In its "2019 People in Construction Report," FireStarter Speaking and Consulting discovered something troubling about safety practices in the construction industry: There are more construction professionals talking the talk than walking the walk.
Out of those surveyed for the annual report, 90% said safety was a top priority. While only 85% of executive respondents expressed this sentiment, 97% of those in office operations and 93% of those in field supervision agreed. Unfortunately, only 78% of participants said they work safely on a regular basis, and an even smaller percentage of field supervisors — 68% — could say the same. This means that only about two out of three jobsite supervisors — those directly responsible for ensuring the safest possible working conditions — are consistently working toward eliminating hazards and promoting best safety practices.
This apparent apathy on the part of so many construction professionals is disturbing for a few reasons, the report noted. First, this lack of vigilance around safety could be resulting in unnecessary jobsite accidents and injuries. In addition, contractors are scrambling for skilled workers right now, and it is widely accepted that construction companies with the best safety records and practices are more attractive to workers. In a nutshell, employees most value the employers that value them. And this, FireStarter noted, leads to better company performance.
So, then, how can management get the message across to critical field supervisors and jobsite personnel about the importance of a strict culture of safety?
Training and education is one approach. For instance, OSHA's 30-hour training course covers the basics of construction safety and leaves no doubt about the regulations that jobsite personnel are expected to follow. Contractors should reinforce and supplement what employees learned in that course with regular onsite safety meetings and site-specific training.
Another way to get across the importance of jobsite safety is to document it in a formal safety policy that everyone reads and signs off on. This should be part of every new employee's orientation prior to starting work.
Accountability is also important. Field supervisors and everyone else working in both the field and office should know they will face repercussions, including dismissal, if they don't follow the company safety policy.
Finally, the attitude of supervisors in the field starts with a display of executive buy-in. The more attention top management gives to providing a safe workplace, the more field supervisors are likely to follow suit. Some ways that executives can demonstrate that buy-in is by funding the necessary training programs, acknowledging the achievement of safety goals and ensuring that the company budget includes a line item for new and updated safety and personal protective equipment.