January 2018


What Challenges Does a Site Foreman Face?

For major jobs, the site foreman, also called a construction safety officer, ensures the safety and health of site employees and people in the area on a daily basis. So what challenges does he face as part of his responsibilities?

What the Law Says

The construction safety code states that at least one foreman must be assigned full-time to oversee the entire site for:

  • Projects simultaneously employing more than 150 people

  • Projects worth over 8 million dollars

The Role of the Construction Safety Officer

Directly under the responsibility of the project manager, the construction safety officer is in charge of ensuring the safety and health of people working at the site. He holds a certificate stating he has successfully completed the site foreman course approved by the Association of Construction Contractors of Québec (Association des entrepreneurs en construction du Québec – AECQ) or he has the equivalent technical knowledge. To fulfill his role, he implements, coordinates, and oversees measures to prevent accidents and occupational illnesses. It’s also his job to inform, advise, and give recommendations on safety and health at work.

Challenges a Site Foreman Faces

  • Win over and rally supervisors to his cause:

To properly carry out his task, the site foreman needs the collaboration of site managers at all levels: directors, project managers, foremen, superintendents, etc.

The aforementioned must be convinced of the merits of his goal and let him carry out the necessary tasks to meet it, even when it seems hard to reconcile them with cost optimization and performance targets.

For example, the site foreman has a hand in managing the construction schedule and the output of subcontractors. He also implements preventative measures, which inevitably takes employees’ time from work.

  • Be everywhere on site

  • On site, the construction safety officer has to be there to:

    • Attend meetings on health and safety at work and give recommendations by acting as a safety advisor to site managers

    • Make sure to enforce the appropriate safety instructions and measures

    • Ensure compliance with hygiene measures set out in the safety code

    • Conduct daily inspections to ensure the safety and health of everyone; when applicable, require immediate corrective measures; oversee their implementation

    • Cooperate with training organizations in the company

    • Immediately notify emergency services in case of an accident or a situation requiring the former

    • Take the necessary measures in case of a serious accident or incident, make inquiries, and issue a stop-work order as appropriate.

  • Shoulder administrative burdens

Although often on site, the foreman also has a heavy administrative burden; notable, he has to:

  • Keep a record of accidents up to date

  • Establish a prevention guide

  • Report to the corporate director in case of a serious accident or incident

  • Issue non-compliance documents, ensure follow-up

  • Collect and compile data as statistics

  • Write a report with recommendations to the site manager and worksite committee members concerning the effectiveness of the prevention program in place

It seems that the message of prevention spread by construction safety officers have proven their effectiveness: the frequency of workplace accidents at construction sites and the contribution rates in the industry have significantly decreased and continue to follow this trend.