Promoting an Effective Safety Culture and Use of Drones Helps Reduce Fall Fatalities in Construction

During Safety Week, we're reminded of how crucial it is to maintain and promote a safe and healthy workplace culture. Often, that starts with defining safety and recognizing that it extends beyond the different devices, tools, practices, and protective measures we use to reduce risk each day—though these are all extremely important.

Safety is a multi-dimensional term that addresses proactive planning, worker training and encouragement, personal protective equipment (PPE) and fall protection systems, and the effects of advanced (and continuously advancing) technology.

This is of particular relevance and importance to the construction industry. In 2017, the construction industry saw 971 on-the-job fatalities—19 percent of all worker fatalities in the United States that year. Even more alarming: 39 percent (381) of those construction fatalities were fall-related.

The fatality statistics are alarming and fall fatalities continue to be a concern. Those within the construction industry should be vigilant in continuously reviewing safety protocols and standards to help in the reduction of fall-related fatalities and injuries.

Making Safety Part of Workplace Culture
Safety should be a vital workplace principle for everyone supporting a construction job—from project and company leaders to individual employees. After all, everyone is responsible for promoting and complying with safety practices.

Leaders have the opportunity to assess risks before a construction job begins, and as a result, it's their responsibility to help eliminate or mitigate potential dangers. From performing comprehensive Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs)—which, at a minimum, should encompass an overview of the operations to be completed as part of the project, the equipment needed to carry out these operations, a list of tasks and related exposures, and the controls needed to mitigate risk—to convening pre-task educational sessions for workers, it's important for leaders to hold up their end of the bargain.

But, by the same token, workers must comply with safety procedures. If they feel inadequately prepared or trained to do so, they should be empowered and encouraged to speak up and relay this to management.

Putting Safety to Practice: The Role of Technology
Technological developments can help workers and leaders put safety measures into practice. As such, it is critical that construction organizations gain insight into the current uses of technology—including drones—and how they may be able to assist in projects and safety management efforts.

The construction industry has become one of the fastest-growing industries to utilize commercial small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones. Small drones can provide a flexible and adaptable means to observe and manage construction projects through photographs and video to help complete tasks where worker involvement can be avoided.

The continued adaptability of small drones, along with the evolving sophistication of technology applications and site equipment, can provide a contractor with diverse capabilities that can be utilized for a number of construction site activities and needs, including the ability to provide visual feedback and data without the need to put personnel in a position for a potential fall risk.

Uses and applications of UAS in the construction industry include, but are not limited to: site planning and inspection, risk management safety compliance, monitoring contractor progress, accident prevention and investigation, project security and surveillance, and inspection (quality assurance/quality control). The capabilities of drones to support the construction industry and its approach to safety management are advancing rapidly and are expected to become a valuable asset for construction companies.

Striving for Zero Accidents
The overarching goal of safer workplace practices—from pre-task hazard assessments to technology that can keep workers out of harm's way on the job, to devices that can summon help quickly, when needed—is to reduce accidents and minimize injury.

When a company effectively instills a culture where safety is prioritized, everyone wins: the project leaders, the risk managers, the workers, and the businesses themselves. After all, safety is among a business's most highly valued assets and fosters growth and success.

As long as safety practices continue to evolve alongside evolving construction practices, we can endeavor to see a decreasing number of incidents, injuries, and fatalities. Hopefully, one day, we'll see none at all.

George Cesarini is a Senior Vice President for Chubb Construction Major Markets. He is responsible for managing the risk engineering services provided across the country to construction clients, ensuring quality and value-added services are being delivered to assist them in their efforts to enhance their safety culture and mitigate potential exposures on their project sites.

This document is advisory in nature and is offered as a resource to be used together with your professional insurance advisors in maintaining a loss prevention program. It is an overview only, and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your insurance broker, or for legal, engineering or other professional advice.

Posted on May 08, 2019