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October 14, 2013
7 million safe hours: What one construction company is doing right

Safety has been the recent focus of attention at Gilbane Building Company as the company observed its annual safety week. The 140-year-old contracting company has reiterated its commitment to eliminating all incidents and injuries at all of its workplaces.

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Keep reading to find out how close Gilbane has come to its goal and the lessons it has learned along the way.

Gilbane Cares is the construction firm’s safety and worker protection initiative. Safety week featured safety visits to jobsites from Gilbane’s executive vice presidents, CPR and first-aid training on jobsites and in offices, safety poster contests, and recognition of excellence by subcontractors and trade professionals.

“Earlier this year, one of our project sites recorded seven million hours without a lost time injury, a staggering achievement in our industry,” said Tony O’Dea, director of corporate safety. He says that is the standard for every project, no matter what the size.

Gilbane’s safety philosophy is based on “a belief that everyone on our projects is a member of our family.” The stakes are high, the company explains, because projects are often executed in occupied schools, businesses, and data centers. Strategies include wide use of checklists and safety audits, as well as:

  • A robust safety-training program;
  • Powerful technology, including SafetyNet management system software;
  • An internal awards and recognition program; and
  • An annual safety-based performance review for all managers and supervisors.

According to Gilbane, “In a world of hyper-speed schedules, our devotion to safety doesn’t always make us the most popular company on the jobsite. But in our culture, what really matters is caring about people and sending them home safely, every day.”

Do you know OSHA’s ‘fatal four’ construction hazards?

About 18 percent of all worker fatalities in private industry occur in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites are falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and caught-in or caught-between incidents.

These “fatal four” were responsible for nearly three out of five construction worker deaths in 2011. OSHA says eliminating the fatal four would save 419 workers’ lives in the United States every year.

Falls alone were responsible for 36 percent of all fatal injuries in construction in 2012, and fall protection in construction is once again OSHA’s top-cited violation for fiscal year 2013. The other two construction-industry standards that made OSHA’s top-10 list for FY 2013, scaffolding and ladders in construction, also involve fall hazards.

OSHA has a website devoted to preventing falls in construction and has partnered with many employers and labor organizations across the country to hold stand-downs devoted to fall prevention. The agency’s tips for avoiding falls include the following:

  • Employers must assess jobsites for any potential fall hazards and determine the best method of fall protection (e.g., guardrails, hole covers, safety harnesses).
  • Construction workers who are six feet or more above a lower level must be provided with some form of fall protection.
  • Make sure to use the appropriate type of ladder for a particular job, and inspect it before each use to ensure that no defects (e.g., broken or missing rungs, bent siderails) exist.
  • Provide workers with safe access to scaffolding platforms, such as a stairway or ramp. Climbing cross braces is not a safe form of access.
  • Train workers on recognizing fall hazards, obeying safe work practices for preventing falls, and using fall protection personal protective equipment properly.
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