“Construction is dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be that way if we include safety first and foremost in our operations,” said Tony Lombardi, director of safety at Centennial Contractors Enterprises Inc., a Reston, Va. consulting firm.
Lombardi offers five tips for promoting safety with employees, subcontractors and suppliers:
Lead by Example. A commitment to safety must start at the top to ensure that it remains the No. 1 priority. Employees should always see safety demonstrated by their leaders and peers. Senior management sets the example by making safety key to all strategic planning efforts and the first topic of discussion at every meeting.
Management should also engage in a thorough evaluation of every incident to discover how it happened, support the employee and family, and review historical data of the site where the incident occurred, including the status of safety inspections and prior issues to prevent future occurrences.
In addition, maintaining a department of safety professionals that includes director of safety and an executive safety officer allows a company to conduct periodic and regular training and thorough site inspections.
Empower All Employees. All employees and subcontractors must have the right and responsibility to stop work if they see an unsafe situation, even if it compromises timelines or budgets. Employees and subcontractors should feel comfortable bringing up issues and concerns so that managers can address them prior to an incident occurring.
Keeping safety local keeps it top of mind. Each jobsite should contain safety personnel. Large projects or regions should have full-time safety managers. Small projects should appoint a superintendent or project manager to serve as the project safety officer.
Train, Train, Train. Require regular safety training. New employees should complete safety training within seven days of being hired. Within 60 days, new employees and interested subcontractors should complete the 30-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training course.
Numerous training sessions, fairs and luncheons can help reduce workplace accidents.
Short weekly toolbox meetings focus on one aspect of safety each week. They should cover topics relevant to the work at that particular job site using safety lesson plans available on the company website. These meetings should be mandatory for all employees at the site.
Luncheons provide a little more depth into safety topics over a two- to three-hour period. Employees receive hands-on and lecture training and take away knowledge to help them do their job better.
Fairs require a full day and include demonstrations of safety equipment, discussion sessions, and lectures on safety issues ranging from fall protection and scaffolding to excavations and writing safety plans. The site must close for the day so that all workers on the site and in the office can attend safety training fairs.
Set Benchmarks and Goals. Set goals and objectives such as zero accidents, no lost time, education and training, performance improvement, and attitude and commitment. Track the performance of both the project team and subcontractor performance.
In addition to overarching company goals, set specific goals for specific projects before the work begins. Convey to all parties involved in the project that if an incident occurs, work will stop until the root cause of that incident is discovered and resolved.
Offer Incentives for Good Safety Practices. Recognition programs help to foster performance improvement and loyalty, as well as increase the quality of construction projects. Recognize the efforts and results of employees and subcontractors who work hard to maintain a safe environment. Consider monetary rewards or token gifts for the sites with the best safety records as well as people using safe practices on the spot.
Establishing positive relationships with subcontractors and trust with employees goes a long way in establishing a safety culture. It gives them the confidence to come forward with issues and incidents, no matter how small, that can be dealt with prior to a major accident occurring.
Company-wide commitment and an aggressive passion for doing the right thing is the catalyst for a successful safety program. A safety culture will show through everything the company does.
For additional information on jobsite safety, contact NAHB’s Rob Matuga.