Leaders of 31 major construction firms agree that safety should not be proprietary. They are offering their ideas about how to make the industry a safer place to work by launching the first annual "Safety Week" on May 4-10, and they encourage large and small contractors across the country to join them in elevating and celebrating safety.
These firms belong to either the Construction Industry Safety Initiative or the Incident and Injury Free Executive Forum. The companies in the groups can be fierce competitors, but they also meet regularly and exchange ideas about safety. "We've seen too many people get hurt," says Robert Alger, CEO of Lane Construction and one of the organizers of Safety Week. Both groups seek an industry-wide safety transformation.
The goal is to eliminate worker injury. These leaders acknowledge that construction still has a long way to go. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report, released last September, said 775 workers were killed in 2012, an increase of 5% over the previous year. The uptick followed five years of declines in the number of fatalities, from 1,239 in 2006. The increase was not just a matter of more workers returning to the field. The industry's rate of fatalities also went up in 2012, to 9.5 per 100,000 full-time-equivalent workers, from 9.3 the previous year.
Clearly, there are known best practices that can save lives and prevent injuries. But it takes continual consciousness-raising to make sure they are uniformly implemented. That's where Safety Week comes in. Leading companies are reaching out to the entire industry and sharing safety know-how with the industry as a whole. The group has launched a Safety Week website at www.safety week2014.com with pages of ideas and best practices about how to strengthen the safety culture throughout construction.
The website has step-by-step planning tips for firms to host their own Safety Week events. "Not everyone will celebrate Safety Week the same way," says Michael McNally, CEO of Skanska USA Inc., a program leader. The website offers a wide range of ideas, such as personal and project-specific commitment pledges to safety, project visits by company leaders to engage with workers about safety or safety road shows in which vendors demonstrate safety tools and equipment.
The site features poignant testimonials, such as one from Jason Surratt, a scaffold erector for Safeway Scaffolding: "I am writing about your 100% tie-off rule on Gilbane jobsites. If it weren't for the enforcement of this rule, I just may have lost my life or been seriously injured!"
Saving lives and preventing injuries is the mission, and this is Year One for Safety Week. But the leaders vow that it will "not be one and done." Increase your engagement with safety. Participate in Safety Week.