Try these Low Cost Ways to Improve Construction Safety

(2011-08-25)


TRY THESE LOW COST WAYS TO IMPROVE CONSTRUCTION SAFETY

Some construction firms may view safety programs as just another cost center,

something to cut back on during tough economic times. This belief is mistaken

for two reasons. First, by helping to lower Workers Compensation costs and

uninsured costs, and by helping to attract good employees, effective safety

programs actually increase profits. Second, safety efforts do not have to be

expensive. With some simple management adjustments, contractors can make

their job sites safer without spending a great deal of money.

Perhaps the most effective lowcost

way to improve safety is to involve the people

who could get hurt. If managers are not tapping the intelligence and creativity of their employees when solving work

problems, they are wasting valuable resources. If a supervisor orders an employee to do something, the worker may

do it, but his commitment may be superficial. Conversely, if the supervisor asks for and uses the employee's

suggestions, the employee may be more likely to adopt them enthusiastically. There may be several valid reasons

why an employee fails to use protective equipment, including:

l He might not know how to use it correctly.

l He might believe that the equipment doesn't work correctly.

l He might see coworkers

disregarding safety rules without consequences.

l He might be rewarded for not using it. For example, supervisors might praise workers for getting tasks done

quickly, even if the workers disregard safety rules.

l He might be punished for using it. For example, obeying safety rules might slow him up so much that he has

to work through breaks to finish on time.

Some of these reasons relate to supervisors' attitudes; if supervisors give workers incentives to obey safety rules, the

workers are more likely to follow them. However, some can be corrected with employee input. The employee may

report that a safety harness, while effective at keeping him from falling off a roof, makes it difficult for him to move

building materials around the roof. In collaboration, the worker and the supervisor may be able to think of ways to

work around the problem. Because he played a role in developing the solution, the worker is more likely to apply it

and may even suggest to his coworkers

that they do the same.

One very effective way to increase employee acceptance of safety measures is to create a safety committee made

up only of nonsupervisory

employees. The committee should meet at regular intervals to review injury reports and

reports of incidents that almost resulted in injuries, identify the causes of these incidents, and recommend corrective

measures. Members should suggest recommendations based on their own personal experiences on job sites.

Managers should review all recommendations to see how they fit within existing procedures; it may be necessary to

change procedures.

During meetings where the supervisor distributes assignments for the day's work, he should ask the workers whether

they have found safety issues that need attention. He should also review the procedures for safe completion of the

task. For this to be effective, workers must feel free to speak up and managers must acknowledge their opinions.

Although it is important that managers take workers' safety recommendations seriously, workers must also

remember the company's bottom line. Unreasonably expensive tools and changes will hurt workers' credibility and do

nothing to improve working conditions. Conversely, if workers make thoughtful suggestions, managers have an

obligation to take them seriously. If they do not, workers will lose trust in them. By working together and

communicating well, both workers and managers can achieve the ultimate goal: A profitable company where all can

work in safe conditions.