BY ERIC PYLE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, BUILDING OPERATIONS,
BELL CONSTRUCTION, AN AGC OF TENNESSEE MEMBER
Making sure employees go home the way they came to work is the industry’s chief objective at the jobsite each workday. In addition, safer work environments not only mean more satisfied employees, but also lower health insurance premiums, better bond/insurance rates, and increased job opportunities due to heightened trust from clients and trade partners.
Establishing a safety program involves many moving parts, but simply developing a program does not mean it will be followed. To ensure your company’s program is effective, start by asking and answering these five questions.
1. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING THE SAFETY PROGRAM?
Safety shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the leadership team. Involving team members at every level in the safety program’s development encourages them to take responsibility for their roles. Intentionally empowering employees to have a voice will naturally make them more accountable.
The team at BELL Construction (BELL) has created accountability among our team members by selecting a mix of field and office employees, from equipment operators to project managers and executives, to serve on its safety committee. Including team members in varying roles gives the company an opportunity to hear diverse perspectives and take a wholistic approach to its initiatives.
The safety committee should meet regularly and review progress annually to ensure that initiatives are effective and helping the company meet and improve safety objectives. Larger companies should consider rotating in new team members to get more people involved and keep things fresh. Use your resources at AGC as well. They can bring a lot of value to programs that are already developed and to those still defining their safety culture.
2. HOW IS SAFETY INTEGRATED INTO COMPANY CULTURE?
At BELL, the first core value is safety, and its safety program’s motto is ‘safety starts with me.’ Firmly establishing values specific to safety will underscore that safety is a priority. But don’t let these values live only as words on the company website or in marketing materials. Thoughtfully reiterate values during formal meetings and informal conversations. Reinforce them through relevant training.
Additionally, facilitating a team-wide commitment to the safety program requires consistent action from leadership. Our quarterly superintendent meetings focus on safety, which increases knowledge and the comfort level of the safety program. It also encourages superintendents to teach others while on the job. Ingrain safety adherence into daily project site activity with inspections and meetings with the entire project workforce. Schedule regular training sessions for both new and long-standing employees.
3. HOW ARE TEAM MEMBERS GIVEN OWNERSHIP OF SAFETY PROGRAM OUTCOMES?
In the field, assign individual responsibilities to hold team members accountable for the safety program’s success. Encourage open communication by frequently leading conversations that involve the entire project team. Make it clear that everyone in the company has a voice and role in outcomes.
Another one of BELL’s core values is commitment. The team makes a commitment to working safely alongside others and being accountable for one another’s wellbeing. With this value in mind, its employees are made to feel comfortable alerting their teammates if they are potentially working in an unsafe manner. When others identify hazards on the jobsite, it shows that it’s not just the safety director’s responsibility to recognize safety issues and concerns.
Employees can take individual ownership of safety through training, helping to develop internal programs and teaching proper safe work practices to those around them.
4. HOW DO LEADERS RESPOND TO MISTAKES?
Positive reinforcement often works best to ensure workers adhere to safe practices, attend safety meetings, and participate in the safety committee. Incorporating reward programs that recognize and honor safe practices can be a great incentive.
There may be some team members that don’t feel comfortable reporting safety issues. It’s essential that workers are encouraged to speak up when something is wrong and are trained to identify and correct potential hazards. Consider giving rewards to team members who proactively identify safety hazards and address issues throughout the entirety of the project.
It’s important to ensure rewards are compliant with OSHA’s regulations. Do not structure your program to reward team members for having zero incidents, which could lead to covering up safety issues rather than reporting them.
5. HOW DOES THE SAFETY PROGRAM EVOLVE AND IMPROVE OVER TIME?
Construction sites continue to evolve as technology and machinery advance and building and design strategies change. These changes may require updates to safety programs. Your safety program should remain fluid enough to embrace unexpected changes.
To keep your program current, connect with peers and field leaders to discuss what safety initiatives and tactics work well for them. You’ll find it helpful to learn from those around you, ensuring that you have the most comprehensive and effective program.
Engaging the entire team, having strong values and reinforcing positive behaviors will empower workers to follow safety initiatives and keep themselves, their teammates and others on the jobsite safe.
Eric Pyle is the executive vice president, Building Operations, and leads the commercial building division at BELL Construction, an AGC of Tennessee member. BELL provides general contracting, design-build and construction management services across multiple sectors, including hospitality, office and transportation.