ABC of Wisconsin is celebrating Construction Safety Week May 7-11. Visit www.constructionsafetyweek.com for advice on engaging your team with an event guide, toolbox talks, messages to share and more ideas to promote safety as an industry priority.

By Don Moen

If you own or manage a construction company, you likely have a lot on your mind, from hiring employees to managing projects to paying bills. One thing that probably isn’t top on your list is implementing safety policies and procedures. While no one would blame you for overlooking safety, that doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

When you fail to put safety measures in place at your business, you run the risk of losing everything you have spent so many years to build. That’s because one on-the-job accident can end up costing you a tremendous amount of money.

So how can you keep your jobsite safe when you know little to nothing about implementing safety procedures? Chances are you will probably need to enlist help, and ABC of Wisconsin is here to assist you in making sure that you and your workers are protected in the case of an incident/accident. 

While you may believe you cannot afford such an investment, here are some important reasons why you cannot afford NOT to:

  1. Even small injuries cost big money. According to the Department of Labor, if an employee has a lost time accident on the job, the business owner can be looking at nearly $100,000 in direct and indirect costs.
  2. Insurance doesn’t cover everything. If you are counting on your insurance plan to pick up the tab, think again. Insurance carriers usually cover only a portion of the costs associated with on-the-job injuries.
  3. Worker compensation costs skyrocket after just one injury. If you think worker compensation insurance is high now, just wait – until you have an accident. Just one claim can cause a huge spike in your premium.
  4. Injuries hurt more than an individual. A good reputation is something that takes years to build, but only seconds to destroy. When people are injured at your site because you didn’t do what was necessary to keep them safe, you can bet people are going to question your judgement.

Being an owner is exciting and can be very lucrative. However, it also brings with it a responsibility to keep your workers safe. And while it may be tough to shell out money for things like safety audits and training, it is well worth the money. Studies repeatedly show that employees that feel safe at work are more productive than those who do not. This means that investing in worker safety will pay off in more ways than one!

So, how do you benefit from safety training? It is an important question – especially since most contractors do the math and figure that losing 10 to 30 hours of labor multiplied by the number of people who need the training can become an awfully big expense. But, if something were to go wrong with no training records on file, the expense would be even greater. Furthermore, federal law requires that all employees are trained on the hazards they face prior to work commencing.

Many construction managers, general contractors, and sub-contractors are now requiring every employee to receive at least a 10-hour OSHA Outreach Training card, and each management team member to receive at least a 30-hour OSHA Outreach Training card. An argument can be made that if a customer isn’t requiring OSHA Outreach training, that a program designed specifically for your organization may be more effective. And in certain cases, this argument could hold true. However, if you are just starting or developing your safety program, OSHA Outreach Training is a great first step for knowledge and awareness to the hazards out there.

Clearly, your company can’t afford to skip out on safety training. Luckily, safety training can be completed via open enrollment classes, or you can schedule a class at your facility or project. Safety training is a wise investment, so set up training for your employees today.

Now that you have training, what about developing a world-class safety program to ensure your company stays on the continuous path to safety excellence? Until now, relatively few studies have been conducted on the correlation between the use of measures companies can take to keep workers safe on jobsites (leading indicators), and the number of incidents/accidents and injuries that occur (lagging indicators). Thus, to quantify the positive impact of proactive injury and hazard elimination programs on the jobsite, we gathered data from STEP participants in construction, then analyzed the aggregated data from STEP to determine how measures taken to prevent incidents actually improve lagging indicator performance.

From this data, we found STEP to be a great safety benchmarking and improvement tool which you as a member can use to measure your safety programs and policies. STEP is a 20 Key Component detailed questionnaire to help you meet your goal of implementing and/or enhancing safety programs that reduce jobsite incident rates. From STEP, now apply ABC’s world-class processes to improve safety performance regardless of company size or type of work and you have the ultimate in safety programs.

Our model for a world-class safety program utilizes STEP and contains the following elements:

  1. A new-hire safety orientation between 200-250 minutes in length that, in addition to the “traditional” safety topics (company policies and procedures, 29 CFR 1926 compliance requirements, PPE use, etc.), incorporates a cultural indoctrination led by the highest levels of senior leadership to reinforce that safety is a core value and above all else in the decision-making process.
  2. A site-specific safety orientation process regardless of company size or work type designed not only to introduce employees to specific requirements, hazards and work schedules on the site, but also to reinforce the culture and core values established during the new-hire orientation.
  3. Toolbox talks or other short-duration, topic-specific safety training conducted, at a minimum, on a weekly basis for all employees but, ideally, on a daily basis in order to reinforce safe operating procedures and concepts among all employees.
  4. Near-miss/near-hit tracking that includes a clear definition of what constitutes a near-miss/hit, education for all employees on how to conduct near-miss observations and encouragement/incentive to report them, and a root cause analysis method that is applied to each near-miss/hit case in order to determine cause and future abatement/elimination processes.
  5. Site safety committees that meet regularly, whose makeup is representative of the jobsite and who is empowered to provide feedback to management on safety policies and procedures in an open exchange of ideas.
  6. A substance abuse program with clearly-defined testing procedures and consequences, distributed to all employees and regularly revisited to ensure that all applicable local, state and federal statues are followed.

ABC’s STEP data provides a clear picture of what world-class safety looks like. Analysis of each of the 20 Key Components’ scores against lagging indicator performance will continue to provide statistical evidence of how individual elements of a safety program contribute to performance. Combined with the resources developed by ABC and the construction industry, you will be able to identify and develop elements of your safety program to improve your lagging indicator performance further.

All of us in the construction industry have a moral obligation to protect ourselves and each other, to ensure that anyone who sets foot on our jobsites does so in the safest manner possible. Through this analysis, and by identifying the elements that lead to improved safety performance, we can achieve our ultimate goal – to send every single construction employee home in the same ­– or better – condition than which they arrived, every day.

Don Moen is the human resources and safety director of Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin.