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Pre-Work Start-Up Safety Checklist for Contractors

By Gary Auman

Regardless of size, safety should be a key component of every job, and contractors should make safety planning a priority when they are creating their bids. The cost of having a safe job site should be considered and made part of the bid; and if the contractor gets the job, it should be treated as an integral part of the project. When contractors visit job sites to obtain project information, they should also be evaluating safety concerns to outline what is needed to finish the job safely and in compliance with all applicable codes, standards, etc.

When assessing a job site, it is important to keep in mind what you need to accomplish and anything you may need on site when you start the job. Once you have a contract, it is time to make decisions about the things you need to have before you begin work.

The following is a starter list of points to consider before beginning any project (or workday):

  1. Identify the employees who are going to make up the project crew. Confirm that each employee has received the necessary safety training to perform the job safely. This includes the use of any personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard recognition, and steps to take if they perceive a potential hazard exposure.

  2. Confirm that your Safety Director, Consultant, or the individual responsible for safety has a site safety plan for this project. This should include a job hazard assessment.

  3. Confirm that if any exposure assessments are required, they have been or will be completed on the first day. If the exposure assessment is being performed on the first day, ensure that all employees are being protected at the level required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) until the results of the exposure assessment are known.

  4. Keep a copy of your company safety program on the job site, along with a copy of your company's hazard communication program.

  5. Ensure that sufficient PPE is on site for all employees.

  6. Make sure that all PPE on site has been inspected, is in good condition, and is safe to use.

  7. Whenever possible, assign a well-trained, competent person to work at the site. Alternatively, schedule this person to visit the job site several times a day to perform necessary safety walk-around inspections and ensure that all employees are working in compliance with all company safety rules. Remember that some OSHA standards have requirements beyond the basic guidelines for a competent person that apply to the areas covered by those standards.

  8. Be certain that management on the job site knows how to respond to a visit from a federal or state OSHA representative, how to conduct an accident investigation, and how to perform regular safety audits.

  9. Secure someone to determine the predicted heat index for the day, or—in the case of cold work—the projected low temperature, and arrange appropriate safeguards for either situation.

  10. If scaffolding is to be used on the project, ensure that it is designed and erected by qualified and competent persons.

  11. Be certain that any ladders on the job site erected by your employees or to be used by your employees are properly put up and tied off, and that the ingress and egress points to the ladders are guarded from displacement.

  12. Have a procedure in place to identify damaged or unsafe equipment, tag it, and remove it from the worksite until properly repaired. This procedure should include employees trained to identify damaged and/or unsafe equipment.

Upon arriving at the job site, the contractor should also check safety compliance by confirming that the job site is completely prepared for work in regard to safety standards. In addition to following all state and federal regulations, contractors should:

  1. Address all fall protection issues. These include, but are not limited to, ensuring that warning lines or guardrails are properly erected (where appropriate), personal fall-arrest equipment is in place, and adequate anchors are in place for the personal fall-arrest equipment. It is also important to make sure that employees are wearing their personal fall-arrest equipment correctly.

  2. If scaffolding is going to be used, ensure that it is properly erected. This includes, but is not limited to, barricading areas under scaffolds to prevent anyone from passing or working below employees who are on the scaffold. Additionally, make sure all guardrails and toe boards are in place for any scaffold work areas more than 10 feet above the ground.

  3. Be sure that all employees are wearing proper personal respiratory protective equipment if an initial exposure assessment is being performed or if it is deemed necessary by the completed exposure assessment.

  4. Walk the site and ensure that all floor holes, holes in walls, and open-sided floors are either covered correctly or guarded.

  5. Check the use of electricity on the job site. Use ground fault circle interrupters (GFCIs) wherever necessary, and verify that all electrical cords are undamaged and have 3-pronged plugs in place.

  6. Properly label all containers of hazardous materials on site and ensure that copies of all safety data sheets are readily available to all employees on the site, and all employees have been trained to read the safety data sheets and the labels on all hazardous materials.

  7. Determine if any other contractor's employees or the customer's employees will be on the site; this may create hazards for your employees. If this is the case, take all steps necessary to protect your employees and other personnel from potential hazards.

  8. Provide sufficient cool, potable water on site for all of your employees if you will be working in a high-heat environment. In addition, make sure cooling-off areas are available and are located in relative close proximity to where your employees will be working.

  9. Ensure that any powered equipment that you may have on site has been inspected for safety issues before any employees are permitted to operate it, and all necessary safety inspection forms have been properly completed. Also, make sure that any employees on site who may be tasked to operate such equipment have been properly trained and that training documentation is on file.

  10. Confirm that all employees on site have been properly trained in all aspects of safety, including, but not limited to, hazard recognition. 

This list is not intended to cover all points for safety consideration on every job site, but it is meant to share basic safety guidelines. Every job site is unique and will present different safety concerns, which is why a job safety analysis is essential to identify all of the safety issues on each job site. Please also check state and federal guidelines and laws, as well as with your own safety experts, to ensure each job site is compliant and safe for your personnel.

This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Insulation Outlook.

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Gary Auman

Gary Auman is a Partner in the law firm of Dunlevey, Mahan & Furry in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Louisville in 1969, and a law degree from The Ohio State University in 1976. Since then, his practice has focused on defending employers in workers' compensation and OSHA cases. In 2002, Mr. Auman was awarded the Distinguished Service to Safety Award by the National Safety Council. He has worked with OSHA in its development of safety and health standards, and he has defended OSHA cases in several federal appellate courts. Mr. Auman also represents 4 national and regional trade associations in the construction industry. He can be reached at

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