While Build Day isn't the only highlight of the Safety Team's efforts, but it really is the high point of the process. Learn how to prepare effectively for the big day and make sure everything goes smoothly.
As safety captain, an important part of your job will be to provide and enforce a safe construction site for the volunteers, donors, members of the press, children and special guests who will be participating in your community-build event. Remember that it is a construction site, and proper precautions must be taken! Here are tips for ensuring a safe and rewarding build:
Recruit special volunteers to be Build Day safety coordinators. There should be at least one coordinator per 100 build volunteers, and they should be trained to patrol the site looking for hazards such as tool misuse, tools lying around dangerously, volunteers who are tired, volunteers who have had too much sun or need a break or water, and volunteers who do not have a name tag or a skill level designation. It’s a good idea to put your safety coordinators in a different color shirt, vest or a funny hat to make them easily identifiable.
One safety coordinator should also be responsible for directing and staying with any heavy machinery while it is in motion. Make sure they're easily visible throughout the day...you might want to put them in bright orange vests!
Children must not participate in the construction of the playspace. The build site should be off-limits to those under the age of 18, although younger children who are above the minimum employment age in your state may be allowed to work on side projects off the construction site with their parents’ permission. Enforce these rules!
Implement a system for (1) labeling volunteers' name tags according to their skill level and (2) ensuring that the appropriate name tags are distributed at registration. To find the skill-level tagging system that's right for you, talk to your construction captain about the nature of your build. For example, if your build doesn't require power tools, then you only need to have two levels: skilled and unskilled. Skilled volunteers will handle jobs such as mixing and pouring concrete, leveling posts and decks, and fastening hardware. If your playspace or side projects are more complex, you may want to expand the tagging system to designate three or four skill levels, such as "unskilled," "equipment builder," "power tools," and "professional experience." One simple way to do this is to assign a color to each skill level and place a colored dot on each volunteer's name tag as he/she arrives. And remember, no matter how skilled they are, no one under the age of 18 should be on the construction site or using power tools.
Determine how many volunteers are expected for the build and how many will need safety accessories such as dust masks, safety goggles or earplugs.
Determine how many tents, tables and chairs your team will need, and relay this information to the Logistics Captain.
Create a flyer to distribute to all volunteers before the build, informing them of what clothing and footwear to wear, the skill-level tagging system, and the importance of keeping children away from the build area during construction.
Ensure that all arriving volunteers receive safety guidelines at the registration table. (Coordinate this with your volunteer recruitment captain.) The safety handout can instruct volunteers on safe practices for lifting, using power tools and wearing safety accessories. It can also point out the location of the first-aid table and drinking water, as well as any evacuation plan information. To reinforce a safe playspace build, create a safety pledge and have volunteers repeat it before they go out and begin their work!
Designate an enclosed, clearly marked area within the build site where cutting and sawing operations will take place. (Coordinate with the construction captain.)
Make sure that all relevant safety materials have been provided (see below.)
Put up clear signs pointing volunteers toward the restrooms, exits, first-aid table and water stations.
Mark or cover any holes, overhead hazards, and extension cords on the site before and during the build.
When bending or lifting, please use your legs and make sure your knees are bent. Watch your back!
Do not operate machinery or tools (or do anything) that you don't understand. If you have questions, please ask a build captain.
In the event that an accident does happen, develop an emergency plan which includes: a first-aid station, a qualified first-aid provider, a phone, a fire extinguisher, a nearby source of drinking water, and directions to the nearest hospital. You should also make sure that a car and driver are available to drive to the hospital if necessary. Talk through how you will administer first aid, how you will find and correct the mechanism of the accident, and who will file the incident report form. Find a sample report form here.
Q. Should we have insurance in case someone is injured during the build?
A. Before your build, you should talk to the site's landowner, and any partners (non-profits, businesses, schools, city agencies, etc.) who will be sending volunteers to the build. It is in their best interest to carry an insurance policy. The best way to protect yourselves and your partners is by having every volunteer on site sign a waiver form. This basically states that the volunteer is participating in a voluntary project and that no assignment given to them is mandatory. In case of injury, be sure to fill out an incident report form completely and immediately.
Q. Can we bring power tools to the build?
A. People often bring power tools to a build, thinking they'll make everything easier. But in our experience, having numerous power tools on a community-build project is dangerous and unnecessary. They take jobs away from volunteers, and they may fall into the hands of people (particularly youth) who don't know how to use them properly. With enough volunteers and good old-fashioned elbow grease, your playspace will get built without power tools...to everyone's great reward and satisfaction!
Q. What if we have bad weather?
A. Every team needs to have contingency plans in case of rain, snow, intense heat, or other extreme weather. If Mother Nature throws a curveball, your first task is to stay positive! Good attitudes are contagious. The other key is to plan ahead — simple materials can make a big difference.
Keep everyone and everything as safe and dry as possible. It's a good idea to provide disposable ponchos for volunteers – trash bags work fine! Just cut a hole in the bottom and make slits up the sides. (Coordinate this with your Volunteer Recruitment Team.) Remind volunteers to take extra caution in wet weather; muddy ground and slippery surfaces can create slip-and-fall hazards. And remember, no power tools! If heavy rain is predicted for Build Day(s), consider having gravel, sand, plywood sheets or even straw laid down to ensure a safe footing; you may need to coordinate this a few weeks in advance.
Remember that the sun can be just as dangerous as a wet, slippery site. When it becomes hot, volunteers should be reminded to drink plenty of water, take frequent breaks and wear sunscreen. In case someone becomes over-heated, you should have a shady or indoor place for people to cool off and rest.
