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2016 Developments in Worker Safety for Healthcare Construction

One of the challenges of being a healthcare contractor is the range of priorities for which you are responsible. Not only do you have to be involved in the overall design and planning of the hospital construction or renovation project, but in many cases you also deal with contracts, hiring, and safety -- and that last piece should never be an afterthought.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there were 874 construction worker fatalities in 2014, which represents an 18% increase since data was last recorded in 2011. Construction worker fatalities account for slightly more than 20% of all worker fatalities in the U.S.

As construction teams get back to work in the coming year, continuing safety training will be critical at all levels. Keep reading for more on what healthcare construction site safety looks like 2016 and how you can ensure your own team’s safety.

All Workers are Responsible for Safety

No matter what the hierarchy is at a particular job site, in order for any safety measures to truly make a difference, every worker must be responsible for maintaining safety standards. During a healthcare construction project, nearly everyone will be busy, which means that even site supervisors will not have time to check and doublecheck every standard of safety. It is important to empower workers at every level to advocate for and ensure safety.

For new workers, this means requiring safety orientations and training, as we will discuss below. However, it also means making sure that every worker knows that they will not be punished or penalized for reporting a safety error. New workers especially can be reluctant to report an issue that may cause a delay in work, so establishing safety as an ultimate priority is important from day 1.

Training is Critical

Safety training is an essential part of maintaining a safe work environment at a healthcare construction site. New workers should be trained on safety protocols and seasoned workers should have their safety knowledge regularly tested and refreshed, as well. Further, those workers that are conducting the training should be regularly trained too, with fresh safety protocol and best practices continually made available. When workers’ knowledge is not refreshed, it becomes easy to let standards slip and this is how dangerous and even deadly accidents can occur.

OSHA’s ‘Fatal Four’

OSHA has identified four top causes of construction worker death and dubbed them the “Fatal Four.” They are:

  • Falls — 349 deaths in 2014 (39.9%)
  • Electrocutions — 74 deaths (8.5%)
  • Struck by Object — 73 deaths (8.4%)
  • Caught-in/between— 12 deaths (1.4%)

By successfully addressing these top issues, the construction industry as a whole could prevent more than 500 worker deaths.

More than half of construction worker fatalities in 2014 were the result of falls. To address this top cause of injury and death, OSHA is promoting the 2016 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction from May 2 to May 6. More information on how to participate is available from the OSHA site.

Hospital Construction Means Patients Matter, Too

Job site safety is critical for all construction projects when it means saving workers from falls and other injuries while also keeping timelines moving forward. However, in the healthcare industry there is also patient safety to consider. Of course, patients should not actually be present in a serious construction site, but when it comes to hospital renovations, construction workers can often be in close proximity to operating portions of the facility. In these cases, it is essential that workers be trained in patient safety and comfort in addition to standard construction site safety. This may include the use of portable dust containment units, noise reducing technology, separate worker entrances, and making other accommodations for patients.

While technology will continue to develop and change the shape of how healthcare construction projects are completed, worker safety will always be a top concern, and addressing that concern starts at the top. Every worker must be well aware that your company sees safety as a top priority, at every level. With the support of every worker on the job, safer sites and better statistics are in store.


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