Occupational safety should not only exist on the work site

The annual Construction Industry Safety Week is celebrated for the tenth year in Finland on 8.–12.5.2023. At Mitta, the week serves as a reminder of the importance of continuous co-development. 

As a geotechnical surveying and consulting company, one of Mitta’s occupational safety challenges is the fact that Mitta never has its own construction site. The possibilities of influencing the safety of the construction site might therefore be limited, but by no means non-existent. 

Improving occupational safety has been identified as one of the important areas for development in Mitta, and over the past year, processes that support safety have been developed in different ways. The healthy-to-work, healthy home-based approach has given Mitta the goal of zero accidents, to which Atte Sirén started in the new position of Mitta Oy’s occupational safety manager in autumn 2022. 

”We have found that we have challenges in occupational safety, but we have decided that something can be done about them. No wound or sprain is acceptable because everything can be prevented,” says Sirén, who has worked in various positions at Mitta for around five years. 

While there’s always room for improvement, there are several aspects to be content with regarding Mitta’s occupational safety measures. These include Mitta’s work orientations and mandatory safety courses, partnerships with top-quality protective equipment and clothing providers, participation in the Zero Accidents forum, and the company’s MittaControl reporting system. Each of these elements contributes to improving occupational safety in its own way. 

Employee safety on different construction sites

The ”observe, correct, report” guideline is arguably the most critical occupational safety rule for everyone to follow. By observing and being aware of potential hazards, we not only look out for our own safety but also that of others on the site. It’s important to keep in mind that if something can happen to us, it can also happen to others, which is why it’s essential to prevent dangerous situations as early as possible, even before an accident occurs. Fortunately, construction sites often have effective communication channels in place, allowing everyone on site to receive up-to-date information about any deviations from safety standards.

”Accidents, near misses and other occupational safety observations that have occurred at the construction site are first reported to the person in charge of the construction site, and in the event of an accident, of course, the emergency number is called if necessary. After this however, it is equally important to contact your supervisor without delay and to submit a deviation report to Mitta’s internal MittaControl system. Mitta’s supervisor is always responsible for the well-being and occupational safety of its employee, no matter what kind of deviation occurs at any construction site,” Sirén says. 

To put it simply, Mitta’s new MittaControl system records any deviations found on construction sites, even if they haven’t resulted in an accident. This allows Mitta to have the latest information on potential risks to workers at different construction sites and take necessary action to address them.  

Sirén explains that when working at the premises of other companies, Mitta adheres to their terms and conditions. However, if one of their employees detects any risks or potential hazards on the site, Mitta must be informed immediately. If the construction site is found to be unsafe, Mitta would reach out to the company responsible and ask them to make the necessary improvements to ensure occupational safety. If these improvements are not made and the site remains unsafe, Mitta would take the appropriate action to protect its employees, which could involve removing them from the site. 

”The implementation of MittaControl is a great step for us to improve the ease and clarity of reporting related to occupational safety. We have set a target of 400 occupational safety observations for this year. In other words, when every person at Mitta gets to know MittaControl and makes even one observation, we can easily achieve the goal.”  

Safety alone and together 

According to Olli Laaksonen, Service Manager for Southern Finland in the measurement industry, occupational safety has developed in a commendable way over the decades. 

”It’s great to see that the well-being of employees is taken care of at construction sites. I remember a few situations from the early days of my career that I could have written about in any kind of report to my own supervisor.” 

Maintaining occupational safety on construction sites can seem overwhelming, especially with so many operators involved and various factors to consider. However, with the right knowledge and mindset, prioritizing safety can be straightforward. By familiarizing yourself with both the general safety guidelines and the specific rules of your field, you’ll have a better understanding of what to look out for. It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone on construction sites, and that everyone has a role to play in maintaining a safe work environment. By keeping these things in mind, you’ll be better equipped to focus on the right safety measures and keep yourself and others safe on the job.  

When heading to a new construction site, it’s essential to be prepared and aware of any specific rules or requirements. To ensure everyone’s safety, Mitta employees go through the details of the site and its special rules before leaving for the job. This information is often included in the invitation to tender or communicated beforehand. By taking the time to review these details in advance, Mitta employees can arrive at the site fully informed and ready to work safely and efficiently.  

According to Laaksonen, there are various rules and specific considerations to keep in mind when working on different types of construction projects, such as infrastructure versus building construction. Experienced professionals are generally aware of these differences, but new workers are always given an orientation to ensure they understand the unique requirements of each project. 

Continuous communication 

In addition to deviation reports, communication with the immediate supervisor is also maintained in other ways, and the importance of coffee breaks should not be underestimated. 

Laaksonen suggests that it’s important to remind colleagues periodically to avoid taking unnecessary risks. In the rush to complete tasks, some employees may overlook their own health and safety, which can lead to accidents and injuries. This reminder is especially critical when enthusiastic employees have a lot on their plate, as they may be more prone to taking shortcuts or ignoring proper safety procedures.  

The best way to take care of safety is through appropriate orientation and equipment, active reporting and communication. Learning from mistakes is paramount, especially when construction sites and contract configurations vary. 

“Recording deviations at other construction sites is crucial. Without documentation, knowledge of potential hazards and safety concerns may only exist within the memory of individuals at each specific site. To ensure worker safety, we must take responsibility for personal safety, contribute to site safety, and continuously learn from each construction site.” 

”What makes me feel safe at the construction site is the knowledge that the safety of the construction site is well taken care of and actively monitored on a daily basis, and any deficiencies are easily reported and corrected quickly,” says Juhana Pullinen, Surveyor at Mitta.

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