The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries recently awarded a $113,000 Safety and Health Investment Projects (SHIP) grant to Central Washington University’s Safety and Health Management program and Associated General Contractors of Washington to develop a “best practices” construction safety handbook.
“This has never been done before,” said Sathyanarayanan “Sathy” Rajendran, professor and program coordinator, safety and health management. Rajendran is partnering with the AAGC of Washington, and its safety director, Mandi Kime, a 2001 CWU safety and health management alumna, on the handbook project.
“This is not a compliance manual—we have plenty of those. This will be a comprehensive safety handbook that focuses on the best practices of actual construction businesses.
“Compliance is the bare minimum,” he continued. “We want to showcase companies that are going above and beyond the legal requirements, who have a reputation for leadership in safety practices.”
Rajendran and his students will spend the next year assessing top Pacific Northwest companies and detailing how these companies set the bar high when it comes to health and safety on the job. The manual, which will be completed in May 2015, will be freely available online, and updated regularly.
The book will be organized in modules that cover each facet of construction safety and provide a variety of templates and forms that contractors can download in the field—“We want to make this really simple and usable.” Mobile apps could possibly be developed down the line, Rajendran added.
According to Rajendran, many of the best practices begin with the company being proactive about safety, with ongoing safety education classes for employees and encouraging a culture that facilitates compliance with heightened safety practices.
Rajendran notes that many companies educate their employees to practice safety away from work as well, with booklets showing best practices around the home and how to perform basic first aid—“They want their employees to get in the habit of being safety conscious all the time.”
“It is for humanitarian, as well as financial reasons,” explained Rajendran, who noted that an injury, disability, or death affects the welfare of the worker’s whole family.
The numbers are sobering. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,628 workers were killed on the job in 2012. That is an average of 89 deaths per week or more than 12 deaths every day. More than 700 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed from work-related injuries in 2012—on average, more than 14 deaths a week, or the equivalent of two Latino workers killed every single day of the year, all year long. Fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 15 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2012.
Central Washington University’s Safety and Health Management Program is one of the oldest university-based programs in the nation, and one of only two on the West Coast. Highly competitive, the program only admits 24 students a year. The program offers rigorous, hands-on, in-the-field training that prepares its graduates to become leaders in the industry.
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