Jobsite Safety

By Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

Attitudes toward jobsite safety are taking hold in different ways. More construction companies now have serious safety programs. More firms are entering into safety partnerships with OSHA. Why settle for following the textbook when you can chart new territory?

Skanska Goes The Extra Step

On Skanska's Methodist Stone Oak Hospital job site in northern San Antonio, workers for Skanska and most of their subcontractors participate in morning stretching exercises and safety briefings, as do many other builders. But something else is very visible and creating residual benefits — a covered dining area with picnic tables and wash stands right there in the paved parking lot of the job site.

Is this a benefit or a safety program? In Texas, springtime is not too early to begin thinking about summer safety. Here in South Texas, instead of diving for the shade of their dozers or pickup trucks at lunchtime, these workers have a place to wash their hands and sit like civilized people.

The cost of the break area was minimal to the cost of a project this size, according to Scott Cannon, Skanska vice president of operations. Skanska and the subcontractors pitched in together on the cost of the canopies, wash stands, and lumber for picnic tables. The crew built the picnic tables themselves.

"At the onset of a project, we brainstorm to formulate a game plan to benefit workers," Cannon explained. "We thought about the hot Texas sun ... When workers are provided with a centralized dining area with trash containers, they respect what you're doing for them and keep the job site clean. We haven't even seen much trash inside the building." And there have been other residual benefits for the contracting firms.

"Because the workers have a place where they can sit and reenergize, productivity is high," Cannon said. "There is a lot of construction going on in San Antonio, yet we've had good worker retention on this project because the workers like it here."

Expediting the paving of the parking lot has also provided safety and benefits for both the company and the workers. "The workers don't track mud into the building to become a slip hazard," Cannon commented. "And they don't get mud in their vehicles either."

Texas Workers Cope

In different areas of the country, safety can mean different things. There is safety from accidents and safety from the elements. Tasks cannot always be timed for the shady side of the building. In the heat of the southern states, workers must remember to hydrate-hydrate-hydrate. Water on the job site is life.

During hot weather, dew rags come out to shield necks and hard hats take on a sombrero look. Workers fabricate their own wide brims, sometimes out of interesting materials, to fit around standard hardhats. Some wear hard hats shaped like cowboy hats, but perhaps soon there will be a sombrero hard hat on the market.