Safety will always be a concern in construction sites with machines that can easily cut off a man’s arm. With the injury and death tolls climbing through the years, maintaining the safety of workers in construction sites should be a priority.
Producing real organisation change lies in changing the company culture. If safety isn’t a big part of the culture, safety procedures will always fall short.
Changing the ‘habits of safety’
In 1987, when Paul O’Neill became the CEO of Alcoa, an aluminium manufacturing giant, he decided that to recover Alcoa’s losses, he would change the safety habits of the company. He aimed for zero injuries, and it effectively increased Alcoa’s profit as it hit a record high one year after.
One of the key ways he changed the company culture of safety was to establish a habit of open communication in the company. Anytime someone was injured, the unit president had to report it within 24 hours and present a plan to make sure it didn’t happen again. Only those that reported would be eligible for promotion. This interesting story shows that incentivising people to prioritise safety is a great way to promote safety as a company culture.
Another way is to educate every worker about the safety risks involved in the construction industry and how to prevent them. An example of an educational program pushing for construction worker comprehensive knowledge of safety concerns is OSHA’s 30-hour Construction Training Course. While this program is primarily geared towards foremen, field supervisors, and safety directors, it’s also best to have everyone in the company go through it. That includes subcontractors.
Regular safety events (at least once a week) should also be done to form a habit of safety in the company.
Always wear safety gear
Wearing safety gears should also be formed into a habit among every worker. Everyone who enters the project site needs to wear hard hats, ear protection, knee pads, first-aid vests, and safety goggles.
The consequence of graveyard shifts and over-scheduling
It has been cited that decreased alertness resulting from fatigue was a contributing factor to the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl that led to the deaths of 30 operators and firefighters within three months. The same is true for the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle and BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil refinery explosion.
Considering that accidents and injury rates are 30% greater during night shifts, and working 12 hours a day has been found to increase the risk of injury by 37%, it’s easy to see how fatigue had played a big part in the biggest workplace disasters in history.
Extended shifts and over-scheduling are the main culprits of worker fatigue. Project deadlines are crucial, but as the history books say, sacrificing the safety and lives of your crew just to meet the deadline isn’t worth the risk.
A change in company culture needs to start from the management. Cultivating a culture of safety among your workers involves more than occasional safety training. It requires commitment, consistency, transparency, and genuine belief that security is a top priority.