Every construction leader strives to improve job site safety, but actually achieving it requires vision, compassion, and careful planning. Executing successful safety programs begins with leaders who care about the well-being of their workers.
Safety is about more than just checklists of best practices. In fact, it starts with organizations creating a culture of safety from the inside out. Leaders must be flexible enough to adapt to changing realities on the ground while providing their people with the resources, tools, and education necessary to ensure safety programs work.
At Procore’s recent on-demand webinar, How Industry Leaders are Shaping the Future of Safety Through Culture, construction leaders gathered to discuss critical safety issues facing construction today, best practices for creating a safer job site, and the technology that is helping them build a strong safety culture.
Safety starts with better Communication
Communication and relationship building are key starting points for improving job site safety.
This means leaders must work to break down the barriers between management and employees in the field to create more personal connections.
“If you’re sitting in a safety meeting staring out at a group of 20 field employees and all you see is a group of carpenters, a group of laborers, a group of cement masons, you’re doing it wrong,” said Rob Graham, CSP, CIH, Vice President, National Corporate Safety, McCarthy Building Companies.
“What you should see is: that’s Tony whose kids play T-ball just like my kids do; this is Christine, who just went on a camping trip this previous weekend,” added Graham.
Establishing closer relationships creates an environment where workers feel they can freely communicate with the leadership team. This not only lets them know their company cares about their personal safety, but it also shows them that they play a critical role in ensuring a safer job site for everybody.
“I find when people are psychologically feeling safe, they’re more likely to share their concerns and ideas,” said Frances Khattar, HR/HSE Manager, Mono Constructions.
By opening up two-way communication between management and workers in the field, the groundwork is in place upon which you can build a culture of safety.
“Communication is the lifeblood of any project. How well that information is being shared and how well you’re overcoming challenges and addressing issues is really a key indicator of how your project is going to go,” explained Sasha Reed, Director, Industry Advancement, Procore.
Safety should be part of a company’s mission
Company culture isn’t merely a byproduct; it’s not something that just happens or that you can manifest through policy procedure. Culture requires intentionality to establish and consistency to maintain.
Construction leaders said they’re improving job site safety by creating a culture of safety that ties directly into everything their company does.
“Safety is part of our main mission, and we communicate that openly with our staff. We set out our core values, we make them clear, but we also live by them,” explained Khattar. “Safety is a criterion on which we gauge success.”
Secure buy-in both up and down the chain of command
Another part of creating a culture of safety is a continuous evaluation of policies and procedures, throwing out what doesn’t work and elevating things that do.
“If you’re passionate about safety, you’ll be constantly looking for that little tweak you can make to make your program better, get more buy-in from your people, and make sure everyone’s safe,” said Ryan Berkhouse, Vice President of Construction Safety, The NRP Group.
Securing buy-in both up and down the chain of command is an essential component of developing a culture of safety.
“You’ve got to establish that their safety is the most important thing to you. You won’t get that from posting a poster on a gate workers see when they walk through. It’s something everybody in the company needs to understand.”Rob Graham, CSP, CIH, Vice President, National Corporate Safety, McCarthy Building Companies.
Technology’s Role in Worker Safety
Technology has played a key role in helping construction leaders identify potential safety issues and address them more effectively. The webinar panelists detailed how their companies are using Procore to help them get a better handle on job site safety.
Procore is the primary solution Mono Constructions uses for its safety management system. It utilizes features like Inspections, Observations, Forms, and Incidents to empower every team member to safely identify, report on, and manage potential hazards.
“Procore’s created this visibility for us and has given us the ability to draw data out of the inspections to be able to identify the recurring concerns or areas for improvement and how we can draw from it to improve our safety programs and systems.”Frances Khattar, HR/HSE Manager, Mono Constructions
McCarthy Building Companies also runs the bulk of its safety system through Procore, from compliance reporting to safety-focused toolbox talks. Using data extracted from Procore, the company created a safety dashboard for visibility and transparency that is accessible to everyone on the team.
“It used to be an internal-facing tool, but now job sites have access to every data point, every metric. It’s made the safety inspection process more of a proactive process. Job sites now can see what’s going on in real time with their project, see data from inspections, and get in front of potential issues more quickly,” said Graham.
Mental health should also be at the forefront of safety
We’ve seen many longstanding stigmas around mental health start to dissipate in recent years. In construction, mental health and physical health are now seen as two sides of the same coin, especially when it comes to job site safety.
As part of their overall safety initiatives, more companies are shifting their focus to put employees’ mental health front and center. This has involved everything from creating new mental health support programs to making counselors available to workers to hosting mental health-focused webinars.
McCarthy Building Companies is even handing out custom-made poker chips with the phone number for a mental health hotline that’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Taking mental health more seriously has been a sea change in the construction industry. Creating an environment where workers are comfortable enough to share when they’re struggling is paramount to ensuring safety for everyone.
The COVID-19 pandemic added a layer of complexity to the challenge of addressing employee mental health, particularly in construction, as an essential business.
“We made sure everyone understood the rules, the protocols in place, and let them know that we were there to support them with anything they needed,” said Berkhouse.