety protocols, wear your PPE, and if you have any comments, please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Next month join me as we discuss the "Security and Background Checks".
Till next month…
Steve Gantner RA, CDT, CCS, CCCA
Member: CSI, AGCMO, AGC, SCIP
Senior Specifier - Conspectus, Inc.