Safety Tips for the Workplace – Tips on Improving Your Company’s Culture of Safe Operations.
Construction businesses, both small and large, are faced with many obstacles to success on a daily basis. Finding skilled employees, winning and managing quality projects and operating a long-term profitable company are issues that construction industry leaders and executives wrestle with every day.
Chief among those issues facing industry leaders is the requirement to provide safe construction sites and working environments for their employees and the general public. The dynamic nature of the construction industry can make safety and providing safe worksites a particularly challenging task. No two construction sites are ever identical. The size and make-up of the workforce continuously changes. Changing weather conditions can compound site problems almost instantly.
The Need for a Focus on Safety
Each year thousands of construction workers employed in the United States are either injured or killed in workplace-related accidents. In 2013, OSHA reports that there were 4,585 workers killed on the job. Among those who lost their lives, 828 or 20.2% were construction-related fatalities.
OSHA has identified the four leading causes of construction industry related fatalities, which they have dubbed “Construction’s Fatal Four”. While these accident types have resulted in the highest amounts of workplace deaths, they also result in numerous non-fatal injuries.
These four categories of fatalities, along with their respective percentages are:
- Falls – 36.5%
- Struck-by Object – 10.1%
- Electrocutions – 8.6%
- Caught-in/between – 2.5%
As stated by OSHA, eliminating these four causes of death from the construction workplace would save 478 workers in the United States every year.
6 Workplace Safety Tips for Implementing a Safe Work Culture
Implementing a culture that honors safe work practices is not something that happens by accident or by default. It is something that leaders and managers in the construction industry must purposefully impact in order to affect change and then maintain their respective cultures.
Leaders and executives who are working to affect change in a positive and long-term way within their organizations can use the following 6 tips to improve their safety culture.
- Make people and their safe work practices a part of the company’s core values.
It is important to establish a list of core values for your company. Core values are those cornerstones that the company has been built on and around. They are the “non-negotiable” building blocks of the employee and employer relationship. Core values stipulate how the company does business with the expectation that all team members honor these values, and if not, they can be asked to leave.
- Make safe work practices a part of the company’s onboarding process.
Begin educating new employees on the company’s safety policies and procedures from their initial onboarding. Do not allow bad habits to take root. By emphasizing the importance of safe work practices within the company from the outset of employment, the new employee will be set on the right path and in the right direction. Allowing a new employee to onboard without emphasizing safe work practices can allow bad habits to form which may be difficult to break at a later time.
- Find a champion for safety within the company.
Executives and leaders have a difficult time completing all of their tasks and responsibilities. In order to overcome this, it is recommended that someone within the company with a passion for safety be assigned as the champion. Allow that person to champion the cause of safety within the company and on project sites. The process of implementing new policies and procedures disrupts the current culture of the company. By establishing a champion for the program, there will be an advocate who can help lead the change process.
Training programs including “What is an effective safety program?” for helping champions and executives understand what an effective safety program is.
- Educate/train the company’s employees.
Educate the workforce on safe work practices including OSHA standards. Invest in OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 training. Make the employees aware of their role within the company and how they affect the safety performance of the overall organization. Train the employees on the proper use of equipment. Have them use the safety equipment in a controlled training environment so that they learn the proper methods for using the equipment.
- Monitor and coach your ongoing field operations.
All personnel, no matter their experience, have a tendency to grow complacent over time. “I will be okay this time” or “I have done this a million times” are uttered often just before accidents occur. Accountability is an important feature of a culture of safety. You can trust, but you need to verify they are complying. Site visits and the process of accountability also offer the opportunity to coach and guide employees to correct poor behaviors before they become bad habits and ultimately result in an injury.
- Thank your people for working safely.
You need to incentivize and recognize the behaviors that you want to see. In many cases, a simple “thank you” can be the only incentive someone needs to continue to perform their job well. Thanking a team member for wearing their hard hat or for going that extra mile to set-up fall protection may be just the level of recognition they need to continue that habit. As they say, a simple thank you goes a long way.
An abbreviated definition of culture is “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent”. What is regarded as excellent in the construction industry is that employers and employees recognize that they must work together in a collaborative environment to create a safe work environment. When both work together to evaluate risk and create solutions to mitigate that risk, the culture of the construction industry will begin to make positive change.