4 Types of Jobsite Safety Issues

Man using a circular saw

In construction and extraction, you’re liable to encounter all kinds of jobsite safety issues.
The four most common types are:

To help you protect your crew, we’ll break down the hazards in each category. You’ll also learn some ways to prevent those hazards from causing mistakes, slowdowns, rework, and accidents.

Let’s dig in.

Personal safety issues

types-of-jobsite-safety-issues-image1-Personal safety issues

Personal safety is anything an individual worker should do to protect themself or someone else. Let’s discuss some common personal safety issues.

Being unprepared for work

Crew members work outside all day. When they fail to dress for the weather or forget to pack food and water, that can lead to:

  • Dehydration, low energy, and unclear thinking
  • Frostbite and hypothermia
  • Sunburn, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke
  • Personal misery
  • Mistakes, accidents, and injuries

Teach your workers how to dress for the weather and comfort. Reiterate the importance of packing plenty of water and a healthy lunch so they can stay alert and focused.

Refusing to wear PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is absolutely critical. Crew members should never work without it. Yet often, you see people in the field without safety glasses, ear plugs, hard hats, hi-vis vests, steel-toed boots, gloves, or other gear.

Leaders are responsible for enforcing PPE use. Train your field supervisors on the importance of this gear, and teach them how to share that knowledge with the crew.

You can also keep extra PPE available for supervisors to distribute to people who need it. Keep first aid kits onsite, too. Then if someone breaks the rules—or their PPE malfunctions—you can help.

If you’re working on a jobsite that requires PPE your crew doesn’t normally need, alert them in advance and provide the proper gear.

How to get workers to wear PPE

Jay Collup, BuildWitt’s Director of Field Development, recently saw a man climbing on a plant at a mine site without a harness.

The man was breaking the law, since MSHA requires miners to wear a safety harness any time there’s a chance of falling. Worse, he was with a new hire who had never been on a plant before. The man’s refusal to wear a harness was teaching that new hire that it’s okay to go without PPE. But it’s not okay.

The worker said he didn’t wear a harness because he was “only going to be up there for a minute.” Jay explained that it didn’t matter: “You have to wear PPE in case something happens in that one minute—because it can.”

As discipline, the man got sent home for an unpaid, three-day suspension. Then leadership pulled everyone in for a safety stand down. “We had to make sure the new hire understood that there’s never a time that it’s okay to climb onto an elevated station without being harnessed and tied off,” Jay said.

It’s worth noting that Jay asked a couple people why the worker wasn’t wearing a harness. Everyone replied, “Well, we told him to.” If you tell a worker to wear PPE and they don’t listen, tell them again. After that, take disciplinary action so your crews know you value safety.

Being situationally unaware

One of the most dangerous jobsite safety issues is lack of awareness. Being oblivious on the job gets people hurt or even killed. All it takes is one operator who isn’t paying attention to tip a machine. Or one laborer to unwittingly swing a shovel and hit someone nearby. Or one ________ (you fill in the blank.)

You’ve seen it. You know this. But how do you stop it?

You train your crew repeatedly. You train them to watch out for themselves and others. You train them on situational awareness until they dream about it in their sleep. And then you do it again so they grasp the importance of staying aware of their surroundings.

Ignoring personal health

Blue collar workers have a reputation for eating junk, being overweight, drinking too much, and generally not taking care of themselves. And there’s some truth to that. In this industry, people often think, “I do a physically demanding job, so I can eat whatever I want.” Or, “I work hard, so I’ll party harder.”

That’s a dangerous attitude—and dangerous behavior. Studies show that lack of sleep, poor diet, and lack of exercise cause obesity, illness, depression, and anxiety. These all increase the risk of injury and inability to perform one’s job.1

Your crew members can mitigate the physical (and mental) wear-and-tear of a demanding job by

  • Taking care of their bodies
  • Sleeping plenty
  • Reducing stress
  • Getting regular checkups
  • Building good relationships with family and friends

Encourage them to do these things, and consider how you can help through employee benefits like good health insurance, financial wellness programs, or counseling assistance.

