Workplace orientation is a prerequisite for success
The work contracts on construction sites are divided among several enterprises. The work orientation and guidance of the workers has to be planned in detail.
At a shared workplace, one employer exercises total power, even though more than one employer or independent firm operates at the workplace. A construction site, for example, can be a shared workplace.
– The environment at a construction site changes nearly every day. That is why problems arising from logistics and spaces present the greatest safety challenges in the construction sector, says Jukka Moilanen, occupational safety chief of Construction Company Lapti Oy.
Moilanen points out that nowadays all construction projects are joint work sites. Without exception, the work contract is divided among several enterprises. At the Jyväskylä Aallonportti work site, only about half of the workers are employed by Lapti Oy.
The main contractor is nevertheless totally responsible for safety at the site. As the project proceeds, the turnover of different subcontractors may at times be quite rapid, so it is necessary to conduct safety instruction briefings almost every day.
One thing at a time, listening to the workers
Lapti’s construction sites range from children’s day care centres to up to 16-story buildings. Many different methods of working are therefore used.
– The safety legislation is always the same in our projects, but the workers and situations are different at each construction site, says Moilanen.
At a joint construction site, workplace guidance should be broken up into several parts, for the sake of clarity. In this way, all aspects are treated as separate entities.
The company’s values and ways of operating are reviewed at Lapti’s workplace orientation. After that the requirements of work site legislation, and the needed safety gear and equipment are gone over. Third in order, and the most important theme according to Moilanen, is the examination of the safety points specific to the work site in question. The special hazards of the work site and general ways of operating are looked at in detail together with the newcomers.
– The person conducting the workplace guidance must be able to assess the new person’s work experience, and act accordingly. Things are explained differently to young people coming straight from vocational school than to a professional with 30 years of experience, Moilanen says.
The attitude of the employees is important regarding how well the workplace guidance succeeds. It also affects the flow of information among the employees.
– Many employees are very conscious of safety, and they also promote safety with their own actions and choices.
On small worksites with only a few workers, workplace guidance mainly takes place face-to-face, when a new employee is hired. On somewhat bigger worksites there may be so many new people coming at once that safety training is conducted in groups at a predetermined time. Especially in the case of foreign workers, workplace guidance involves a lot of paperwork even before the workers can be oriented to the worksite and instructed in safety matters.
Safety observations forwarded to everyone
Also digital means have been used at Lapti to improve workplace guidance. The company applies a new system with which the employees can easily go over matters that have been taught during work guidance. Display screens have been installed in the company’s social spaces and meeting rooms, and they can be programmed to show important parts of the instruction materials.
In addition, at the beginning of the year a method was taken into use at Lapti with which anyone at the construction site can record observations regarding safety. The observations can be either good examples or targets needing correction. The system has been given excellent feedback, and nowadays the making of these safety observations is instructed in the work guidance process.
– The procedure has been made as simple as possible. A picture taken with a smart phone is linked to the application, and written or dictated information about the target can be added. The information is simultaneously sent to the e-mail of the person in charge. Everyone can then follow the process of the safety observation from the application’s chart. When the problem has been taken care of, it will be shown on the smart phone, explains Moilanen.
This new system of observing safety issues aims to lower the threshold to tackle safety problems. When people feel that safety is a mutual matter touching everyone, it is easier to improve it. Because also positive observations can be fed into the system, it will be useful when people go to work on different worksites.
Occupational safety at Lapti has been integrated in a very practical way into planning and construction. Safety is always considered already in the planning stage of a building, working methods are developed continuously, and information has to flow without obstruction. When the safety concept works, one clever idea to improve safety at work can be replicated at all future sites.
A work site tour is essential
– Just today I conducted a half-hour occupational safety session for newcomers. Safety issues were first explained at the office, and then we made a tour of the work site, making observations, says construction chief Jarmo Leppänen, foreman at construction company Lapti.
A tour of the work site is an important part of workplace guidance. The safety legislation is the same at all sites, but according to Leppänen, there most certainly aren’t two work sites that are the same. He also encourages the new workers to ask questions during the tour.
– The newcomers could perhaps ask more questions about the practices at the site. Safety matters would then be adopted more easily as a part of conversation.
One should also avoid pushing safety information from one direction. Often new employees have long experience in the construction sector, and instruction given from top to down doesn’t always work.
– When issues are analysed and scrutinized together, it provides the best possible outcome for everyone, says Leppänen.
Leppänen’s over 20 years of experience bring credibility to what the man says. Especially young people who want to work in the construction sector appreciate safety tips that are based on practical experience.
Safety is everybody’s business
Carpenter Teemu Rinne completed vocational school in 2013, and has now been working for two weeks at the Aallonportti work site. He was pleased with the workplace safety guidance. All the essential safety points were reviewed in the compact session.
– In theory, the safety guidance is very similar at all construction sites. At this site the safety matters were gone over in great detail, and didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions, Rinne says.
– I have always got all the information that I have deemed important for safe working. I can’t think of anything that could be done better when instructing newcomers. This is a system that works well.
He encourages especially young people to ask questions if anything comes up that needs explaining. And even later on it’s worth contacting the foreman in charge, if something needs additional clearing up.
– Improving safety at work is everybody’s business, reminds Teemu Rinne.
Jukka Moilanen agrees.
– I always tell the workers that safety shouldn’t be improved just to please the occupational safety chief, but to make sure that all of us are in good health when we go home.