Document Search to Ensure Safety Compliance

Did you know 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration? There were few job site safety regulations before 1971. But since that time, construction worker deaths have decreased from a per day average of 38 to 14. Injuries have also plummeted from almost 11 per 100 workers in 1972, to 2.8 per 100 in 2017. Still, nothing quickly derails a construction site quite like an accident, which can significantly impact the construction schedule, not to mention possible claims and lawsuits.

As the number of construction site deaths and injuries has dropped during the past five decades, safety compliance and regulations have risen exponentially. The federal government, states, governing agencies, and municipalities can all have safety regulations that must be adhered to on a job site, not to mention OSHA's requirement for all construction companies to have their own. OSHA trumps all state worker safety requirements unless state laws are more stringent protective than OSHA's.

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Having dusty binders sitting on a shelf in the job trailer is the "old-school" way for field superintendents and job safety coordinators to communicate to the workers at the site. The most efficient way to keep track of these regulations is with a cloud-based Document Management System (DMS) with an intelligent search function. A DMS will better ensure your safety and risk management teams are on the exact same page.

Using Document Search for Safety Compliance

Having stored safety documents in hard copies or stored in a DMS does not necessarily mean you are "in compliance" or will be incident-free. As any field superintendent knows, project deadlines for completion can be highly aggressive. A general contractor (or subcontractor) must be proactive in addressing how safety regulations are implemented, documented, and reported. This may seem a tedious undertaking over time, but workers will feel more protected, and accident claims should go down.

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Let's take a look at the different areas where a DMS with document search can help on a job site:

It Begins (and Continues) With Safety Training

OSHA standards require construction companies to provide safety training to workers who encounter potential hazards on a job (paragraphs 19.26.1207(a) through (c)). These training resources can include courses, publications, videos, webinars, PowerPoint slides, and alerts, to name just a few. Training records must have each worker's name, trainer's name, and date of the training.

Construction site safety training doesn't just happen at the start of the project. It is ongoing. A cloud-based DMS with document search allows a job safety coordinator to conduct periodic and ad hoc meetings to instruct and possibly correct procedures in the field.

A Hub for Safety Policies, Procedures & Goals

As alluded to previously, the amount of safety documentation can be immense. A cloud-based DMS with document search allows job safety coordinators, field superintendents, and job forepersons to have a centralized digital repository for safety documents and resources. Again, it is a no-brainer for time savings if an equipment malfunction, injury, or accident occurs.

Setting construction safety goals can go a long way to establishing a culture that shows workers you care about their wellbeing, not to mention protecting your bottom line. There are no perfect construction jobs, but setting and meeting construction safety goals will go a long way to winning your next bid and recruiting talent. Having these goals stored in your DMS that everyone on the project can review should be an established best practice.

Identification of Hazards

Safety training, safety gear, and safety goals are not enough. OSHA also has a Hazard Communications Standard (HCS) to communicate to employees and workers if hazardous chemicals are used on the job site. It is an employer's responsibility to dangerous chemicals is labeled, tagged, and marked as "hazardous" with appropriate warning signs.

A DMS with an intelligent search feature with a picture of hazardous chemicals and how to use them will more than satisfy OSHA requirements; it will be an added layer of safety.

Many job sites have more than one language spoken. A best practice is to add pictures and warnings in these languages, so non-English speaking workers will not guess how to open and use a container with a hazardous chemical.

Accident Investigation

Almost all general contractors and subcontractors will experience a job-site accident. If an accident occurs, the foreperson or field superintendent can quickly access the DMS for a checklist of procedures. Photographing and videoing the conditions can be stored in the DMS, as well as a list of witnesses.

When an accident investigator arrives at the job site, records such as the OSHA 300 logs, training records, and inspection records can be shared with him or her through the search feature of your cloud-based DMS. The DMS can also store the list of the requested documents and how they were transmitted to the investigator.

Key Takeaway:

A construction document management system with an intelligent search function does not have only to store drawings. This powerful cloud-based tool can also house OHSA and other regulatory compliance documents, safety training materials, goals, policies, procedures, equipment, as well as a library of hazardous materials used on the site. If appropriately leveraged by safety coordinators and field superintendents, the DMS will help them plan and be prepared in case an accident does happen on the job site.