Five Tips for a Great Safety Program | Allan Myers

Five Tips for a Great Safety Program

by: Mark Smith & Bryan Schwartz

Four workers are fatally injured every day in today’s construction industry. As a construction business leader, is this statistic acceptable to you?

Almost 100 percent of contractors would say it’s unacceptable—and it’s time for the industry to make a change for the better.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, eliminating the “fatal four” leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites—falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between—would save 435 workers’ lives in America every year.

Safety needs to not just be a goal, but a mindset of intolerance to any injury occurrence. Contractors should follow these five tips to help establish a proactive safety culture.

1. Show Genuine Concern
Making safety part of the company’s corporate philosophy will foster a culture of genuine care, concern and respect for all workers. Employers must focus on sending employees home safely to their families each night.

For a safety culture to exist, it must be adopted from the top down. Managers must lead by example. Leadership training should teach managers how to communicate care and concern for employees who are engaged in at-risk behaviors.

Through safe work habits, elevated awareness and a shared belief that everyone’s safety is everyone’s responsibility, employers can achieve amazing safety results. Employers should provide “stop work authorization” to all employees, allowing them to call out unsafe work conditions or practices.

2. Make Safety Everyone’s Responsibility
Hiring safety professionals is essential. The Construction Industry Institute considers it a best practice to have a 76:1 ratio of field employees to safety professionals. Safety professionals should be assigned directly to project teams to act as consultants and provide coaching and guidance.

Also, hiring employees that do not present safety risks can help prevent injuries and ensure a culture of safety. Be proactive and conduct extensive reviews of potential candidates once job offers are made, including drug and alcohol testing, criminal background checks and job function testing to determine that the potential employee can perform the essential functions of the job.

Provide new-hire safety training and pay special attention to new employees when they first start on a job. For example, new employees can be given a green hard hat to wear for their first 90 days so other employees can readily identify them in the field—helping the entire team prevent jobsite injuries.

3. Leverage Technology
Technology can play an important role in managing a safety program. Arming safety professionals and project teams with technology such as iPads can help them easily conduct their weekly safety reviews and enable safety module training videos to be used during morning huddles. Foremen can use iPads to take pictures and videos of hazards to share immediately with project teams, allowing them to develop real-time solutions to reduce the risk of an incident or injury.

Furthermore, by capturing data in safety applications, employers can track, trend and benchmark employee injuries and other safety data. This information can serve as a guide when creating or modifying safety policies and procedures, and when developing training programs.

4. Find a Trusted Insurance Carrier and Medical Provider
Establish strict policies to ensure safety and risk protection for the company. As recommended, all injuries should be reported to the company’s insurance carrier within 24 hours. The philosophy here is early intervention. The immediate investigation will seek to determine the injury’s work-relatedness and proper medical care for the injured employee.

An insurance carrier needs to be a key part of the company’s safety program. Select a carrier that is a dedicated part of the team, knows the construction industry thoroughly and develops strategies for claims resolutions. Constructors with large-deductible workers’ compensation insurance programs especially must manage their financial risk.

Establish relationships with medical providers that understand the industry. If a job site injury or illness does occur, be ready to provide detailed job descriptions to medical providers, enabling them to better treat injured or sick employees and offer light-duty, return-to-work options.

5. Adopt Health and Wellness Initiatives
With today’s challenges of an aging workforce and increasing medical costs, company health and wellness initiatives need to be tied into the safety program.

For example, as sprain/strain type injuries are the loss-leader for many construction companies, consider incorporating a morning stretching routine that engages all employees, from job sites to offices.

Employees are a construction firm’s most important commodity. With a commitment to an incident- and injury-free environment, not only will employees go home safely each night, but also the company will save money and improve the industry’s reputation.

Mark Smith, CMIOSH, is vice president of safety and claims at American Infrastructure, Inc., a heavy civil construction company in the Mid-Atlantic region. He has held the position for the past nine years and worked as a safety professional for almost four decades. He is a chartered member of the Institute of Occupational, Safety and Health and a Professional Member of ASSE. American Infrastructure specializes in site development, transportation, energy, design-build, and water-related projects, and employs more than 2,000 skilled craftsmen, equipment operators and construction professionals.

Bryan Schwartz is risk manager at American Infrastructure, Inc., a heavy civil construction company in the Mid-Atlantic region. He is responsible for the overall coordination of the insurance program and post loss objectives for the Property and Casualty program for all entities of the organization. Previously, he spent 13 years in management positions with a large risk commercial property and casualty insurer.

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