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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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