10 Steps for Establishing an Accident Prevention Program

10 Steps for Establishing an Accident  Prevention Program

In the dynamic and hazardous environment of commercial construction, implementing a comprehensive written safety and health program, sometimes referred to as an Accident Prevention Plan (APP), a Safety Manual, or a Safety and Health Management System, is crucial for safeguarding workers, mitigating risks, and ensuring regulatory compliance. This article outlines the essential steps and considerations for developing an effective APP tailored to the unique needs of a commercial construction company.

Step 1: Establish a Safety and Health Policy Statement

The foundation of an APP is a clear and concise safety and health policy statement that outlines the company's commitment to providing a safe and healthy work environment. This statement should be endorsed by top management and communicated to all employees, subcontractors, and stakeholders. It should emphasize the importance of safety, outline the company's goals and objectives, and reinforce the shared responsibility of all parties involved in the construction process.

Step 2: Conduct a Comprehensive Risk Assessment

Identifying and assessing potential hazards is a critical step in developing an effective APP. In the construction industry, this is especially challenging, as the worksite and associated risks change every day. An employer should conduct a thorough risk assessment of equipment, materials, and work processes; however, a more focused assessment, sometimes referred to as a pre-task plan or a job hazard analysis, should be undertaken at the beginning of every project, and at the start of each new workday. The risk assessment should consider both routine and non-routine tasks, as well as potential emergencies. It should also take into account high-risk activities, such as working at heights, excavations, confined spaces, and exposure to hazardous materials.

Step 3: Develop Safe Work Practices and Procedures

Based on the risk assessment, the APP should outline specific safe work practices and procedures to mitigate identified hazards. These practices should cover a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:

The safe work practices and procedures should be clearly documented, easily accessible, and regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in the work environment or regulatory requirements.

Step 4: Implement Effective Training and Communication

Effective training and communication are essential components of a successful APP. All employees, including supervisors, should receive comprehensive training on the APP, safe work practices, and their roles and responsibilities. Training should be conducted in a language and format that is easily understood by all participants. Be sure to read the regulatory language related to each training topic to identify the required learning objectives and frequency of review, such as upon assignment, annually, and/or whenever conditions change. Additionally, the APP should outline communication protocols for reporting hazards, incidents, and near-misses, as well as procedures for conducting toolbox talks, safety meetings, and other safety-related communications.

Step 5: Establish Incident Investigation and Reporting Procedures

Despite best efforts, accidents and incidents may still occur on construction sites. The APP should include detailed procedures for investigating and reporting incidents, including near-misses. These procedures should outline the steps to be taken, the individuals responsible for conducting investigations, and the documentation and reporting requirements. Incident investigations should aim to identify root causes and implement corrective and preventive actions to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Step 6: Develop an Emergency Response Plan

Emergencies can occur unexpectedly on construction sites, and having a well-defined emergency response plan is crucial for minimizing the impact and ensuring the safety of workers and the public. The APP should include an emergency response plan that addresses various scenarios, such as fires, medical emergencies, natural disasters, and hazardous material spills. The emergency response plan should outline evacuation procedures, designated assembly areas, roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and coordination with external emergency services. It should also establish a clear plan of action for responding to hospitalization or death of an employee, including the way in which the employer and its designated representative plans to notify the family, other employees, project stakeholders, the media, and MIOSHA.

Step 7: Establish Recordkeeping and Documentation Requirements

Proper recordkeeping and documentation are essential for demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements and tracking the effectiveness of the APP. The APP should outline specific recordkeeping and documentation requirements, including but not limited to:

  • Training records
  • Inspection and audit reports
  • Incident investigation reports
  • Safety meeting minutes
  • Hazard assessments and risk evaluations
  • Permits and certifications
  • Safety Data Sheets for hazardous substances
  • Work-related Injuries & Illnesses

These records should be maintained in an organized and accessible manner, and procedures should be in place for regular review and updating.

Step 8: Implement a Continuous Improvement Process

The APP should be a living document that is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in the work environment, regulatory requirements, and industry best practices. A continuous improvement process should be established to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the APP. This process may include regular safety audits, employee feedback mechanisms, and periodic reviews of incident data and trends. Identified areas for improvement should be addressed through corrective and preventive actions, and the APP should be updated accordingly.

Step 9: Ensure Management Commitment and Employee Involvement

The success of an APP relies heavily on the commitment and involvement of both management and employees. Top management should demonstrate visible leadership and support for the APP, allocating necessary resources and actively participating in safety initiatives. Employees should be encouraged to participate in the development and implementation of the APP, providing valuable insights and feedback based on their practical experience. Employee involvement can foster a strong safety culture and increase buy-in and compliance with safety protocols.

Step 10: Seek Professional Assistance and Regulatory Compliance

Developing a comprehensive APP can be a complex and challenging task, particularly for companies with limited resources or expertise in safety and health management. In such cases, it may be beneficial to seek professional assistance from safety consultants, industry associations like the Construction Association of Michigan, or regulatory agencies like the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA).

By following these steps and continuously refining the APP, commercial construction companies can create a robust safety and health program that protects workers, minimizes risks, and fosters a culture of safety on construction sites.