Can Document Search Make a Construction Site Safer?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, construction sites are the most dangerous work environments. In 2019, a total of 1,061 construction workers died on the job in the U.S. More than 60% of construction-related deaths occur because of the “Fatal Four:” falls, struck by equipment, electrocutions, and being caught between something. Interestingly, more than 25 percent of construction workers said they failed to report a work-related injury.
General contractors who achieve safety goals don’t get on their knees and pray accidents don’t happen. No, they make safety programs a concrete pillar of their organization and design safety programs around this tenant.
Technology is the key to making a construction site safer, but since we are decades away from androids replacing humans on a job site, can a current innovation make a construction site safer? Let’s take a look.
Using a DMS as a Single Source for Safety
During a project interview with a prospective client, all contractors will testify that safety is a key tenant. But is it, really? Accident investigations can severely strain a project’s timeline.
Most people think of a construction-based document management system (DMS) as the central repository for blueprints, RFI, change orders, etc. This is true; a DMS can significantly aid in job site communication. Typically, using a DMS to implement your safety program is not top of mind with a construction firm—unless you are a contractor with a good safety record.
Putting “Safety First” means just that…safety programs are first. Contractors obsessed with safety know that uploading a site-specific safety program in their DMS and having it easily accessible through document search is a huge step in meeting project goals and solidifying a culture of “Safety First.”
Easy Access to Site-Specific Safety Plans
While there are fundamental elements to a general contractor’s constant safety program, each construction site is different. Therefore, during the preconstruction phase, a site-specific safety plan should be developed and shared during project kick-off meetings. The site should be thoroughly inspected, above ground and below, to determine potential hazards. Document these hazards and which safety measures are warranted to mitigate the dangers. Clearly label and store these plans in your cloud-based DMS. If your DMS has intelligent search, this step may not be necessary.
Each construction phase has different safety measures, including safety plans, daily safety briefings, training videos, and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Again, document these measures and upload them to the DMS.
Share site-specific safety measures with everyone on the job site, including subcontractors. Some companies emphasize the expectation that the safety plan will be followed by having workers sign documentation. And, you guessed it, upload these signed acknowledgments into the DMS.
Safety is not just lip-service to “Safety First” contractors. It’s a part of their culture, and their DMS is their single source of truth to proclaim this as gospel. Easy access to safety materials will make the site safer.
Increase Communication Among All Project Stakeholders
As the name implies, a document management system creates a centralized hub for documents. But, what a DMS with document search really means is it can significantly improve project team communication. And, if you improve communication, you should improve safety.
Contractors and subcontractors benefit greatly from real-time updated information they can access on their smart devices. For example, a plumber is waiting for an update to relocate a natural gas line. In the olden days, she would have to hunt down the general contractor to receive the latest revisions. However, with a cloud-based DMS with document search, she knows where to locate the most up-to-date revision, and any compliance or safety documentation, then proceeds with her work. She can save time and prevent the waste of needless resources spent working off of outdated information.
If used properly, an effective DMS ensures the entire project team receives project specific notifications almost instantly, making the project site safer.
Training, Training, Training
The famous joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” Well, how do you become a company known for its safety record? Training, training, training.
Safety training isn’t a one-time thing that occurs when the bulldozers and excavators arrive to begin work. Safety training is ingrained into the culture of the construction team because it is ongoing. The best tool to reinforce the message is a DMS with a document search function. No one has said this sentence, “Sir, that accident occurred because I had way too much safety training!”
Most people learn best by watching someone working hands-on. That is why “how-to” videos are so popular on YouTube. Record a video of project safety orientation and videos for all safety requirements and upload it to the DMS. Job site veterans and new workers should be able to access this training easily. The training can include how to complete accident reports, first-aid procedures, warning labels, and evacuation plans. Workers trained to do a task correctly AND safely will ensure project timelines and safety goals are met.
Key Takeaway: A DMS with Document Search Does Make Your Construction Site Safer
Yes. A DMS with document search can make your construction site safer. However, simply purchasing the DMS doesn’t guarantee a better safety record unless you make it a key tenant of your company. A cloud-based DMS implemented with an intelligent search function helps the project team stay informed with easy access to notifications and trained with the latest up-to-date information. Putting the time into creating your safety program and having it easily accessed will pay dividends at the end of the project.