An “accident” is normally defined as an unexpected or unforeseen condition with an element of “chance”. In the world of construction, incidents can happen to even the most experienced professionals and are not normally due to “chance”. Incident causation is usually based on unsafe acts and/or unsafe conditions and therefore can be prevented. Developed in the late 1920s, Heinrich’s Domino Theory regarding the sequence of events that lead to construction injuries still holds true today. The theory states:
- Social Environment [that develops…]
- Undesirable work traits – recklessness, lack of knowledge, nervousness [that creates…]
- Unsafe work acts / Unsafe work conditions [that cause the…]
- Incident [that results in…]
This theory places strong emphasis on the Unsafe Work Act / Unsafe Work Condition “domino” as Heinrich believed that unsafe acts more frequently are the cause of incidents than unsafe work conditions. With this in mind, let’s take a moment to address some common behaviors and how to break the chain of events (“dominoes”) that could lead to an incident and injury.
Onsite factors such as the need to adhere to a construction project’s timelines and deadlines, as well as offsite factors related to a construction worker’s own personal life can be a distraction. Stressful situations can sometimes lead to careless mistakes such as failure to turn off a machine or neglecting to set a brake. Technology, such as cell phones can also prove to be a distraction to on-site workers, as well.
Encourage workers to take regular; scheduled breaks where they can refresh or tend to personal business can help take distraction out of the equation. Use of cell phones onsite for anything other than work-related concerns should be prohibited in the interest of safety.
Even if you’ve done a job or task 100 times, it can be easy to overlook safety best practices. This commonly results in complacent behavior in other workers.
Eliminating complacency from the construction site begins with routine safety training for all workers. Instill a “think worst case scenario” or “what could happen” philosophy by preplanning of job tasks using a daily risk assessment to ensure safe work practices and behaviors are strictly adhered to. Acknowledge when safe practices are followed and recognize standout workers.
Behavior: Ignoring or Being Unaware of Regulations
While a company can offer regular and thorough safety training, there will always be instances where workers ignore certain procedures. Whether this is willful ignorance or an accidental oversight, every effort should be made to consistently remind workers of correct procedures.
All hazardous materials should be clearly labeled. Also be sure to emphasize the importance of weight limits of machinery to your workers and clearly post these limits on the equipment. A machine or a platform used in excess of its weight limits is a disaster waiting to happen. While protective equipment can be uncomfortable and cumbersome at times, site management should have a zero tolerance policy for not wearing it or disregarding important safety procedures.
Safety is much more than an administrative task. It’s about protecting the well being of workers and their families. Safety must be a priority on every job site. From management to construction crews, adhering to safety rules can eliminate work related incidents.