The construction industry offers extraordinary employment opportunities for a global workforce. As a significant contributor to our nation’s economy, the main concern for those in the construction sector, unfortunately, includes high rates of injuries and fatalities. According to OSHA, out of 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry in the calendar year 2018, 21.1% were in construction. The costs associated with a poor safety culture are massive; from a rising EMR and worker’s compensation claims to poor employee retention.
Feeling safe on the job is imperative to retain high-potential employees and improve employee satisfaction. Therefore, communicating and building awareness about your company’s commitment to safety will ensure a safe work environment and happy employees.
Encourage Safety Education & Training
Safety-focused continuing education and training opportunities are critical components of a culture of safety. By reviewing workplace and job site activities and then discussing potential hazards, employees can understand why safety applies to the organization. In an effort to keep the safety conversation flowing, SafetyStage developed a free download of 29 toolbox talk topics for construction professionals.
Custom and relevant training further encourage a culture of safety. For example, operations education pieces may focus on proper handling of materials, safe operation of heavy machinery, and appropriate storage of tools or equipment. Creating the framework for safety procedures and the reasoning behind those procedures will, in most cases, empower employees to take a more active role in working safely.
Each quarter, consider providing resources that address safety hazards for that season. Examples of seasonal safety risks include:
- Winter – Ice (fall risk)
- Spring – Flooding (trench cave-in risk)
- Summer – Heat (dehydration risk)
- Fall – Less Daylight (struck-by risk)
Encourage near-miss reporting and follow up on incidents to bolster your safety culture. Near-miss data, including the time, date, and location of the event, is beneficial for safety training. Employees can utilize detailed descriptions of how a near-miss was avoided to learn more about job risks. Prioritizing the safety of employees creates an even stronger commitment from them while on the job.
Conduct weekly safety meetings to address injuries incurred on the job. This reminds workers of the real dangers present while they work. Remaining consistent each week with safety-focused discussions keeps safety top of mind for employees, minimizing their likelihood of being involved in a safety incident.
Encouraging participation in annual training and continuing education offerings focused on fall protection, lock out/tag out, and other construction hazards will help employees build confidence in their capabilities while also enforcing safety.
Promote a Safety Culture Through Consistent Communication
Another objective for creating a safety culture is to raise awareness among your workforce about the organization’s safety initiatives. By building safety into employee communications, you’re able to have multiple touchpoints with each employee. Those communication pieces include:
- Social media posts
- Paycheck stuffers
- Breakroom posters
Additionally, it is imperative to lead by example and openly discuss where you can do a better job at finding and mitigating safety issues. Furthermore, encourage others to be confident in their assessment of safety hazards or risky behaviors and to speak up when they have a concern. The Safety Culture Survey administered by Safety Performance Solutions Inc. (SPS) indicates 90 percent of respondents believe employees should caution others when they’re operating at-risk. However, only 60 percent say they actually do provide this critical feedback.
The more you engage and raise awareness of your safety culture, the more your employees will start recognizing it as a core value of your organization.
Incentivize and Recognize Employees Who Work Safe
Ideally, employers want employees to be intrinsically motivated to work safely. Rather than focusing on disciplinary actions for infractions, put incentives in place to reward individuals, teams, departments, or the company as a whole for compliance with safety standards. Effectively communicating parameters for an incentive is critical. Parameters include:
- Safety Goal
- Department or Employees Involved
Incentives promote safe workplace behavior in a more positive way than coercion. Consider offering incentives for each month in which a department in a hazardous work setting is accident-free.
PRO TIP: Although cash-incentives may seem like an appropriate option for employees, don’t discount an award that is genuine, meaningful, and important. Something as simple as a company jacket with the employee’s name embroidered on the front may be more impactful than cash.
Make it abundantly clear to employees that safety is a priority by establishing expectations dedicated to workplace safety procedures. Furthermore, discuss safety initiatives when selecting supervisors and managers and reward employees who possess a strong commitment to safety.
By keeping safety at the forefront of employees’ minds, you are instilling safe work habits into your employee culture, minimizing your organization’s construction risk.