You may think your company has a pretty good safety program in place. You try to avoid incidents and injuries and want to send your employees home in one piece.
However, it's likely you're not doing enough to promote safety within your company.
If you've got an off-the-shelf safety program that includes posted signs with catchy slogans and campaigns that measure short-term results, you might be on the wrong track. In fact, safety campaigns and incentive-based programs are not the answer to boasting a world-class safety program.
The answer is much more simple.
The prevailing theory on safety management in construction is that world-class safety programs are informal, lacking the hype of designated safety initiatives. The responsibility for safety in these successful companies lies with every employee from the field workers to the executives. Accidents, no matter how minor, are not tolerated.
Meanwhile, companies that consistently experience incidents and fail OSHA inspections, leading to higher EMRs and insurance rates, are located in what is referred to as the S.W.A.M.P. -- Safety Without Any Management Processes. And often, these companies don't even realize it.
Find out where your company ranks in safety here.
Companies in the SWAMP assign no safety responsibility to individual employees and may even reject that safety is something that should be monitored by the organization. Safety is seen as a burden to managers and workers and an additional, painful cost that also compromises productivity.
Companies in the SWAMP see injuries as part of the hazards of the business, usually reacting to incidents after the fact instead of planning to avoid them in the first place. Safety personnel often do not exist or have additional roles within the company, and there is little communication between field workers and managers as to the safety of work conditions.
The safety processes that are in place in SWAMP organizations are often workarounds or quick fixes to get the job done as quickly and painlessly as possible. But with higher incident rates come higher insurance rates, excessive losses, more OSHA citations and potential litigation. These could also lead to a lack of ability to secure new work based on a poor reputation.
Although approximately 28 percent of all construction companies are located in the SWAMP, most will not admit to it or are not aware of their dire situation.
Organizations with average safety programs often care about employee safety but don't know exactly how to ensure it. They take steps to improve worker awareness but often try to force incentive programs that have little or no real effect.
Safety at the average company is considered the responsibility of field staff and managers, but is not carried through by upper level employees. The firms often employ one or two safety managers who are stretched thin across job sites and offices, barely able to keep track of the overseeing and paperwork with which they are charged.
Safety in these companies is seen as the cost of doing business, added to the bottom line of a job or budget. But management may not understand that easy and convenient safety measures aren't enough to prevent all incidents, preferring to fix the symptoms of an incident rather than addressing the root cause.
Average safety programs account for 46 percent of all construction firms, including those who are moving out of the SWAMP due to a significant financial crisis that has forced a major change in the company. This change, however, is rarely based on a desire to fix the culture of the company.
THE WORLD CLASS
World-class programs are those who make safety an integral part of everyday business. It's not a hassle or an inconvenience to plan safety into the production plan -- it's just a part of the process itself. Safety is considered not only a necessity, but as a smart business investment by world-class firms.
Planning to reach world class is time-consuming at first but leads to clear responsibilities and expectations for all employees, from the field to managers to executives. Accidents are not tolerated, and safety is expected as part of everyone's job description. It's not celebrated with glitzy signs and catchy slogans.
Open communication is an integral part of being world class, as employees are encouraged to discuss concerns freely with management. This results in happier, more loyal employees who feel as though they are valued by the company. World-class safety also results in lower EMRs and insurance rates as well as better industry reputation and more work.
For world-class organizations, safety itself is considered just as important as cost, quality, schedule, and production in terms of getting the job done. This radical organizational change, generally based on culture rather than money, accounts for just 5 percent of all construction firms.