Lesson 17: Better Safe Than Sorry

Some think it is quicker and cheaper to take the easy route when accomplishing a task at hand or to rush through a project regardless of the hazards; however, “easy” always comes with a price and it is usually very high.

Remodelers have to address many safety precautions on a daily basis. When not enough attention is placed on safety, the cost to the business can be quite high. A dedicated commitment to safety by both the owner and employees helps ensure remodeling projects are successful and can save time, money, and materials. If a remodeler gets injured, or is even at risk of becoming injured, while remodeling a home, the associated costs will lower the profitability of the project.

One of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to prevent any loss due to accidents is to conduct, and support the participation of employees in, safety programs. Remodelers are required to comply with safety regulations anyway, so it makes sense to actively abide by safety prevention methods. Such training is designed to enable employees to learn their jobs properly, bring new ideas to the workplace, reinforce existing safety policies, and put an injury and illness prevention program into action. Such a training program should include an indoctrination program, written material for employees, and periodic “toolbox talks” on safety (at least every three months). Be sure to keep outlines of the material covered and attendance records for all these functions, preferably signed by the attendees.

By making these safety sessions mandatory, overhead costs due to accidents can be significantly decreased. According to Jim Emmons, safety director at Baltimore-based Structural Group and author of A Field Guide to Better Safety and Why Contractor Safety is Important for an Owner, “the hidden costs of an accident are four to 10 times more than the actual costs of the claim and encompass items such as employee-replacement costs, OSHA citations, increased insurance costs and damaged product.”

If a company holds an excellent safety record, it can be indicative that they take maintaining a safe work environment very seriously, which will add to the bottom line.

When using trade contractors, remodelers should also take considerable effort researching those contractors to make sure that their standards are met. Reviewing a trade contractor’s safety record should be central to a remodeler’s decision-making process.

When thinking of jobsite safety, it is important to consider the following (far from fully inclusive):

  • Every employer should have a written injury and illness prevention plan.
  • Training is the most important part of the injury and illness prevention plan.
  • All trade contractors must be made aware of any hazards on the jobsite.
  • Before beginning any project, determine what action will be taken if a medical emergency arises.
  • Ensure that appropriate fire extinguishers are present on the jobsite and kept up to date and fully charged.
  • Keep the jobsite picked up and clean. Contracts with trade contractors should include requirements that the work area be broom-clean at the end of the work shift.
  • Use ladders properly.

Additional rules that should be standard operating procedures on all jobsites include:

  • Keep floors and platforms free of projections, obstruction, or holes.
  • Do not block or obstruct exits or fire extinguishers.
  • Do not remove safety devices or guards from tools or equipment.
  • Report any accident, injury or illness, regardless of how minor.
  • Correct or report any safety device that is missing or inoperable.
  • Only qualified personnel should perform maintenance of equipment.
  • No jewelry, long hair or loose clothing is allowed around any operating machinery.
  • Use proper lifting techniques to avoid overextension when lifting.
  • Report all unsafe work condition to a supervisor or safety coordinator.

Maintaining a high level of safety not only benefits the remodeler and his employees, but it promotes health and well-being for the homeowner and anyone else involved in the project, demonstrating to the community a high level of professionalism.
Additional information concerning OSHA safety regulations can be found in the publication, Selected Construction Regulations for the Home Building Industry, available on the Web at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/Homebuilders/Homebuilders.

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