In Australia, the construction industry has the third most fatalities country wide. While the number of deaths has decreased in the last ten years, the industry continues to be above average for fatalities and has the second highest number of worker’s compensation claims for serious injuries.
For companies, this means that providing a safe site for workers should not only be a necessity, but a true priority across the business. Beyond just worker safety, there are also significant competitive advantages for companies who do this, allowing them to not only save money but increasing project delivery, improving recruitment standards and growing company perceptions through the industry.
But how can companies do this? While there are many ways to improve site safety, we think these three factors combined can drive the greatest change.
Create a Culture of Safety
One of the most significant factors to negatively impact on safety is when your culture does not support it. Sadly, this is true of many organisations who believe that simply talking about safety once a project is enough, offering only lip service to the issue. In this scenario, workers will pick up on the attitude and are unlikely to change their behaviours.
Instead, it is necessary for companies to truly create a culture of safety to promote change. This will mean many different things to different companies, but the process for improvement is remarkably similar across the board.
First, evaluate the processes and procedures you currently have around safety. Do they address the real risks in your organisation? Do they cover the full range of situations workers might find themselves in? Do they include action points to ensure ongoing safety assessments?
Chances are, this evaluation will reveal holes in even the most robust policies. If that’s the case, take the time to address these shortcomings by talking to as many people as possible across the organisation about their experiences. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a committee that invites a variety of individuals to join, ensuring that you also include a portion of high-level executives who can influence other employees.
When creating these new policies, focus on making them easy to understand and actionable. Your aim here is to make it clear to all employees what is expected of them. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re well on your way.
Empower Workers to Speak Up
As an extension of your culture of safety, you need to ensure that everyone in your company shares the responsibility for safety and feels empowered to speak up.
Whether it is your head office staff, subcontractors or apprentices on site, you need to create both policies and situations that encourage people to voice their concerns. Even more so, you should support workers to act in situations where they feel unsafe or are worried about the safety of co-workers.
To do so, make sure there are strict procedures in place for both accidents and near misses. Reinforce the company belief that every situation should be reported and work with managers to make sure this information is being passed up as necessary. You can also consider starting a program that rewards workers who do speak up. It is also important to not punish workers who don’t do the right thing – instead, react by introducing more training and view each situation as a chance to improve your policies in the future.
Invest in Innovation
It is often said that construction companies are slow to adopt the latest technologies. However in our experience, this is less that individuals are unwilling to try technology and more that they simply don’t know the options that exist.
Vanguard Wireless specialises in creating wireless safety alert systems that utilise innovative technology to improve emergency response times. From erasing the needs for repeaters and relying on wireless technology to increase connectivity and flexibility, we also have unique features such as a smartphone app that controls your system and two-way communication to alert an injured worker help is on the way. Paired together, this technology can have a significant positive impact on your site, but many companies simply don’t know it’s available.
One of the other things that surprises many people is the ability of technology to provide data. While it is unlikely this will prevent an accident, it can demonstrate trends and allow companies to better create policies that address real concerns on site. For example, if accidents always occur towards the end of the project it might indicate that workers will frequently become apathetic about safety when they feel familiar with a site or that they may feel pressure to meet deadlines. With this knowledge, companies can put processes in place to adjust project deadlines or offer more safety briefings during this time period.