3 Insights on Safety Management in Construction
During a recent webinar from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), Donna Laquidara-Carr, insights research director from Dodge Data & Analytics, shared several insights from the company’s most recent SmartMarket Report on Safety Management in the Construction Industry.
While readers may feel some of the report’s findings are rudimentary, these insights offer back-to-basics reminders for a safety culture’s foundation. Included here are the top three takeaways from the presentation.
When asked what they think are the most critical elements for a company to have a world-class safety program, the 282 contractors surveyed reported that the number one element is to have regular meetings on safety with job site workers and supervisors.
“There is almost universal agreement that, when it comes to a world-class safety program, getting supervisors and job site workers engaged in regular meetings is at the top of the list,” Laquidara-Carr said.
When asked for the top ways to enhance safety training, toolbox talks remained among the top of the list with more than 80% saying toolbox talks either somewhat or significantly enhance safety training.
Nearly half of the contractors surveyed create their own toolbox talks, while 44% source them from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website, 41% from contractor’s associations, 31% from insurance companies, and 26% from suppliers, vendors and manufacturers. Don’t forget that AsphaltPro magazine offers toolbox tips, which often include safety topics, every Monday. You can subscribe to that free newsletter at www.TheAsphaltPro.com.
Safe Work Sites Improve Employee Retention
Most contractors surveyed agreed that their safety programs provide positive benefits in terms of their standing in the industry, ability to negotiate better insurance terms, willingness of job site workers to report unsafe working conditions, and ability to bring in new work. However, more than half see their safety programs as having a positive impact on their ability to attract and retain employees.
“In the current environment, the ability to attract new workers and retain the ones you have are becoming increasingly more critical business factors,” Laquidara-Carr said.
When asked what most influences them when setting up a training program, one third of respondents said the level of experience of their workers is among their most important motivations. “With the issues the construction industry faces attracting workers, this will be an interesting one to keep an eye on.”
Company Size Matters
“There is a distinct pattern that large companies are doing most of these safety practices quite frequently and smaller companies are doing them less frequently,” Laquidara-Carr said. For example, 74% of large companies surveyed had a formal process for safety-related corrective action, compared to 46% for midsize and 27% for small companies.
Although Laquidara-Carr acknowledged that small companies may not have the resources available to do as much as larger companies, she said there are non-resource intensive tactics smaller companies could use to improve safety. One example she offered is giving supervisors the authority to call an audible when unsafe conditions are observed.“[T]his isn’t something resource-driven that smaller companies could more widely adopt,” she said.
Additionally, smaller companies who invest in technology to promote safety may be more agile than larger companies implementing the same technology. “When it comes to technology, if smaller companies can make the investment, they can also be more agile in the way they implement that technology,” Laquidara-Carr said.
Several of the technologies the report has identified as “emerging” could have a positive impact on safety. This includes remotely controlled equipment, wearable sensors, virtual reality for training and predictive analytics. Although roughly one in 10 respondents currently use these technologies, around 15% plan to begin using them in the next three years. In a case study from the survey, The Boldt Company has been using predictive analytics to get a bigger picture of safety issues instead of looking at events as a series of incidents, and has seen its worker’s compensation costs cut by 75% and a 10% reduction in total accident rate.
According to the survey, 63% of contractors currently use some form of online training. Of those who use online training, one third said this has increased over the past year and 41% say they plan to increase their use of online training in the next three years. “Those using online training still don’t feel like they’ve tapped its full potential,” Laquidara-Carr said. Of those who don’t currently use online training, 24% said they plan to begin using it in the next three years.
Check out AsphaltPro Magazine’s Asphalt Paving 101 course for back-to-basics available online. For an asphalt-specific safety course online, NAPA and ARTBA developed the CrewSafety: Work Zone Training course.
That’s a Good Idea
KHS&S Contractors shared a unique safety idea in a case study included in the report. The company created a series of icons and symbols for hazards and work conditions and placed stickers with these icons on job site drawings. These stickers are also used on the employee’s hardhats to indicate the types of safety training they’ve had. “That makes it very easy for a supervisor to pick who to put in what sections because they can quickly see who has the proper training to deal with the hazards they’re likely to encounter there,” Laquidara-Carr said.