Construction Safety Management: What Does a Safety Officer Do?
What Does Safety Management Mean in Construction?
Construction sites are naturally chaotic places – lots of dangerous tools, sensitive materials, and multiple teams or contractors trying to meet their goals.
If it's not managed correctly, it can harm everyone's health and safety.
A construction safety management system (sometimes called a safety management program) is a systematic, proactive method of identifying hazards and managing safety risks.
Why is Safety Management Important?
Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. On average, around 1,000 construction workers die on the job every year.
A solid, well-executed construction safety management system can save workers' lives and limbs, significantly reducing employer costs from lost time, wages, investigations, and fines.
A safety management system in construction is also a sign of a well-run business. It can enable you to attract more skilled workers and boost employee morale.
That said, a construction safety management system isn't without its complications. It has a lot of moving parts, organized into four safety pillars.
What Are the Four Pillars of Safety?
The four pillars of a safety management system are:
- Safety Policy and Objectives
- Risk Management
- Safety Assurance
- Safety Promotion
The first of the safety pillars is the process of formalizing your organization's safety policies, objectives, procedures, and roles. Full documentation of the details establishes senior management's commitment, sets expectations for everyone with a safety role, and cements the processes in which your workers need training.
The risk management safety pillar involves comprehensive hazard identification. Risks need to be assessed, analyzed, and controlled. Tools like Job Hazard Analyses (JHA) or Activity Hazard Analyses (AHA) are a valuable part of this process, as are risk matrices.
A risk matrix helps you prioritize the order in which to control the risks you've found. The matrix has the severity of the risk on one side and the likelihood of occurrence on another side. Hazards that would fall at the intersection of "frequent" and "catastrophic" will be your top priority for implementing risk control, while those at the intersection of "occasional" and a "major" risk would be a lower priority, and those with "negligible" threat that is "extremely improbable" would be the lowest priority of all.
Of course, safety is a process, not a destination, so you're not done just because you've controlled the most significant previous risks. That's when the third safety pillar comes in: Safety Assurance. It involves monitoring and assessing risk control measures for their effectiveness, identifying areas for improvement, and monitoring for new hazards. This requires inspections and safety audits and establishing an incident reporting system to help identify high-risk situations.
The last of the safety pillars is safety promotion. Creating a safe workplace requires everyone's participation, so it's essential to educate everyone and keep safe work practices at the front of everyone's minds. You need to promote a sense of personal and collective responsibility for workplace safety.
We mentioned a reporting system as part of safety assurance, which overlaps with safety promotion – employees are a critical source of information for preventing accidents. They need to feel free to discuss mistakes and near-misses to avoid the worst from happening in the future.
Formal safety training is another vital element of safety promotion. Thorough training will educate individuals on safe work practices, hazard elimination, and risk reduction measures specific to their role. If you do formal training in-house, hiring or contracting with an OSHA-authorized training provider is best. That can be as simple as purchasing online OSHA courses from someone experienced like us.
Remember that you may need to meet safety training standards beyond that of OSHA. If you're operating in New York City, you need to ensure everyone has NYC SST training, and if you're taking federal contracts, you may need to meet USACE's EM 385-1-1 standards. We have online options for these, as well!
Most occupational safety regulations only require safety training refreshers every few years. Still, regular informal discussions and reminders can be the best way to keep everyone focused on safety and to remind everyone of safe work practices for upcoming tasks. Construction industry toolbox talks were developed for precisely this purpose.
What is a Safety Officer?
If creating and managing a safety management system on a construction site sounds like a full-time job, that's because…it is.
A safety officer, sometimes called a construction or occupational safety officer, is a person whose sole focus is on the management and improvement of on-site safety. Implementing and improving the company's safety management system becomes the safety officer's responsibility.
What Are a Safety Officer's Responsibilities?
When you look at a job description for a safety officer, you'll see responsibilities like:
- Inspecting project sites and mitigating or eliminating safety hazards
- Assessing and approving subcontractor safety plans
- Verifying that tools and equipment are in safe working order
- Promoting safety through ongoing training and awareness
- Creating and enforcing safety guidelines
- Conducting accident and near-miss investigations
- Addressing workers' safety concerns
- Managing communication with state or federal safety agencies
- Representing safety interests at project meetings
- Evaluating the effectiveness of safety measures and the program in general
So, everything is safety-related.
Construction safety officers make an average of $68,671 a year, but you'll need a degree in a safety-related field to become a Certified Safety Professional.
Then, depending on where you work and your funding, you may need SSHO-level regulatory training to meet requirements like NYC SST or USACE. We can help you with online courses that fulfill compliance requirements when you get to that point!
Visit us at OSHA.com to learn more about our comprehensive, convenient, and trusted training programs.