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    Toolwatch | May 4, 2022 

    4 Tips for Creating a Safety-Focused Culture in Construction

    Interview with Safety Reports Co-founder Steve Polich

4 Tips for Creating a Safety-Focused Culture in Construction

Everyone in the construction industry knows the importance of safety: construction is inherently dangerous work so safety must go beyond a checklist to become a cultural norm and priority that remains top of mind across the organization. But how can construction company’s engrain safety into their culture? For Construction Safety Week ToolWatch sat down with Steve Polich, a co-founder of the construction industry's leading safety solution, Safety Reports, to find out. 

Michael Hoffman: Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. In your time at Safety Reports, you’ve worked with thousands of construction companies and other organizations to deploy and systematize their safety programs. Tell us what you’ve learned about how companies can create a culture of safety, above and beyond OSHA-driven safety compliance.

Steve Polich: Thanks Michael and great question, especially during Safety Week. Every company is different, but here are 4 tips for creating a culture that prioritizes safety.

Tip 1: Focus on Employee Mental Health & Well-Being

Safety is all about the well being of your people. The company’s that create a strong culture of safety focus on their people, and not just their physical safety but their mental health and well- being also. We often don’t associate a strong safety culture with employee well-being, but they are definitely linked.

With today’s tightening workforce, employees work more hours and are under increased pressure to get the job done safely and in a timely fashion.  When the pressure becomes overbearing, it can lead to stress for some individuals, which studies have shown will negatively impact workers health.

Making sure employees feel appreciated and valued is key to combating stress.  Having a strong safety culture will benefit the health of employees and increase the productivity of the organization, which has a positive financial impact in addition to an improved safety record and overall employee satisfaction and morale. 

Tip 2: Make your Safety Program Easy for Employees 

By streamlining key safety processes such as inspections, training, and hazard assessments, an employer can have a positive impact on the company’s safety culture.  Employees often feel overwhelmed with the amount of time and effort it takes to implement daily, weekly and monthly safety tasks.  Having simple, streamlined processes will help to alleviate some of that anxiety and improve participation.

Using an electronic system (versus paper, pen and clipboard) to streamline safety tasks is a step in the right direction.  Digitizing the safety process usually means implementing a mobile solution. If you’re not using safety apps, consider doing so.  And, if you are using safety apps, make sure they’re easy to use.  The apps need to be intuitive and have a friendly user-interface.  If they’re too complicated, employees won’t use the technology and it could actually work against your goal to make safety part of your culture.

Tip 3: Utilize Modern Safety Solutions to Appeal to Younger Workers

OEDC data shows that on average the U.S. workforce has been getting younger since 2005.  Much of this can be attributable to baby boomers retiring and Millennials, Gen X, Gen Z employees entering the workforce.

We know that the vast majority of Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z workers have grown up using electronic devices.  So, it makes sense for employers to accommodate these younger workers by implementing processes that utilize apps.  

Giving employees real-time access to a centralized database, one of the biggest advantages of using mobile technology, improves worker productivity and morale.  If you’re not using mobile apps to complete safety tasks, maybe it’s time you start looking.

Tip 4: Make Safety a Priority, not just a Process

Having a strong safety culture will significantly improve your company’s safety record, and one benefit will be improved compliance with federal and state workplace requirements. This reduces liability associated with OSHA citations and penalties. So by creating a culture of safety – not just a process of ‘checking the box’ – your organization will get better compliance and much more.

For example, by documenting safety inspections, management gains access to critical data for analyzing and trending safety compliance. New technology makes this easier than ever. There are several safety apps on the market that allow one to quickly and easily upload hundreds, if not thousands, of safety observations into a database for trending and analysis. By collecting and viewing this data, you can spot non-compliant areas and take action proactively before a citation or incident can occur.

In closing, unfortunately, there’s no cookie cutter approach to implementing a strong safety culture.  It will vary from employer to employer and from one industry to another.  But, one way to measure whether or not your company has a strong safety culture is to ask your employees this simple question:  “What would happen if you didn’t wear your PPE today?”  

If they answer, “my supervisor would come down on me” or “I’d get written up”, then it’s likely you don’t have a very strong safety culture.  But, when your employees answer like this, “I could get injured”, that’s a good sign that your safety culture is strong and flourishing!

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