Greg Andress
Greg Andress

Workplace sustainability seeks to maintain a safe, functional and healthy work environment—concepts most contractors would certainly agree are vital to success.

But workplace sustainability has not traditionally been integrated into broader conversations about economic and social sustainability. This results in lost opportunities, not only for workers, but also for the business, for stakeholder engagement and supply chain improvement. Let’s start with some basics:

  • Contractors who keep workplace sustainability on the back burner will eventually put their organizations at financial risk due to the expense of accidents and illness. 
  • Workplace sustainability is central to getting projects done more profitably and successfully. Workers who know their jobs, know how to use their equipment properly and understand lifting and body mechanics consistently outperform those who don’t. Poor performance results in project delays and, ultimately, reduced profitability.
  • Healthy, productive workers create organizations that are more likely to land bigger and more profitable contracts—and that’s of great interest to investors and other stakeholders. A growing number of clients are attracted to contractors who can document a positive track record of sustainable workplaces.

But there’s more:

  • Workplace sustainability supports innovation. Labor costs are often estimated at nearly 25% of total project costs, so it makes good business sense to support this investment. The resultant worker engagement creates opportunities for innovation on the jobsite, not only for worker health and safety, but also efficiency.
  • Recruitment and retention efforts will improve. Members of today’s construction workforce recognize the value of safe, environmentally sound workplaces.

Here’s a list of best practices to promote workplace sustainability:

  • Do your homework. Review your operations to identify which practices create the greatest threats to workplace sustainability, worker well-being and profitability.
  • Consider hiring a third-party expert to evaluate the safety components of jobsites. Consultants can bring a wide range of experience and best practices to the organization. Take the time to develop a workplace sustainability vision, strategy and plan that evolves along with the industry.
  • Provide good training and equipment. Ongoing training is vital; don’t just train your employees when they’re new. Look for opportunities to teach them about new techniques and equipment.
  • Walk the walk. Staff need to see management commitment, not just hear the words. Show what you’re saying by what you do.
  • Establish effective lines of communication. Sometimes, the size of the construction firm can be a two-edged sword. But no matter what size firm you operate, know which forms of communication are most effective for you and seek more effective ways to connect.
  • Encourage personal responsibility. When employees feel responsible for maintaining a safe working environment, they’ll invest in its success. Acknowledge or reward those who strive to execute your safety strategy on a regular basis.

When everyone assumes responsibility for a sustainable workplace, business performance improves, as does the bottom line and worker satisfaction.