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How to Foster a Culture of Site Safety in Construction

Despite health and safety being a staple of
every company’s policies and procedures, accidents and injuries at work are
still commonplace. HSE (Health and Safety Executive) recently published the
results of the annual labour force survey, which revealed that
between 2017 and 2018, there were 555,000 injuries at work. 144 of them were
fatal.

But what about industries that consider safety
to be at the centre of their work?

As it stands, the construction industry
contributes to a large number of recorded workplace injuries. In fact, HSE
found that an estimated 58,000 cases of work-related injury
occurred between 2017 and 2018. Around 2.6% of construction workers suffered an
injury in this time, roughly 50% higher than the average of 1.8% across all
industries.

Below, industry experts at Vizwear explore
what it is that construction companies are doing wrong and how you can create a
positive safety culture in your business.

How can poor health and safety
affect your business?

Having a bad culture of health and safety hits
your profits as hard as it does your reputation.

In the construction industry alone, around 2.4
million working days were lost between 2017 and 2018 due to workplace injury
and illness. To put that statistic into perspective, that’s the equivalent of
10,000 construction workers being absent from work for a full year.

These absences add up to a staggering £1.06
billion loss, accounting for 7% of the total cost across all industries (£14.9
billion).

What are the signs of poor health
and safety?

If you’re concerned that your own health and
safety policies aren’t up to standard, there are a number of signs you can look
out for:

  • Poor accident reporting – If your team aren’t
    properly reporting and logging accidents in the workplace, then nothing can be
    done to prevent it from happening again in the future. Accident and injury
    books aren’t just for serious cases: they should be filled with any occurrences
    in the workplace. Your staff may not feel like their injuries aren’t worth the
    hassle, but the next time it happens, it could have more serious consequences.
  • Blame culture – If your company blames individuals
    for injuries and relies on disciplining workers for accidents, you’re promoting
    a negative view of health and safety. You may be influencing employees to avoid
    correctly reporting incidents due to a fear of being reprimanded.
  • Profitability over safety – When a company
    values profitability at a detriment to proper health and safety measures, its
    culture of site safety will inevitably suffer. This attitude will actually end
    up costing you more in the long run, as you’ll be forced to cover staff absences
    when accidents occur.
  • Lack of communication – Without openly
    communicating the reasons behind new safety measures with your employees,
    you’ll create the impression that health and safety in an afterthought. Your
    staff won’t take policies seriously and you’ll make it difficult to establish a
    positive culture of site safety.  

How to foster a culture of site
safety

When it comes to creating a successful culture
of site safety, it’s not as simple as creating new safety procedures and
calling it a job well done – business leaders need to motivate their staff to
take safety into their own hands.

Only by ensuring everyone buys into their own
safety can management be confident that their staff are taking the right
measures to cultivate a culture of site safety.

Here are a few small steps you can take to
make sure your business is optimising its culture of safety:

1.  
Communicate

A lack of communication can hamper any
attempts to develop your culture of workplace safety.  Being open and honest with your employees
about why new changes are being implemented at work is the easiest way to help
them understand the necessity.

The more transparent you are as a manager, the
more likely your staff will help health and safety updates run smoothly.
However, it’s not just about communicating changes to your team: all current
health and safety guidelines should be easily accessible to ensure everyone
remains knowledgable and up to date.

2.  
Mental health support

Construction workers have seen a serious
problem with the condition of their mental health which has been a continuous
issue for the industry over the years. Whether it’s depression, anxiety or
stress, the industry suffered 14,000 cases between 2017 and 2018.

If you’re making strides to improve your
culture of site safety, it’s crucial to work towards aiding your staff’s mental
health. By providing further education and creating an environment that
employees feel safe to open up and speak their mind, your workers will develop
their own support system to protect each other’s mental health and wellbeing.

3.  
Lead by example

It goes without saying that if an employee
knows that their manager doesn’t care whether health and safety procedures are
followed, then they’re not going to follow them. This toxic behaviour will
quickly disintegrate any attempt to create a culture of site safety.

When it comes to safety, you need to walk the
walk. Show your team how important it is to adhere to safety standards by
following them to the letter yourself. Your employees are far more likely to
follow in your footsteps than to just take your word for it.

4.  
Training

Making sure your team is fully trained in site
safety is crucial to ensure that workers are fully knowledgable in safety
procedures. With the correct training, you’ll have peace of mind that they know
how to perform their jobs safely and correctly.

Review key training sessions and organise
refresher courses often to reinforce key safety issues. With a fully trained
team of safety experts at your disposal, your employees will be able to spot
potential hazards before they become accidents.

5.  
Reporting

Of the estimated 58,000 workplace injuries
between 2017 and 2018, only 4,919 were officially reported; meaning over 90% of
non-fatal injuries were left unreported.

Reporting incidents shouldn’t be something
that employees fear or feel uncomfortable doing. You need to make it clear to
your employees that accident reporting isn’t an excuse to scold but rather to
find out what caused an injury and what can be done to prevent it from
happening in the future. By making proper reporting a core value of your
worker’s job description, it will become like second nature to them.

Incentivising accident reports through prizes
or monetary bonuses is a common action that managers take but the results may
be counterintuitive. Safety incentive programs become routine and many
employees become entitled; believing they deserve rewarding for carrying out
their jobs.

Rather than trying to ‘buy’ your staff with
incentives, allow them to set their own safety goals. Employees are more likely
to respond positively to working towards their team’s own targets, rather than
those set by executives who may be out of touch with their day-to-day
operations.

6.  
Get the team involved

As site safety affects everyone, it’s only
right that your employees should get to help shape your culture. The more you
give your staff the opportunity to participate in safety initiatives, the more
likely they are to adhere to precautions.

By running regular safety seminars, your team
can voice their own safety concerns. This open style of contribution gives
workers the chance to help implement safety changes that affect their own
roles, making them much more likely to follow them and encourage others.

How to manage change

Now that you’ve got an idea of some of the
ways you can change your businesses safety culture for the better, you can
start implementing. However, it’s not just a case of putting on a training
session and expecting to see results. To develop a genuinely progressive
culture of site safety, you need to be always aware of what health and safety
measures are in place and what needs to change.

Following the generic model of change, you can
see how it relates to your business and how it refers to successful safety
culture:

  1. Recognise the need for change – This is the moment you realise that your current health and
    safety standards aren’t cutting it and that improvements need to be made.
  2. Diagnose what needs to change – At this stage, you’ll pinpoint specifically which health and
    safety measures and issues are causing problems for your business.
  3. Plan for, and prepare to change – With your problems discovered, you’ll then design exactly what
    you need to do to improve and how you’ll do it.
  4. Implement the change – This
    is when all your planning and preparation comes into place and you put
    into place the solution to the problems you discovered.
  5. Sustain the change – Often
    neglected, this stage is one of the most important. This is where you need
    to ensure your initiatives are followed and the culture of site safety
    you’ve created remains at a high level.

Each stage of this model plays a vital role in
developing your company’s culture, but the ability to recognise the need for
change and sustaining change are the most crucial. With these two steps, you’ll
always be aware of the safety standards in the workplace and will be striving
to make sure current policies are followed.

“Health and safety in the construction
industry isn’t something that can be ignored and picked up later,” says Daniel
Ure from online PPE retailer Vizwear, “it’s a vital part of everyone’s day
to day work.”

“By keeping workers up to date with safety
procedures, health and safety will become a natural part of their roles, rather
than something they need to remember. When your staff become more aware,
they’ll take fewer risks and make sure any accidents are logged: two simple
ways that will keep everyone safer in the future.”

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