Safety is an ongoing endeavor in the world of construction. There is always more to learn and refine as we aim for new heights in our industry standards. New equipment, workplace practices, and ergonomic research all affect how we enable occupational safety and health on each worksite. Every year in June, we participate in National Safety Month, which is when we raise awareness about safety issues and encourage everyone in our industry — and beyond — to develop their injury and incident prevention skills.
Interested in commemorating National Safety Month? Here’s how you can educate and inspire your team to take part in the movement toward healthier, stronger workplaces with a lower rate of safety incidents.
What’s Happening in National Safety Month 2022?
Sponsored by the National Safety Council, National Safety Month is geared toward workplace health in all forms, from injury prevention to mental well-being to risk mitigation. Safety is only possible when construction sites fully embrace overall worker health, including proactive measures, protective gear, incident response, and ergonomic considerations. Ideally, we create a productive, efficient environment in which all team members can handle the tasks safely while ensuring their overall well-being.
In 2022, each week of National Safety Month is geared toward a specific theme:
Week 1 focuses on musculoskeletal disorders. Improper lifting, repetitive strain injury, and disorders such as arthritis and stenosis can negatively impact construction workers’ careers. These conditions are often preventable with good workforce instruction, mitigative practices, and proactive healthcare.
Week 2 addresses the issue of workplace impairment. The construction industry involves high stress and, for some workers, job instability and poor compensation, which can lead them to a place of despair. Substance abuse, stress disorders, burnout, and fatigue are therefore alarmingly common among construction workers — contributing to an epidemic of workplace impairment. The best way to resolve these issues is to provide comprehensive medical and fiscal support to construction professionals, allowing them to pursue their careers with less risk of distracting stress, inhibiting substances, or dangerous fatigue.
Week 3 encourages everyone to learn the principles of injury prevention. As per OSHA, all worksite safety incidents are preventable. The right equipment, procedures, and practices can help workers avoid getting injured on the job. Ideally, everyone on the job site knows how to identify and mitigate hazards before they ever present a risk to human health. Thorough training in equipment use, basic safety measures, and incident response can also prevent simple errors from developing into serious health hazards.
Week 4 raises awareness about slips, trips, and falls — the 3 most common causes of workplace injury. In fact, falls are among the leading causes of death in the construction industry. Good worksite hygiene, rigging protocols, and hazard identification procedures can all help these hidden risks get resolved, so everyone on the site can move about confidently.
How to Honor National Safety Month
This year’s themes revolve around musculoskeletal disease, mental illness and substance abuse, and injury/fall prevention. To help your team (and all your colleagues) prevent worksite safety incidents, take a proactive approach toward occupational safety. Here are some examples of the activities you could offer, organized by each week’s theme for National Safety Month:
Musculoskeletal Disorders: Helping Workers Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury and Joint Inflammation
Construction work necessarily involves lifting, twisting, bending, and other joint-intensive activities. Repetitive motion bears a high risk of muscle strain and ligament degradation, both of which make acute injuries much more likely. Depending on one’s genetics, chronic conditions such as spinal stenosis, ankylosing spondylitis, tendonitis, etc. can disrupt or even block one’s ability to perform their tasks.
To help resolve these issues, encourage your team to:
- Take regular breaks from repetitive physical activity.
- Always use proper lifting technique, even if the item is relatively light.
- Invest time in relaxing, de-inflammatory activities such as yoga, lacrosse ball massage, and epsom salt baths when not at work
- Hydrate regularly to keep connective tissues fluid and strong during physical labor
Workplace Impairment: Minimizing the Effects of Substances and Stress among Construction Workers
Many construction professionals turn to narcotics and/or alcohol to numb the pain and stress of their jobs. While mild to moderate usage may be fine off the clock, chronic consumption or abuse can present serious safety hazards. Being under the influence of any substance exponentially increases the risk of severe injury to oneself or others. Those who regularly use these substances may also overestimate their ability to perform their tasks and end up making poor judgments that can lead to worksite incidents.
However, sleep deprivation, extreme stress, and depression are just as dangerous as substance abuse. In fact, an individual deprived of sleep is as effectively impaired as someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. Severe stress can mimic sleep deprivation or drunkenness, causing someone to lose focus and key judgment skills in critical moments. In sum, it’s vital to ensure that all workers are well-rested, resilient, and able to overcome their professional and financial stresses.
