Best Practices, Feature, Operations, V5I6

Workplace Safety as an Everyday Concern

Photo courtesy of DL Ritter/

Building a shed properly involves the same mechanics and familiarity with tools of the trade as does erecting a home, but on a smaller scale. 

However, that does not necessarily mean there are fewer risks involved in building a shed. Hammers, nails, saws, and more are among the tools of a shed builder’s trade, and they come with the potential for harm. 

According to Mike Marr, safety technical resources consultant with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s (BWC) Division of Safety and Hygiene, in 2018 alone, 85,000 claims for workplace injury and/or wrongful death were filed in the state. At the same time, there were 218,000 employers in the state. Those claims cost the BWC over $937 million that year.

In 2017, there were 242,000 employers in Ohio and over 86,000 claims filed. That year, the BWC spent $940 million to cover successful claims. 

Fortunately, there are steps a shed builder (and anyone involved in construction) can take to reduce those numbers. 

The first place to start is implementing workplace safety protocols.


Creating a viable workplace safety program involves more than merely writing it. Established protocols designed to reduce the risk of work-related accidents are only as strong as is the commitment to carry through on them.

Marr says employers who believe they are equipped to implement any or all safety programs without outside assistance are “not realistic.”

In Ohio, for example, the BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene guides employers through the steps of establishing safety protocols for various industries. Services provided by that department include guidance on creating written safety protocols, consulting, walk-throughs, and even air and noise monitoring. 

The agency also employs an ergonomist to assist employers who report back on repetitive motion injuries among their staff. Their duties include reviewing job tasks to “make them fit the worker vs. the worker filling the job,” says Marr.

The best part of these services? They are offered at no additional cost beyond the premiums businesses pay the BWC. 

According to Dianne Grote Adams, founder and CEO of Safex, Inc., the Health and Safety Management System and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set guidelines to help employers “create a framework” of creating a safety management system for their workplaces.


Grote Adams, who established Safex in 1992, says employers seeking to create a safety workplace plan should be certain it includes methods for hazard recognition and employee engagement. 

“OSHA compliance is just a minimum, and depending what the task is, the guidelines won’t necessarily apply directly” to the individualized concerns each company owner might have regarding safety. Therefore, she adds, “It is wise to consider the hazard of the task you’re about to complete and not mitigate the risk” involved.

Because workplaces vary from one to the next, Marr advises employers to “enact safety training, so employees know how to do their job and do it safely.”


Despite an ample supply of information, training, and support available to the construction industry relating to workplace safety and OSHA requirements, Marr says he continues to be surprised by the “employers’ lack of understanding” of OSHA promulgations. 

“It’s still the same,” he laments.

For Grote Adams, the biggest surprise she continues to experience when visiting a site is how lax some companies are about safety. 

“Many think safety is just common sense and don’t understand there is actual training that teaches how to recognize hazards and respond accordingly to mitigate risks,” she says. 


In Grote Adams’s mind, workplace safety training should be an ongoing concern and not be relegated to merely an annual or even quarterly pursuit. 

Instead, she favors “at least weekly” training reminders. They can even come in the form of quick, five-minute refreshers, ala “Toolbox Talk,” that keeps safety recognition at the forefront of every employee’s mind.

Certainly, a new employee should receive proper training for their position during the onboarding or orientation process, she says. 

And, according to Marr, “Many different topics require training by OSHA standards. Many require annual refresher training while others require training when something changes in the workplace.”

While employers are not required to provide their staffs with a written safety manual, creating and distributing them to employees is a wise choice, says Marr. 

Still, he advises employers to do so, for several reasons. First, despite OSHA not mandating manuals, there are specific workplace safety requirements which OSHA requires to be in writing. 

Moreover, many people are visual learners, meaning they can retain information more readily if they read it rather than having it shared orally. A staffer can also refer back to written materials when a question arises, making it that much more valuable. 


Every employer, whether in or outside the shed-building industry, has unique workplace safety concerns. While some are more complex than others, employees should be trained to recognize hazards and mitigate the likelihood of injury or death that could be caused by the danger.

More specifically, shed builders are concerned with matters such as ladder falls, nail gun mishaps, and other construction-related perils. 

Grote Adams says there are steps employers and their staff can take to mitigate the likelihood of someone falling from a ladder. They include:

  • Look at the ground and terrain where work will be completed and be certain to minimize trips or falls by a brief housekeeping session (pick up sticks, stand on stable ground, etc.).
  • Utilize a three-points-of-contact ladder safety protocol while ensuring the ladder is adequate for the job at hand.
  • Donning fall restraints when working on roofs or elevated spaces.

She also cautions shed-building crews to be aware of where they are in case of emergency. For example, if building a shed on a homeowner’s property rather than inside in a workshop, employees should know where they are located and how to respond should an emergency arise.


Of the many lessons Grote Adams says she has learned in the 25 years since establishing Safex, one of the most important she imparts is the absolute necessity for workplace safety protocols.

“Don’t let the cost of safety precautions get in the way of safety because you could pay for an injured or killed employee if you don’t,” she sums up.

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