Mechanical safety issues

types-of-jobsite-safety-issues-image2-Mechanical safety issues

Big iron is awesome. The power, noise, size—it’s so cool! It’s also insanely dangerous if workers don’t know how to stay safe in and around machines.

Operator error

Operating heavy machinery is a huge responsibility, and careless or improperly trained operators can wreak havoc on the jobsite.

For instance, an operator who ignores routine maintenance could cause their machine to catch fire or break down. Moving the machine the wrong way could cause slowdowns, costly rework, bystander injuries, or even a rollover.

Prevent operator error by training your operators well. Teach them safety basics like how to do walkarounds, spot maintenance issues, and use three points of contact to enter and exit the machine.

Operators also need task-specific training to learn how to run the machine safely, use it to the best of its abilities, and get out of a tight spot when needed.

Carelessness on the ground

People on the ground have a role to play in machine safety, and that role—again—is situational awareness.

Like we said earlier, it’s easy for Davey Daydreamer to walk into the wrong place at the wrong time. Suddenly, you’ve got a laborer on the ground bleeding because they tripped and fell into a trench. Worse, they could get pinched between a counterweight and a wall—which could lead to broken bones or even death.

You must train non-operators how to stay visible on the ground and use proper hand signals to alert the operator to their presence and avoid potential hazards.

How to keep crew members visible to operators

Jay recently witnessed someone walk in front of a moving machine. The person never made eye contact or communicated that they would be entering the work area. They just assumed the operator saw them—which wasn’t true.

Fortunately, at the last second, the operator saw them and was able to stop the machine. But what if they hadn’t seen the person? What if they didn’t have time to slow down? The person who walked in front of that machine was very, very lucky to survive.

Jay instructs people how to stay safe on the ground: “Any time you’re going to enter an area with running machines, stand where they can see you. If you don’t have a radio to communicate directly, then make eye contact. Gesture that you’re going to walk in, or get them to stop so you can physically tell them.”

Toolbox talks are a great time to remind crew members of proper ground safety protocol. They should never assume operators can see them. Remember, just because you know where you are doesn’t mean the operator knows.

Mechanical issues

People come first, but you should protect your equipment, too. Operators often destroy machines through neglect. They fail to spot or report maintenance issues, so small problems become big ones.

Again, teach them how to care for their machines. Build strong partnerships with dealers who can help you maximize machine lifetimes, and work with a trustworthy mechanic.

In other words, protect the machinery—in turn, that protects you financially from the cost of repairing and replacing equipment unnecessarily.

Operators also need task-specific training to learn how to run the machine safely, use it to the best of its abilities, and get out of a tight spot when needed.

The easiest machine safety solution

Grease is the simplest machine safety solution. Yet on many jobsites, people just fire up their machines and go—no walkarounds, no inspections, no grease.

At one jobsite, Jay heard the pins on the machines squalling constantly. He asked when it was last greased. One operator replied, “Monday.” This was on Friday, and that machine was supposed to be greased every eight to 10 hours. “That’s some hard neglect,” Jay said.

The mechanic had no idea what was happening onsite, so he was at a loss as to why the machines broke down so often. Jay invited him to the jobsite to watch the whole company work without grease or walkarounds.

“The guy was dumbfounded. He had assumed they were doing the maintenance their company processes called for, and the operators didn’t understand how they were abusing their machines,” Jay said.

Which brings us to an important point: don’t just make machine safety rules—teach your people to follow them! Have the mechanic come to the field to do walkarounds and spot checks with the operators for increased accountability. Incentivize the team to report maintenance issues by showing them that you’ll do something with the information they give you.

Cultural safety issues

types-of-jobsite-safety-issues-image3-Cultural safety issues

An unsafe company culture is one where bosses berate the crew, crew members harass one another, and there’s a me-first mentality. All those things lead to low morale, bad attitudes, and high turnover. They make people afraid to speak up.

Silence is the biggest cultural safety issue—and one of the biggest overall safety issues—on the jobsite.


