By John Mielke

I’m sure you’ve heard or used the clichés, “safety is no accident” or “safety first.” There are hundreds of safety adages like it. While they may be used with well intentions, Psychologist and Trainer, Rob Long, PhD., says the use of safety language like this is meaningless. It dumbs down our safety culture and distracts us from taking safety seriously.

Lift photoWorkplace safety is a very serious issue, but it never actually comes first, Long argues. If safety were placed as a priority ahead of production, most companies would be out of business. Long says when absolute language is used on this serious issue, it has the potential to be viewed as “spin” by employees who won’t take it seriously. Obviously, the odds of safety incidents rise with dismissive employee attitudes about safety.

More importantly, it’s the culture that matters more than words used. This culture starts at the top with you. You can’t just talk about it either. For employees to truly take safety seriously, leaders must lead by showing they practice good safety habits, effectively communicating safety procedures, offering training to all employees, establishing accountability and rewarding success. Culture is more of a system -- or the way things are done in your workplace – rather than a program.

Sure, you can have a program in place with the intention of preventing injuries or loss of life, but “programs” can be disregarded and lead to complacency. Safety culture is more about mindset, attitudes and behaviors of everyone on the jobsite.

Unless you’ve had your head buried in an OSHA 1926 Construction Manual all year, you know we’ve experienced significant safety activity in 2017. You may have heard OSHA fines and citations have skyrocketed 50 to 75 percent this year. Also, OSHA began a new tracking system of workplace injuries and illnesses. By now you’ve heard about OSHA’s new Respirable Silica Standards for construction and about the Associated Builders and Contractor's Safety Training Evaluation Process (STEP) to put you on a solid path to new safety goals.

With more than just simply words, Associated Builders & Contractors is stressing the importance of safety every day, and providing the tools necessary for contractors to change the company mindset into safety culture, which is sure to improve your odds of avoiding costly injuries to your workers and big compliance penalties in the future.

John Mielke is president of ABC of Wisconsin. He can be reached at jmielke@abcwi.org