A strong safety culture is one where managers lead by example. Workers feel comfortable reporting unsafe conditions. And it’s also an environment where everyone is accountable for safety. Knowing just how true this is, Dodge Data & Analytics sorted through a great deal of data to uncover the best ways companies can create a culture of safety. Their study was specific to the construction industry, and the findings were captured in the SmartMarket Report called Building a Safety Culture: Improving Safety and Health Management in the Construction Industry. In that report, the authors looked at the top indicators of a strong safety culture, including:
- Management Commitment to Safety and Health
- Safety and Health Upheld as Company Values
- Accountability for Safety and Health
- Worker Involvement in Job site Safety and Health
- Supervisory Leadership
- Effectiveness of Communication About Safety & Health
- Owner Involvement in Safety (1)
Here’s what you should know about these 7 indicators and how they can drive a culture of safety:
1. Management Commitment to Safety and Health
What are a few signs or actions that tend to indicate management is committed to safety and health? Three of them include:
- Having a formal process for safety-related corrective action
- Safety being a key part of your strategic planning
- Having a joint worker/management safety committee
There are other practices that indicate the degree of commitment management has towards safety. For example, is safety and health typically a key part of the agenda in meetings? How clear are health and safety expectations? How involved in management in safety and health meetings on a jobsite? What percentage of projects practice prevention through design? And what percentage of projects use safety and health data for improvement? (1)
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2. Safety and Health Are Upheld as Company Values
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81% of respondents in the research reported that their company values safety and health at least as much as productivity. That seems like a positive percentage, but only 57% of people surveyed said that their company recognizes and/or rewards safety and health participation. This shows an area that many companies can keep working at. Two signs that a company sees safety and health as a fundamental company value: First, when leadership encourages safety and health monitoring. Another key indicator: the degree to which safety and health are factored into each job (1).
3. Accountability for Safety and Health
There are 3 main indicators that measure the degree to which a company fosters accountability. First, how much does your company hold everyone accountable for safety? Second, are near-misses taken seriously? And are they always investigated? Last, you’re your company conduct external safety and health audits? All of these tend to indicate how accountable your company is towards safety and health standards.
4. Worker Involvement in Job Site Safety and Health
Most wouldn’t argue against workers themselves being highly engaged with their own safety. Indicators that tend to reveal more about the degree to which workers are involved with safety include:
- Encouragement for workers to be able to report unsafe conditions and near-misses
- Workers are asked for input on site safety and health conditions
- Workers have stop-work authority
- Workers involved in safety and health planning
- Workers involved in job-hazard analysis
Many companies may involve workers at times in safety planning and analysis, the authors point out. But the best-in-class companies are able to involve workers more often than not on projects. No company is perfect, but this is a good reminder to keep workers as involved as possible in all safety-related activities (1).
5. Leadership by Job Site Supervisors
When supervisors lead by example at all times and when subcontractors are monitored and mentored on safety practices, a culture of safety is being supported.
6. Effectiveness of Communication About Safety & Health
Are your policies clearly communicated with all workers? Second, are those safety and health policies communicated consistently? The report asserts how other indicators relate to the degree and type of communication around safety and health. 92% of survey respondents said some of their managers regularly engage with them one-on-one. 40% reported that most of their managers (more than 70%) do this, and nearly the same percentage (43%) find this engagement occurs at a “moderate” level within their company (1). Those results suggest that while mentoring and one-on-one meetings may exist at times, there’s an opportunity in many companies for this to be more regular and consistent.
7. Owner Involvement in Safety
Owners can be involved in safety in a number of ways. The results shown in this specific study indicated the need for this only to continue to improve for most companies. A starting point for owners or top management include both monitoring onsite safety and health, as well as participating in safety and health activities. Other key behaviors that fall under this category include:
- Showing support for safety and health audits
- Requiring safety and health pre-certification for all bidders
- Providing incentives for safety and health performance (1)
Creating a Healthier Culture
These top indicators of safety (which are specific to construction) provide a great deal of insight into the state of a company’s safety culture. They also show what kind of proactive steps a company is taking to support safety and areas where they can improve, too (1). A company’s culture is ever-evolving, and it’s always going to be in flux. That means it requires ongoing effort to uphold the right behaviors and activities to achieve (and then maintain) an excellent safety environment.
Creating a Culture of Safety—Fearlessly
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