Striving For Excellence In Building Safety

Sound practices need to be everybody’s business

May 6, 2016

This month is Building Safety Month, as recognized by the International Code Council (ICC). The ICC describes Building Safety Month as “a public awareness campaign to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures.” Whether you work for a large building company, a small local contractor, or a global manufacturer of building products, workplace safety in the building industry should be top of mind year round. (Image: Unsplash via Pixabay) 

Even if your organization has an established culture of safety, it’s important to always seek out new and meaningful methods of keeping staff engaged.

1/ Leadership Must Be On Board

Without commitment from leadership, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to achieve and sustain an injury-free culture. The role of leadership is to set expectations, demonstrate commitment to policy, and integrate health and safety into business objectives. Leadership and management teams should also focus on incorporating health and safety into employee evaluation criteria, and then recognizing and rewarding safety successes.

We know of companies where safety performance and incidents are the first topics discussed in any leadership meeting. This sends a message that safety is a core value, and it should never be pushed aside due to other pressing business items. Make sure that all injuries are reported to the leadership team, including the CEO, within 24 hours.

2/ Employees Must Be Engaged in the Effort

While it’s up to leadership teams to instill the core values and principles within the company, you also need employees to be involved in the safety effort. It should not only be expected—it should be required.

Establish a safety committee Encourage company-wide employee involvement so that all departments are represented. If there is not a safety manager on every shift, there should be one person from the safety committee to reiterate safety policies.

Encourage employees to participate in hazard identification. If they see something on a job site that causes a hazard, encourage them to fix it. If the safety hazard is outside of their control, encourage them to report it to a safety manager. Take before and after pictures of the resolved safety issue and display them in a central location for employees to see. This involvement generates excitement and shows employees that they play an important role in creating a safe work environment.

3/ Increased Reporting is The Goal

Reporting and tracking injury rates is a crucial component of improving workplace safety, but how you go about tracking these instances is important. True, it’s possible to drive injury rates down by instilling fear in employees, but this ultimately causes them to under-report minor accidents or near misses. When employees fail to report these smaller instances it leads to a buildup of inadequate safety measures, which may then turn into a larger, far more serious incident.

Create an open atmosphere for reporting. Encourage employees to relay the near misses.

• Make sure that employees understand the value of reporting these instances, no matter how large or small.

• Initiate a system for anonymous behavioral observations in order to improve safety training efforts. This essentially involves an employee taking a five-minute “snapshot” of how someone else is performing his or her job. When conducting behavioral observations, there should be no names taken. Behavioral observations are anonymous and turned in to the safety supervisor.

Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley once said, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” Achieving excellence in your safety program will not happen overnight. It takes commitment and continual performance measurement. Although Building Safety Month is a designated time to promote awareness around the topic, workplace safety should be considered a continuous path toward creating the safest environment possible.



Keith Harned is the Director of Health and Safety for LP Building Products. He has over twenty-five years of experience in occupational safety, health and environmental affairs, including work in the construction, chemical, wood products and textile industries. 



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