5 Smart Steps to Improving Your Construction Site Risk Management Plan

Construction sites are inherently risky places, and this fact makes it essential that everything possible be done to reduce the number and severity of potential accidents which might occur, so that workers remain injury-free and the project itself can be completed on schedule. By nature, construction sites are fraught with danger, especially because of the heavy equipment involved, the stacks of building materials which can become obstacles or falling menaces, sometimes slippery weather conditions, and even the necessity of working high above ground, or in other awkward situations.

With the potential for accident or injury always in effect, it is absolutely necessary to have a good risk management plan to help reduce the risk factors at a construction site to the greatest possible extent. The foundation of any good risk management plan at a construction site is to be using sound and safe processes which are easy to follow, and lead to good decision-making and appropriate actions. However, there are always ways to improve your risk management plan, and make your construction site a little less prone to all the dangers lurking there.

Identify all potential risks

Strictly speaking, it’s probably impossible to identify every possible risk associated with a construction project, but a genuine effort should be made to list each source of danger anyway. Using a systematic approach, you should begin with all the various categories of risk associated with a typical construction project. Occupational risk should be the category at the top of your list, because it involves the safety of everyone on the site.

Although it may seem like an unlikely source of danger, there is also the possibility of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, severe storms, or even powerful winds that could affect working progress. There are several other categories of risk which are not directly associated with the construction site itself, but which may have a powerful impact on the construction project. For instance, there is financial risk associated with rising cost of materials, contractual risk if a job is not completed by deadline, and even the lack of good management for the project.

Prioritize the risks

Once you’ve categorized the risks and broken them down into individual sources of construction site danger, you should assess which have the most importance for your company, because this will help determine how much time and effort you should devote to overcoming each one. If you don’t have a priority system of your own, two of the most commonly used yardsticks for prioritizing risk are the likelihood of a risk actually occurring, and the potential impact of any given risk to your business.

This ranking system places those risks at the top which have both a huge impact on your business, and a higher likelihood of occurrence. By listing all the risks you’ve identified in this kind of priority ranking, you should have a clear indicator of which risks need to be addressed first, and where more of your resources should be allocated.

Manage the risk

Managing each of the priority risks you’ve identified can be handled in one of several approaches. For instance, you may want to avoid the risk altogether if a project would occur in a location and at a time prone to severe weather. You might be able to offload a portion of the risk involved in a construction project by securing insurance which reduces your own liability in the event of deadline failure or some other cause of incompletion.

Reducing risk is the one way that you have the most direct control over, and this involves the proper use of safety equipment, the constant use of safe methods and processes, and providing all necessary training for those on a construction site. In some cases, you might decide to manage the risk by simply doing nothing and accepting the risk as is – for example, if your project is underway during a season of bad weather, you might decide to just live with that possibility and forge ahead anyway.

Secure risk management resources

Now that you’ve identified all the risks on your construction site, and you’ve determined which approach you will used to managing the risk involved with each, you have to allocate resources to your risk-management approach. For risks such as cost overruns, the resources needed to manage that may involve securing a source of additional funding to provide a cushion, so that the possibility of insufficient capital won’t scuttle your project. As mentioned previously, obtaining insurance could be a great resource in managing financial risk on a project, since it reduces your vulnerability profile.

Construction software can be used for achieving the safest building design and managing the risk associated with construction methods, and workers who are not always alert on site. Along similar lines, other kinds of new technology can reduce risks on site by providing new methods of accomplishing old tasks. Pre-fabricated building sections can not only save time and help meet deadlines, but they reduce the number of tasks that workers are obliged to do manually, thus lowering exposure to accidents. Small unmanned flying aircraft (drones) have also been successfully used on some construction projects to obtain better views of work in progress, and to identify safety hazards.

Get everyone on board

Perhaps the most important single way of improving your risk management plan on a construction site is to obtain the buy-in and participation of all parties involved. If just one person or a small group of people are responsible for pushing the safety agenda, you should make sure that the message gets out to everyone on site. Updates and reviews on the project should include everyone, and should address risk management of all relevant factors. These communications need not be extensive in nature, but should be constant and gentle reminders that one of the most important parts of the project should be the daily management of all risk factors involved.  Own your risk before it owns you, and contact Allied Insurance Brokers today.

*Allied does not deem this blog entry as a complete and thorough listing or overview of the above topic, and does not recommend it be primarily relied on. It only highlights some common issues and resolutions. For a thorough overview, please contact Allied’s Risk Engineering Division.