Human error is next to impossible to avoid altogether, but with livelihoods and lives on the line, your organization should be doing all it can to reduce the frequency of missteps that put the safety of your organization, subcontractors, and/or the public at risk. Not only is protecting your people the right thing to do, there is also a steep cost to your business for failing to do so: lost productivity, OSHA penalties, civil liability, increasing insurance costs, and damage to your company reputation are all serious prices to pay. Here are 4 common safety mistakes to avoid for the benefit of all your stakeholders.
1. Incomplete Plans and Procedures
Has your company performed a job hazard analysis? When was it last reviewed? If it has been a few years, new hazards may have been introduced or identified in the intervening time, and it is in your company’s best interest to review and update your job hazard analysis. If your company has never performed a job hazard analysis, now is the time to start.
Your goal should be to ensure for every safety hazard in the workplace, there is a plan or procedure in place to both reduce the likelihood of an accident and protect your employees in the event that one does occur. Fortunately, the burden of being exhaustive does not need to fall entirely on you or your team. Insurance providers, fire departments, private health and safety consultants, and even OSHA’s regional and area offices offer assistance with job hazard analysis. For more information on this topic, consult OSHA’s guide to job hazard analyses.
And while it is highly recommended that companies with complex safety environments hire outside professionals to help perform the job hazard analysis, this is also a way to increase employee engagement with your safety program. Are there aspects of their job where they feel unsafe? Have they witnessed incidents that could have resulted in harm? Their firsthand experience is an invaluable resource, and mining that data for safety plans and procedures creates a collaborative culture in which everyone has a stake in each other’s well-being.
2. Gaps in Training
You may think, because your organization is meeting the safety training requirements of regulatory agencies like OSHA and MSHA, that your training program is sufficient, but these should be viewed as minimum requirements to exceed. For one, not all safety hazards in your workplace may have mandated safety training, as may become clear following your job hazard analysis. If there is a safety risk to your employees and you have procedures to protect them, they should be trained to understand what the expectations of them are and what they can do to contribute to a culture that continues to meet those expectations.
Another common source of human error is forgetfulness. No educator worth their salt would introduce a key concept and, after one class, expect their students to not only have the concept mastered, but never need a refresher on it. Neither should you. Follow-up on all training to gauge employee comprehension and execution, then schedule future training sessions as appropriate.
Even when workers understand the safety concept and exhibit the correct behaviors, they may become complacent over time: “Do I really need to do this? What if I skipped this safety step just this once?” Repetition is a key part of learning and recall, and it should be part of your safety training program to ensure your workers continue to follow safety-related work practices. Create a schedule of refresher trainings and track when employees are due to revisit safety procedures.
3. Lack of Real-Time Data
A plan is empty without execution. Who on your team is monitoring employees to check that they are following safety procedures? How are observations documented? Tracking all incidents, trainings and other safety related events is critical for your business, but it’s a lot of work, so making the process efficient for your jobsite superintendents and your safety program managers is key. Sharing this information with relevant team members in a quick manner can mean the difference between life or death.
The best safety cultures are dynamic and responsive to safety issues in real-time. If employees ignore key safety practices, how soon can you get them back in training? If an incident reveals an unidentified safety hazard, how quickly can the hazard be addressed? Mitigating risks takes a proactive approach: the more you monitor and track, the more you can catch, and the sooner you catch it, the sooner you can act to prevent mishaps moving forward.
4. Failing to Put your Safety Priority into Action
Your entire company, from executives to employees, needs to buy-in to a culture of safety to be successful. Fortunately the construction industry does a good job overall of prioritizing safety, but determining how to effectively put that buy-in into practice can be a big challenge. If you have organizational buy-in on the importance of safety, then it’s about defining the safety program and empowering all employees with the tools and training needed to achieve a stellar safety record. For most companies, this requires dedicated resources, both people and systems. At the end of the day each company is different and an effective safety program should reflect and address the safety hazards present in your work, including ways to quickly address new hazards that emerge.
If you are interested in a centralized, easy-to-use, enterprise-wide solution for managing your safety programs, Safety Reports, a ToolWatch product, is the most comprehensive SaaS platform available. We encourage you to check it out and contact our sales team for a demo