Injury Prevention: Helping All Team Members Safely Use Equipment and Perform Their Tasks
Workplace injuries are wildly common, with more than 4 million incidents in 2020 alone. That’s alarming, especially since so many professionals learn basic safety principles before they sign onto a job site. The issue is that new equipment, complacency, and pressure to “work faster” can all encourage workers to cut corners. That is often when safety incidents occur. Skipping personal protective equipment, improperly using machines, or overlooking worksite hazards are common yet 100% avoidable incidents.
The first step toward injury prevention is to prioritize safety over speed. No one should feel pressured to complete their tasks in less time than a safe approach would allow. If operating a device or checking the rigging requires more time, so be it. Ensure that your team understands that no one will be penalized for following safety protocols. Something as simple as hoisting a toolbox separately can make a huge difference in one’s likelihood of a dangerous fall.
Slips, Trips, and Falls: Minimizing Hazards on a Worksite
No matter how thoroughly your team is trained on your equipment, a cluttered worksite is one that’s prone to injury. As falls are the most common cause of death among construction workers, it’s worth considering their core factors. Slips and trips contribute heavily to falls; otherwise, falls happen due to poorly balanced ladders or scaffolding. Therefore, it’s vital to ensure that any walkways, equipment or tool placement, and construction activities are properly secured for working at height — which is anything above six feet according to OSHA.
Even the most experienced worker may fall if they slip on oils spilled on the scaffolding, or if ladders are not properly secured during high winds. That’s why safety requires everyone’s attention, from those who construct the rigging to everyone who encounters and inspects the structure throughout the day. Incident prevention takes a village.
Promoting National Safety Month Among Your Team
The best way to celebrate National Safety Month is to increase your safety training. Never assume that your team members know all there is to know about injury prevention or risk mitigation. Invite everyone to learn about the hazards and pursue both individual- and team-based methods to keep your workers safe and healthy.
In addition to encouraging the training and incident response protocols outlined above, you can also implement these engagement activities during National Safety Month:
Host a toolbox talk to highlight your team’s most common safety risks and how you can collectively reduce risk and keep each other safe. What’s making them feel unsafe? Any hazards that could be resolved?
Demonstrate that you care about mental health. We must not overlook the effects of stress, depression, and anxiety on the job. Mental illness is not weakness — it is a health condition like any other. Poor mental health can contribute to absenteeism, distraction, and poor productivity. Create avenues for troubled workers to gain support for their mental well-being. By destigmatizing mental illness, you can boost overall safety among your team.
- Teach everyone how to stretch and relax their muscles. The best recipe to avoid Repetitive Strain Injury and musculoskeletal disease is a combination of strong mobility and restorative stretching. Activities such as yoga and pilates help loosen up stuck muscles and connective tissue while promoting blood flow and flexibility. All of those are crucial to prevent severe injuries.
- Send out informational emails on each aspect of safety education and risk awareness. Some workers may have become complacent about PPE or hazard avoidance, especially if they’ve never had an incident. Remind them that safety protocols exist for a reason.
- Distribute tip sheets covering all aspects of workplace safety, from proper lifting techniques to incident response protocol. Knowledge is power!
- Recognize team members for safety accomplishments. Did someone correctly identify a safety hazard or help others perform their tasks with less risk of injury? Celebrate them and encourage others to follow their lead.
- Share information on your social channels. A rising tide floats all boats. Share your safety knowledge and help the entire industry elevate to new safety standards. Post your safety guidance and hazard mitigation procedures with the hashtag #NSM for National Safety Week.
National Safety Month involves much more than incident response or safety P&Ps. It’s ultimately about wellness: how you support your team’s overall health, productivity, and resilience. To best prevent safety incidents and the long-term effects of muscle strain or burnout, you must nurture your workers’ overall well-being from the start. A potent combination of safe task technique, active mobility support, mental health awareness, and hazard mitigation can help avoid most of the risk factors for severe worksite injury or burnout.
Your team is the lifeblood of your projects. Take National Safety Month as an opportunity to nurture their health and ward off future issues.
Need help? Menotti Enterprise focuses on holistic, end-to-end safety training, risk mitigation, and sociocultural support. We’re happy to help you celebrate National Safety Month by educating your team on all things safety.