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12 Steps to Improving Safety Culture in Your Construction Company

September 23, 2015
 / Safety / 

Safety is swiftly becoming an integral part of construction. With campaigns by OSHA and initiatives around the country, the industry is continuously attempting to reduce the number of incidents on job sites each and improve its reputation in the public eye.

But it's still difficult for companies who have existed for so long doing things a certain way to make the often-drastic changes necessary to improve their safety culture. These adjustments are often seen as costly, bothersome, or even ineffective. 

However, making the right changes can mean all the difference for your organization's safety program, moving it from the bottom of the barrel to the cream of the crop. Here are 12 ways to help your company's safety program move from the S.W.A.M.P. to World Class:

  1. Start with upper management. From the CEO on down, safety needs to be a core value of your company. Management should lead by example by participating in safety meetings and trainings and by visiting job sites often. Upper-level employees must make a full commitment that costs, production schedule, and quantity will not take precedence over safety, which should be the top priority of the organization at all times. Work performed safely will, in itself, be of top quality and keep costs and schedules on track.

Safety starts with an honest assessment of where you are, use our safey program assessment to get started.  

  1. Make safety an integral part of the job. The use of safety committees, which include both managers and rank-and-file workers, can be an effective way to improve safety. But a full-time safety coordinator -- or multiple coordinators -- is key for managing safety across the company and across all projects. If the job is large enough to justify it, the budget should also include an on-site safety manager. Full-time safety personnel can ensure the needs of larger projects are met, and they will provide the day-to-day support for field personnel, who will then be able to focus on the projects at hand.

Safety isn't a distraction, you can make money while keeping your employees safe, learn how

  1. Create accountability at all levels. All employees need to be held accountable for safety, and safety rules should be consistently enforced. Worker behavior should be routinely monitored and adjusted as necessary to enforce good habits, and they should be able to participate in any safety committees that are formed. Failure to follow rules should result in recognizable and consistent consequences. Incentive programs may also be used, but these should focus more on increased reporting and preventative measures rather than limiting safety paperwork.

Start using safety observations in the field to assist with accountability, get started for free now

  1. Take safety into account during the project planning process. Your project planning process should include conducting a pre-project and pre-task safety plans, including Job Safety Analysis of each component of the project so that proper controls are implemented before work begins. These plans ensure that projects run safely and smoothly from start to finish and helps daily tasks be performed correctly, integrating safety into the daily routine.

  1. Make sure your contractors are pre-qualified for safety. You should review the safety performance of your potential sub-contractors as part of your procurement process. This should include reviewing OSHA recordable rates and conducting an audit of their safety management systems.

  1. Make sure your workers are properly trained. Train your workers in the proper use of equipment, safety expectations, and any safety risks and precautions relevant to their job duties. Hold pre-project safety briefings as well as regularly-scheduled safety meetings and toolbox talks focusing on subjects relevant to the project in progress. Subcontractors and temporary workers should also be included in orientation trainings or any other programs meant to enhance worker and job site safety.

Training your employees starts from when they are first hired, learn how to get safey ingrained in new hires.

  1. Focus on fall protection. Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths, and the most common of the “Fatal Four” workplace incidents. Make sure your fall protection program is effective and that it is understood by everyone. You should have a specific fall management plan for each project on which the risk of falling may be present. Also take advantage of online resources for preventing or mitigating fall risks.

Learn more Fall Hazards, one of the Fatal Four in Construction. 

  1. Prevent substance abuse. Create and enforce strong and consistent drug and alcohol policies to prevent impaired personnel from working on your site. Many workers take prescription or over-the-counter pain medication for common injuries or ailments that are simply a symptom of years of manual labor. While it is not illegal to take this medication while working, concerns about dependency and abuse of these medicines are real and justified, as studies show that construction and manufacturing workers are more at risk for prescription abuse than other industries. Blanket policies should not be implemented regarding medication or legal substances -- while illegal substances and alcohol can and should be banned from all workplaces -- but an open and comfortable environment that will allow employees to feel comfortable disclosing medications should be fostered.

Learn about how to handle substance abuse and prescription drugs on the job site here.

  1. Make safety a part of everyday conversation. Safety should be addressed at shift changes, weekly meetings, and anytime there is a job change. It should also be addressed daily on the job site during regular work. Ensure that supervisors and foremen are not only preaching safety during toolbox talks and in front of managers, but that they are also acting on these values during their daily tasks. Younger, more impressionable employees will follow the lead of those with more experience and clout.

  1. Review incidents and near misses. Investigate all incidents and near misses to determine their root causes. Use that information to identify leading indicators, improve safety procedures, and prevent future incidents. Encourage employees to report even the smallest observations -- both good and bad -- to help safety personnel spot trends and make improvements. While OSHA requires all injuries and incidents to be reported according to state and federal regulations, employers should reward increased reporting of safety observations in the field in order to call attention to potential dangers.

  1. Conduct regular field safety inspections. Inspections are one of the best management tools out there to improve safety, as they can uncover safety risks caused by worn equipment, unsafe behaviors, or misplaced tools and give you a chance to correct issues before they can cause an accident. In addition to state and federal inspections that occur sporadically on the job site, organizations should conduct their own inspections at regular intervals to not only ensure that work is being done properly and safely, but to show field workers that they plan to be involved in the entire process.

  1. Allow open and informal communication between workers and supervisors. Employees will feel that their concerns are being heard and addressed, improving worker morale. In addition, supervisors will get new insight into problems on the job site, making it a safer work space. Periodic employee surveys or polls are also effective ways of gauging workers’ feelings regarding the safety management program and their own health and safety in the field, as well as potential improvements or adjustments that can be made.


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