Safety Culture

Promoting Superior Performance through Wellbeing
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Since the nineteenth century, trade unions and professional organizations have played an influential role in establishing standards and laws that protect and improve the well-being of workers around the world. Workplace safety and well-being initiatives have come a long way, but there is still a great deal of work to be done.
Improvements in worker well-being and safety would not have been possible without education and advocacy. Besides a safer and healthier workforce, the benefits of these investments in the work environment include improved productivity and quality. Ultimately, these alterations provide return on investment.

It is no longer enough to be considered a product manufacturer, supplier or service provider of choice in order to attract industry-leading talent and expertise. Companies and management teams also must focus on being an employer of choice by offering improved health, safety and environment programs, worksite conditions, workers’ rights and benefits.

A culture of safety and wellness is paramount to any company’s success. Improved conditions of employment can have a direct impact on output and can have a far-reaching impact beyond the workers and the company to the consumers and the greater community.

When construction starts are at their highest, it signals economic prosperity and potential for a community. It means investments are being made that will change the physical and social landscape of a community. Jobs will be created, and wealth will be grown.

As these worksites are positioned throughout active communities, safety is not just important for the workers on site, but also for the community members who coexist alongside these spaces. A successful project is one that promotes safety from within, preventing accidents and avoiding risk where possible.

Insofar as construction is a vital investment for communities, so too is safety for the outcome and performance of the worksite, resulting in very real, measurable benefits for an employer. A safe work environment is beneficial for workers by preventing accidents and saving lives. It also bolsters a company’s success by reducing insurance premiums and production delays.

Accidents and injuries cost time and money, causing higher deductibles and damaging a company’s reputation in an industry where reputation is everything. Through improved conditions and a commitment to safety, projects can finish on time, within budget and without the added stresses of litigation, regulatory actions and damage to reputations and credibility.

Safety starts at the top with the vision and goals of upper management and ownership when they make the decision to adopt a safety-oriented approach. This commitment is then dispersed throughout the layers of the company or organization to ensure its adoption, standardization and compliance.

A culture of safety is one of the most effective ways to promote and engage workers. Whether it is the ownership, management, project manager, superintendents, foremen, labourers, or certified safety specialists, everyone has a stake in safety.

Millions of people work at hundreds of thousands of construction worksites each day across the U.S. The construction industry has some of the highest degrees of risk and a high fatal injury rate. With multiple trades working simultaneously at various stages of a project, there is a lot that can go wrong on a construction worksite.

Each day, construction workers face less serious risks related to repetitive motion injuries and issues of insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and weather. More serious injuries are caused by falls, infrastructure collapse, electric shock and arc flash and arc blast, scaffolding failures, poor hazard communication, fires and improper planning.

Construction projects must adhere to with many federal, state and local regulatory environments, but it is just as important that safety goes further than enforceable regulations to become the most important part of every day for every worker.

Though compliance-driven operations exist, there is an increasing trend in construction to adopt a more interpersonal, human approach to safety and well-being that begins before the ground is broken on a project. These programs start with extensive knowledge and understanding of risk and risk management and lead to a plan for success.

A personalized and proactive approach to health and safety eliminates risk pre-emptively on the construction site. A high standard of safety comes through an empowered team of professionals with extensive training operating within a culture of safety.

There has been a visible shift in the construction industry from past attitudes that accepted risk as inevitable part of working in construction to one where each member is engaged in safety and takes extra precautions to improve the worksite for themselves and others. Safety is often by encouraged by rewards for a job well done.

Besides adopting a safety culture, there are many precautionary measures that can be undertaken to address issues of wellbeing and safety. Creating worksites that work with optimal performance could mean that safety and quality are no longer issues but instead are guaranteed.

Having dedicated safety committees and hiring or appointing certified safety managers can assist in adopting a comprehensive safety plan. Safety professionals navigate the various levels of safety regulations and enforce standards, as well as establish internal policies and procedures.

Safety programs can be as simple as creating and completing safety checklists, ensuring the use of PPE, screening for substance abuse, offering training and holding regular safety meetings to reinforce the values and goals of the company or organization. Clear communication is a major component of a successful safety program.

It is also important for safety plans to be re-evaluated at every phase of a project. Performance should be reviewed and near misses and accidents recorded. When necessary, risk managers and experts ought to be brought in.

A great deal of effort is required to enact and sustain a safe workplace. Beyond the efforts of individual companies and workers, it takes the effort of professional organizations, trade unions and legislators to ensure that the standards, laws and resources are continually reviewed and improved to remain on the leading edge of the industry.

There is a growing awareness of the importance of balancing the work-life equation. An exceptional employer, that values the welfare of its employees, will take efforts to another level by dedicating time and resources to employee health and wellness in addition to safety.

These employers offer initiatives to quit smoking and get fit, encourage healthy eating and promote exercise during and after the workday. As well as fitness and nutrition programs, some employers also offer cancer screening and other health services to improve healthcare access.

Other initiatives can range from healthy food in the cafeteria and vending machines to bike-friendly workplaces with a change room, supporting religious observances and offering professional and personal development opportunities. There have many incentives to sustain a physically and mentally healthy workforce.

A proactive safety program with full engagement from all parties can make every difference for companies and workers alike. Safer conditions and worksite wellness programs have been proven to save lives as well as reduce injuries, sick leaves and absenteeism, healthcare-related expenses, workers’ compensation and disability claims. All of this happens in conjunction with improving productivity, morale and engagement and making for an attractive place to work. Most importantly, it helps to attract and retain highly skilled workers in a market that so desperately needs their talent.

Investments in safety and worker wellbeing translate to an improved reputation in the industry, increased credibility and an assurance that projects will be delivered. The resulting conditions can drive growth, which means that the investments are well worth it.

Delivering quality products and services depends on safety and worker wellness. An employee at the top of their game will be more productive, more positive, more engaged and will still get to go home to his or her family at the end of a shift, while the company makes money and projects are successful. It is mutually beneficial for all parties involved.



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