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Pro-Active and Practical Are the Keys to Construction Safety in the New Economy

Originally posted July 01, 2013 by Jack Rubinger on http://www.duralabel.com

With 189,000 new jobs added in the last 12 months (per the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the construction industry is recovering rapidly. But new workers may mean less knowledge and awareness of potential danger and more accidents. We talked to several construction companies to learn what they’re doing to get those workers up to speed in the area of safety.

Safety suggestions have to be practical and targeted. Supervisors and workers don’t want to be bogged down with excessive policies or be offered information that’s beyond their particular scope of work. If you’re pouring concrete, you’re not interested in gas.

A good safety program is simple to use and supports the people it is designed to support, not one that simply shields the company from liability. Safety is not just a top-down mission; it’s the responsibility of every person on the construction team.

“Every project, every day, presents safety challenges,” said Michelle Potter, safety director at Walsh Construction Company in Portland, Oregon. “It doesn’t matter how many times you have built a similar project; the risks are always there. The biggest challenge is keeping the safety message fresh, keeping employees engaged, and understanding the issues they face.” Walsh Construction was awarded the John D. Spellman Safety Award in 2013.

Rich Duncan Construction, also based in Portland, supports new employees with OSHA training, equipment operation and competent person-testing.

“New employees must adhere to all safety standards and are required to stay under the direct supervision of the project manager or project superintendent during their orientation process,” said RDC’s Scott Jackson, project manager and safety officer. “New and returning subcontractors are required to attend weekly onsite toolbox meetings to review all safety procedures pertaining to that project.”

At Portland-based Hoffman Construction, new workers receive on-the-job mentoring and are identified by their hardhats, which are marked with red vinyl labels. Two weeks later, when not they’re not rookies anymore, the red Xs are removed.

According to Rene Querido, owner of Alberta, Canada-based SafetyGroup.ca, if you want to get the safety buy-in from workers, take some classic advice inspired by Dale Carnegie. In a nutshell, start with the good. Compliment before you criticize.

“The more of a compliment you give a worker and the higher up the totem pole you are, the greater the impact and positive reinforcement. Pick a task they are doing and find something good about it,” he said.

Examples

  • “I really appreciate how you are using your safety glasses with that blower.”
  • “That’s awesome how you have set your table saw blade height as low as possible in case your hand slips on it.”

Querido looks for good practices taking place onsite first and leads with that when delivering constructive criticism to students. As he says: there is always someone you can praise, always something you can use to make someone feel good. You won’t believe the results you will see in a very short time.