By nature, construction is a high-risk industry, which has led to an abundance of regulations and red tape designed to promote safety.
Under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act), principal contractors are required to consult, cooperate and coordinate with their workers. This is based on the idea that discussion facilitates better understanding and decision-making, which in turn reduces work-related injuries.
This becomes even more important when a worker is engaged in any one of almost 20 high-risk activities identified by Safe Work Australia.
Because construction is such a transient industry, it isn’t easy to consult with all workers purely through face to face meetings. Different trades, sub-contractors (and their sub-contractors) are continually coming and going – entering the job site at different times of the day and at different times throughout the project.
It can feel like a constant struggle trying to do what is right, what is legally required, and what is practical.
Pre-starts, signs and mobile phones
Toolbox safety meetings, or pre-start talks, are the traditional tried and trusted way of communicating.
Letting workers know the risks and hazards they are about to face is an essential part of the day. However, catering your talks to specific trades with specific risks can prove difficult and time-consuming.
Site safety signs and messages can be lost in the clutter of the site, and don’t help you when you need some sort of acknowledgement from workers that they understand the risks involved in the work they’re doing.
Mobile phones are also becoming a tool of choice for communication, given that workers usually have their phones on hand all day, and messages are received instantly.
The rise in tech communication on worksites has prompted authorities to stick their head up, though, and advise against the dangers of distracting workers while they are actively engaged on the job.
The sweet spot
Meeting your consultation, cooperation, and coordination obligations becomes easier when we look for ways to merge tried and trusted methods while leveraging tech for its advantages (and removing the disadvantages).
When we launched SignOnSite, we consulted with industry and regulators to find out the safest way to make construction sites safer. One piece of valuable feedback we got was that pushing notifications to workers while they’re working wasn’t safe.
This is why we geared our Daily Briefing feature to provide updates to all workers as soon as they sign on site (walk onto the job site). They’re still delivered straight to their phones, but it’s at a time when they’re most likely to be looking at their phones, and least likely to be engaged in work.
If they don’t have their phone, they can receive the same brief by signing on at the on-site kiosk.
For example, a sparky who is a subby-of-a-subby rocks up to work at 11am because he was on a different job in the morning. He’s been inducted to the site, but that morning he missed a toolbox talk on lacerations.
An injury had occurred the day before when he wasn’t on site.
When he arrives on-site and signs in, he is notified of the briefing and can read all the minutes. These let him know what happened, the key hazards and risks of lacerations on the job, and the PPE he should be wearing when doing certain activities.
Great tech is not about eliminating face to face communication. It’s about helping you reach everyone when you need to. And this, coincidentally, makes it easier to comply with the requirement to consult, cooperate and coordinate with all of your workers – and cut through just a little of that red tape.