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Contractor Safety Programs for Construction Project — Part I

Contractors have a moral and legal obligation to protect their employees from harm during the performance of their duties. Providing a work site that is free from recognized hazards is an achievable goal that will benefit both the contractor and the contractor’s employees.

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has developed standards that address most job site situations. Whether a contractor is merely putting up a ladder or actively involved in a steel erection project, there is a standard, or standards, that addresses these activities.

A safety program that incorporates work procedures extracted from the applicable standards for the type of work the contractor does will, to the greatest extent possible, reduce the possibility of injury to employees.

However, just having written policies and procedures is a far cry from having a viable safety program.

To be effective, a safety program must contain four key elements. They are:

1. establishing company safety policies and procedures.

2. effectively communicating the policies and procedures to employees.

3. performing regular and frequent jobsite safety inspections.

4. employing consistent enforcement procedures.

Failure to incorporate any of the above steps in a contractor’s safety program will invalidate the whole effort.

Clearly, having safety policies and procedures that are not communicated to employees are of no value as far as employee safety is concerned. Of course, as an aside, written safety policies and procedures may be of value for bid submission regardless if they are conveyed or not conveyed to employees.

The only method a contractor has to ensure that employees are following established safety policies and procedures is to actually inspect the job site activities.

Lastly, if employees are not following safety procedures and are placing themselves, or others, in harm’s way, there must be some sort of clearly defined enforcement procedures to nip this behavior in the bud.

A contractor who has complied with the above four steps will have done all that can be reasonably expected of an employer and will have provided employees a safety environment in which to work.