The first step to success in the construction industry is ensuring the safety of your most valuable asset—your employees. Doing so translates to greater efficiency and productivity as well as the ability to stay on schedule consistently. Traditional safety management programs offer critical information necessary to maintain and improve job safety, but additional benefits can be derived from the creation and implementation of a safety incentive program that focuses on proactive safety involvement for all employees on the job.
Employees working in all facets of the construction industry face countless hazards every day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry accounts for approximately 19 percent of all workplace fatalities and 150,000 injuries every year. Creating the right safety program not only plays a pivotal role in your company’s success regardless of the services offered or the size of the organization, but it can be the difference between life and death.
Evaluating Your Safety Management Program
Measuring the effectiveness of a safety management program is as important as implementing one in the first place. There are two common measures employed in the construction industry to evaluate internal safety programs: leading indicators and lagging indicators. Both provide an overview of safety and performance. Leading indicators focus on future safety performance, measuring factors that indicate value and direction of the initiative, such as the number of new safety controls implemented, risk and hazard evaluation and potential job hazard analysis.
Lagging indicators measure facts and past events, such as the frequency and severity of injuries, workers’ compensation claims and lost workday rates due to injuries, fatalities or other job-related accidents. Both indicators provide data that plays an important role in workplace safety. However, they are not necessarily the most effective means of ensuring greater employee safety.
In order to improve upon traditional safety management programs, your company should consider focusing on more than evaluating data. The company should also incentivize proactive employee participation in safety programs. Traditional safety management programs track efficiency based upon recordable injuries but don’t always place enough emphasis on identifying and understanding the cause of incidents.
Additionally, more outdated programs base employee incentives on documented incidents and injuries. This model leads to underreporting of hazardous situations, unsafe work conditions and worker injuries for fear of losing recognition as personnel who are upholding effective standards of safety.
Whether your business is in the process of evaluating current safety policies and procedures or planning to establish and implement a new internal safety program, your company should consider expanding the traditional safety management program’s use of lagging and leading indicators by empowering employees to buy in to a culture of safety. Employees can provide a great deal of insight regarding workplace safety.
The incentives offered to employees are a powerful tool in cultivating a culture of safety. The focus should be on incentivizing pre-emptive hazard elimination rather than on valuing lagging indicators like zero-accident reporting. Instead of focusing on why accidents occurred, those involved in safety programs should prioritize the identification of ways to eliminate every accident imaginable.
Invite employees to participate in the development or revision of your safety program by sharing opinions and ideas. One way to motivate employee participation is to find out what incentives are of interest to them. This ensures employee buy-in because they feel empowered through a sense of ownership, particularly when the program’s incentives are fashioned after what they want. Actively involving your employees during the planning stages of your company’s safety management program is the first step to creating a sustainable culture of safety.
Once the incentives have been outlined, consider creating a scoring system whereby employees accumulate points by attending safety meetings and filing observation reports on hazard recognition, hazard elimination and observations of positive behavior on the jobsite. This approach shifts the responsibility of on-the-job safety to every member of the project team, not just the safety director. This system of two-way trust encourages all employees to uphold safety standards while the company supports any employee’s decision to stop work when conditions are unsafe. Even a simple preventative measure, such as removing a power cord lying across a walkway, should be enough to warrant stop-work calls by employees.
By empowering your employees through a culture of safety, your company can anticipate more safety-based conversations and more safety risks being corrected and reported. A safety director can’t be onsite for every job, but with an empowered safety team that includes everyone, your company’s safety director will have more time to review risks and build awareness programs.