Silence causes problems on the jobsite. When people don’t alert foremen or coworkers about potential hazards, that can lead to devastating accidents, work stoppages, and rework.

Silence is a killer in workers’ personal lives, too. Many construction workers struggle with mental health concerns, but they keep it to themselves for fear of being ridiculed or declared unfit for their jobs. Over time, that puts them at extreme risk for suicide. They’re 1.5 times more likely to take their own lives than workers in any other inudstry.2

Maybe you know someone on your crew right now who seems like they’re having a hard time—who’s quieter or louder than normal, who seems down, who’s partying more than they used to. Or maybe somebody who seems fine is facing struggles you don’t know about. They may be silent, but they still need help.

Creating cultural safety isn’t about being trendy. It’s about helping your employees when they need it most.

Train your crew members when and how to speak up. Create a culture where they feel safe doing so—where they know they won’t get berated or fired for raising a concern. Teach your foremen how to accept feedback gracefully and what to do if a crew member wants to discuss mental health or family issues with them.

Most of all, provide mental health awareness and suicide prevention resources so your crew members can get the help they need.

Long-term safety issues

types-of-jobsite-safety-issues-image4-Long-term safety issues

Long-term safety issues take time to rear their ugly heads. Typically, a crew member makes and then ignores a careless mistake. They think, It’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal.

Taking shortcuts

Shortcuts now cause problems later.

For example, let’s say the grade is slightly off on a roadbed because the contractor didn’t work closely with a geotechnical firm to find out how the soil would behave during construction. The crew doesn’t want to do the rework, so they call it “close enough.” However, as people start using the road, it develops potholes and standing water. Those road hazards then cause car accidents.

Whatever you do in the Dirt World—road construction, pipelines, mining, or anything else—you must teach your crew about the long-term consequences of their work.

Every shortcut they take in the moment decreases the life of the product or jobsite. It can cause injuries, and it hurts the company because you won’t get repeat business or referrals from unsatisfied clients. (Worst case, they may sue you.)

Besides, we’re willing to bet that shortcuts and shoddy work go against your core values. If you want a truly safe jobsite, instill those values into your crew members. Create a company culture where people take pride in their work, and you’ll be amazed at how many safety issues they eliminate.

The cost of taking shortcuts

During dozer training at a mine site, Jay and the operators planned how to properly build a ramp so haul trucks could enter and exit the pit faster, with less wear and tear.

Jay told the plant manager it would take an extra half day to build the ramp properly, but he’d get benefits like:

  • Increased production and revenue thanks to trucks running faster
  • Less maintenance and fewer ramp repair costs
  • Improved working conditions for drivers
  • Proper rain drainage and a longer-lasting ramp

”And they still chose to do it wrong,” Jay recalled. “Instead of a 10% grade, now it’s at 14%. So the trucks are having to use more brake power and downshifts.” That causes ruts which tear up the trucks, beat up the drivers’ bodies, and require lots of rework to fix the ramp.

Since really steep grades don’t shed water, rain created ditches and runoffs in the soft spots that form where trucks downshifted. Jay said, “A heavy rain basically washed the entire ramp out. They had to rebuild the whole thing. That took a day and a half, which meant no production out of the pit.” The company lost sales and fell behind schedule.

Ironically, the plant manager had initially said, “I don’t have time to build the ramp right.” Then he spent three times longer fixing the shoddy work than if he’d done it right to start.

Maybe that’s been your excuse, too. But that’s all it is—an excuse. If you have time to shut down production while you do rework, you have time to do things right. It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll save time and money in the long run if you just slow down and do things well from the outset.

What causes jobsite safety issues?

types-of-jobsite-safety-issues-image5-What causes jobsite safety issues

Now you know how to recognize the most common safety issues, and you’ve got some tips to help you deal with them. But how can you fix these problems long-term?

You start by learning what’s causing them. When you know the root cause, you can weed it out and create a safer working environment for your crew, your leaders, and yourself.

Read “9 Reasons You Have Jobsite Safety Issues

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