In a high-hazard industry like construction, safety is an investment that provides real benefits. A safe work environment helps to keep skilled employees on the job and projects on track by reducing accidents that result in injuries and schedule delays, while also reducing the risks of litigation and regulatory action.
A strong safety record enhances a company’s reputation, makes it more competitive, and helps to manage project overhead costs over time. Fostering a successful safety culture, however, is a company-wide effort that requires commitment and participation from the individual workers on the job site. That commitment should extend to the contractor who also embraces a strong safety ethic, particularly when a company vision states “Safety above all”.
Culturally, construction remains an industry where workers may feel that taking risks is a part of the job and may worry about what their peers think of those who take extra precautions. The reality is that construction workers are more exposed to workplace injuries because of the inherent dangers of a job that often involves working with large machinery and power tools, often many floors above the ground. Setting Project Expectations Safety must be positioned as a project deliverable equal to other deliverables such as cost and schedule. To that end, the following must be expected from all stakeholders:
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- Safety will be a core value of all parties involved in a project.
- Safety will be integrated into all parties’ work processes.
- Operational discipline will be practiced at all levels.
- Stakeholders will understand their client’s expectations and will routinely meet or exceed them.
- All stakeholders will manage safety as a business deliverable.
Establishing a Safety Culture
When safety awareness is integrated into all aspects of a company, including its leadership and corporate decisions, that organization can be said to have a safety culture. Such an environment continuously sends and reinforces the message that safety is every project’s most important outcome. The safety culture is reflected in every project activity:
- Crafting the contract
- Staffing the project
- Bidding the work
- Preparing for construction
- Overseeing construction
How to define Leading Indicators? Goals and monitoring tools should be set in a way that encourages sustained H&S performance improvement – raising the goal once the original target is achieved – thus building a culture of pro-active safety improvement. Specific suggestions include:
- Focus on the selection of metrics that are appropriate for the stage of the project cycle (e.g. start by tracking contractor pre-qualification, then contractor mobilization to the field, then key indicators specific to the types of work being performed).
- Select Leading Indicators early in the project cycle and establish them as part of the key deliverables for the project. Lagging Indicators are already well established, so do not require the same degree of attention to ensure successful uptake.
- Choose a few important metrics, then insist on high-quality execution, tracking, and reporting processes – the focus should be on quality, not quantity. Emphasize excellent implementation, visible supervisory leadership, and participation by all employees.
- Involve all key stakeholders in selecting the leading Indicators, whenever possible. As a minimum, test for understanding and commitment when metrics are pre-selected by owners or managing contractors. Integrate activities whenever possible (e.g. joint management walkabouts, joint safety Committees, etc.).
- Be crystal clear about methods for tracking and reporting. Track by project, area, by contractor, etc. in order to ensure clear accountabilities and active participation. (What does not get measured will probably not get done!)
- Allocate sufficient people and time to track leading indicators effectively. Focusing time and energy leading indicators will reinforce a culture of proactive measurement and management of safety Performance.
- Use frequency indicators to gauge overall performance are both leading and lagging indicators.