Safety: Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean

Friday, September 18th, 2015
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Construction safety
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Over the course of many years managing onsite safety for a variety of companies in construction, the single biggest complaint I’ve heard is “They tell us that safety is the number one priority but when push comes to shove they change their tune. They say ‘Just get the job done now.’”

This kind of attitude is not only against the law in many cases but it is only making your life harder as a boss and putting you and your workers at great risk.

Safety needs a consistent, strong message and it needs actions to show that the message is real. Changing your attitude toward safety as a boss when time gets tight or the situation is difficult sets a very dangerous precedent that will land you and your workers in hot water.

I can hear you saying ‘in the real world it’s not that simple.’ This is true to a certain extent, but just imagine how far behind the project will be if someone gets hurt and there is an investigation by inspectors. Here are some suggestions that will help you to lay the foundations for a great attitude to safety on your site:

  1. Always reward safe behaviour: This sounds simple, but everyone responds to praise and reward, so make sure you point out safe behaviour. The reward can be as simple as a pat on the back and a thanks for doing it right. It’s about your workers knowing that you are taking notice of how safely they do things.
  2. Never punish safe behaviour: The surefire way to create a bad attitude toward safety on your site is to punish people for safe behaviour. Perhaps they didn’t finish the job today because they had to get a different ladder to access the roof area. You could go off at them and tell them they should have been prepared, or you could give them a pat on the back for doing the job right and safely. Even though it might be a small delay, everyone is safe and the job is done with minimal risk. That’s a win.
  3. Lead by example: This is vital to the overall success of your site in terms of safety attitude. There is no better way to show that you mean what you say than to lead by example; it gives your words more power and sets the benchmark that is accepted on site.
  4. Plan ahead: Poor planning is the single most used reason for breaching safety rules. “We didn’t realise we would need to work at heights for that little part so we just quickly jumped up and got it done” or “we ran out of hard barricading for the void so we just put up some danger tape.” This is nothing more than poor planning on everyone’s behalf, and if you allow it or encourage it as a supervisor or manager because you are under pressure, then it will cost you. Always remember ‘poor planning makes for poor performance’ and a poor performance in safety can cost lives.

So if you want a great attitude to safety on your site start walking the talk, show your workers that you mean it and that you expect them to do the same. It might sound simple, but the rewards for this type of leadership behaviour are priceless.

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