Keep everyone moving with games, exercises and cheers, and provide as many mittens and gloves as you can. Watch for frostbite! If possible, let people head indoors to warm up in shifts.
Severe weather warnings.
Formulate an evacuation plan in case the build site becomes dangerous. Make sure you identify an indoor location where you can take volunteers in an emergency, and work with your co-chair(s) and logistics captain to manage traffic leaving the site. Make sure that the build captains know the evacuation plan so that they can lead their construction team to safety in the event of an emergency.
Q. What safety materials do we need for Build Day?
- Caution tape or temporary fencing
- First-aid kit
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Sunscreen (SPF 15 or more)
- Safety Table staffed by a certified first aid provider
- Drinking water
- Hard hats
- Fluorescent marking paint
- Work gloves
- Ear plugs
- Dust masks (for anyone working with mulch, engineered wood fiber, concrete, or cutting lumber)
- Cell phone
- Plywood to cover holes
- Fire extinguisher
- A child-centered safety and maintenance program
As you approach the build, it's time to finish solicitations and finalize the details of your safety plan. Here's a summary of your home-stretch tasks:
Organize volunteer and donor confirmation calls.
The week before the build, it's important to check in with your first-aid providers, safety coordinators and any other safety volunteers. Verify their arrival times, and let them know what they should wear and/or bring to the site. If donors will be delivering supplies directly to the site, call to remind them and confirm the details.
Check your supplies.
Are all your supplies on hand or confirmed for pick-up/delivery? Do you need to make purchases? Check with your donors and volunteers to confirm that all supplies will be arriving as needed. If you're borrowing safety materials from local businesses or organizations, make sure that they're clearly marked with their owner's names. It's also a good idea to have volunteers sign supplies in and out.
Find emergency sources of supplies.
Just in case you need an extra supply of dust masks or rain ponchos, make a list of nearby stores that carry safety items. Be sure to talk to your co-chair(s) about whether petty cash will be available, how it will be disbursed, and how errands will be run.
Train safety coordinators.
Meet your safety coordinators at the build site to review important information: build logistics, safety rules, the use of safety accessories, the location of key items such as water and first aid, and the safety coordinators' role in maintaining a safe environment.
Make copies of necessary signs, forms and handouts.
Make sure that every person arriving on site will be able to sign a waiver and receive a copy of your Build Day safety rules. Signs posted around the site will help volunteers navigate and find what they need. You'll also need a stack of incident report forms, just in case.
Clarify your communication system.
How will you make phone calls in case of emergency? If a cellular phone is not available, make sure that you've identified and tested an available phone nearby. For your own tasks, you'll want to record contact information for key donors and volunteers, and give them the number where you can be reached.
Site layout and build timetable
Your co-chair(s) will need your help in creating a detailed site layout that shows the location of all the teams' activities. To do your part, sketch the build site and indicate where you'll be putting first aid supplies, drinking water, safety accessories, any tables your team will be setting up, as well as the emergency evacuation route.
An official Build Timetable is another way for co-chair(s) to ensure that everyone is on the same page...literally! It's a detailed schedule for site prep and Build Day(s), a single document that pulls together all the teams' activities and lists them in order. Your co-chair(s) will need from you a detailed Safety Team schedule including your team's arrival times, the rotation of first-aid providers, and any mandatory breaks you'd like to schedule.
Your co-chair(s) have probably scheduled a walk through, or "dress rehearsal," a day or two before the build. The whole committee will look to you for the following information:
- What are the safety rules for Build Day? Who is responsible for enforcing them?
- What's the procedure for dealing with accidents or injuries?
- Where will the first aid kit, drinking water, safety accessories, emergency phone and incident report forms be located?
- It's a good idea to designate an on-site "emergency meeting spot," preferably out of the limelight, so that you, your co-chair(s), and your fellow team captains can discuss unforeseen problems and make important decisions.
- What's the procedure for evacuating the site? Who will make the call?
On Build Day
Your playspace build is the culmination of months of planning and dedication, so although you'll be busy, be sure to get dirty and enjoy yourself! You deserve a big reward for working so hard to change a child's world. Here's an overview of your major tasks:
- First thing in the morning, put the first aid kit, water station, incident report forms and volunteer safety accessories in their proper place. Count all of your supplies to make sure nothing is missing.
- Visit the volunteer registration table to distribute waivers and safety handouts. Make sure that the people staffing the table understand the importance of these forms, and give them an overview of build safety procedures. They should be able to answer volunteers' questions, or at least point them to the right person. If they're understaffed, consider asking one of your team members to help them during the morning rush.
- As your safety coordinators and other safety volunteers arrive, greet them and make sure that they're properly registered. Explain the day's schedule and answer any questions they may have. Check your timetable to make sure that your volunteers are showing up to fulfill their shifts.
- Greet arriving build captains and make sure that you know each one by name. Answer any questions they may have about rules and safety procedures, and point out the location of volunteer safety accessories.
- During kick-off, ask your emcee to make an announcement that absolutely NO children under the age of 18 will be allowed on the construction site.
- Throughout the day, monitor the site and enforce safety rules! Watch for tools lying on the ground, people smoking near the site, volunteers using power tools or mixing concrete without proper safety accessories, open-toed shoes, or sunburns. Check in with the build captains to see if they need anything.
- If you see volunteers looking bored, ask them to help you distribute water and sunscreen. They can also pick up discarded tools and safety accessories, or entertain children so that they're not wandering around the site.
- Keep an eye on volunteers' energy; if they seem to be flagging, suggest a water or snack break to your construction captain and co-chair(s).
- Check the supply of drinking water frequently. Volunteers need to stay hydrated!
- Encourage everyone to have fun!
- Get dirty and help build the playspace!