Make construction safety a priority, and reduce injuries by following these steps.

Creating a safe work environment should not just be a priority. It must be a core value driven into the company culture with a total commitment from senior management, and it must be taken seriously by everyone. Why? Because our most valuable assets are our workers.

The median time away from work due to a nonfatal occupational injury and illness is eight days, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Where does your business fall according to the average?

To be most effective, safety must become part of the everyday work environment—talked about at every meeting and part of the routine of getting the work done. All accidents are preventable, and you should expect no lost-time injuries. Follow these tips—some are tried-and-true and others are new—to make your business safer.

Tested: Provide Safety Staples

  • Ensure the proper protection equipment. This could include steel-toe boots, safety glasses and gloves or high-visibility vests and hard hats. Require everyone to wear the equipment, not just the workers. This includes visitors and company executives. The president or vice president of a company walking through a work area with the proper protection equipment sends a strong message—so does the same person coming through without the proper protection.

Tried: Expand the Construction Safety Standards

  • Bolster the injury reporting system. Reporting should be immediate. Develop a relationship with a local occupational health program. Let that provider know your company is willing to welcome employees back to work on light duty and accommodate work restrictions. Encourage employees to report near hits so changes can be made to avoid them in the future. Issue an anonymous report for each accident or near hit, and discuss it with employees during training sessions or meetings.
  • Commend with positive reinforcement. Instead of offering incentives, such as holding drawings or giving out cash and prizes, simply recognize employees. Too often, managers are quick to correct or punish employees for doing something wrong. Instead, hold employees up individually or in a group as an example of good work. Publicly say “thank you.” Require managers to walk around and find opportunities to recognize safe work.

New: Setting the Safety Bar Higher

  • Rethink safety training. Dedicating hours or days of safety training once a month does not cut it. Have a short meeting every day to make important announcements, and discuss one safety item. It could be as simple as reminding employees to drink water when it is hot or reviewing an accident or near hit that happened the previous day. More formal training should be conducted once a month and hosted online through a variety of services.
  • Identify the hazards and eliminate them. Track injuries to know where and how they happen. Examine those statistics, and use that information to eliminate the risk. For example, a company that experiences several injuries with sledgehammers should use slide sledges instead.
  • Create a safety presence. At the beginning of each job, have employees fill out a checklist of everything needed to safely perform the task. The checklist requires employees to take time to contemplate safety on each job. Post the company’s safety statistics regularly and prominently. Have a regular safety column in the company newsletter. Welcome government inspections as an extra set of eyes to help create the safest environment possible. Hang a corkboard called the “Why I Work Safely” board where employees can post family pictures. The conversations about those pictures foster pride in workers, personally and professionally.

Maximize Improvements


The U.S. National Safety Council says a comprehensive safety management system includes leadership, technical and cultural components. It says the program must be “systemic, explicit and comprehensive” and must be measured with “validity, reliability, practicality and utility.” Employee involvement and an environment of continuous improvement are critical to success.

Construction Business Owner, February 2011