Construction: Supervisors Play Critical Role in On-the-Job Safety
In previous blogs, we discussed the importance of fostering a culture of job safety on construction sites. As we mentioned, safety begins at the top, including with supervisors who are the closest management personnel to the work being performed. But in many organizations, there is often a lack of clarity regarding what safety functions supervisors should be performing, or they aren’t being performed to the maximum benefit. Supervisors are busy with many other responsibilities, including communicating management’s directions, implementing new initiatives, taking on special projects, keeping the operation moving, etc.
Yet through their actions and an engaged approach, supervisors can help build a strong safety culture that serves not only to improve safety but can also help drive improvement in production. For example, there are a number of safety activities that provide supervisors with the opportunity to show leadership and transmit the importance of safety as a cultural facet of the organization. These activities include: safety contacts, job safety briefings, physical hazard identification, safety procedure verification, and incident response and root cause analysis.
Safety Contacts: When a worker observes a specific exposure, this provides an opportunity to engage in a conversation with the supervisor about workplace safety and for the supervisor to provide feedback and reinforce safety standards. It’s also an opportunity for the supervisor to learn about conditions and exposures at the job site. Furthermore, feedback should be provided in a way that fosters an open, two-way conversation between a supervisor and employees. The safety contacts should not be phoned in or emailed, but should involve the supervisor going to the site to discuss the issue at hand with the worker.
Job Safety Briefings: These sessions are designed to discuss the work to be performed that day and any exposures and mitigation measures that should take place. They begin at the start of the day or a beginning of a specific task, and should also occur if and when exposures change on the job and after a task is done. Yet often these briefings involve one-way communication, with little or no interaction with employees. Supervisors should, however, engage workers and encourage a two-way conversation, ensuring that workers understand what is being decided upon before the work begins and follow through on any actions for which they are responsible.
Physical Hazard Identification & Mitigation: This involves detecting conditions and equipment that may create existing or potential risks. Once a physical hazard is identified, supervisors must take critical steps immediately to correct the problem. That means speaking with employees about the hazards, reviewing what workers can do to protect themselves and others from the risk, working with management to alleviate the hazard, and keeping employees abreast of the progress in eliminating the hazard.
Safety Procedure Verification: Rules and procedures can seem rather black-and-white when written on paper but when employees are trying to make life-saving procedures wok on the job while also being efficient, shortcuts or workarounds may arise. The only way for a supervisor to really know that procedures are being used is to check them personally – going on the job site and verifying the real-life application of these procedures. Not only does this provide an opportunity to ensure that these documented safety procedures translate to the job site, but it also gives the supervisor a chance to engage with employees to make sure any misunderstandings or misinterpretations are clarified.
Incident Response & Root Cause Analysis: This is the procedure management undertakes in the event of an injury, equipment damage, fire, etc. on the job. Supervisors in these instances must respond quickly to care for any injured workers, secure ongoing imminently dangerous conditions, and take mitigating measures to address the exposure for the long term. What’s more, supervisors must know to ask the right questions to gain insight into the root of the incident or accident in order to be able to implement a plan of action. When responding effectively to an accident or incident on the job, employees understand that management is aware of the impact of the incident on employees and that it truly cares about its workers’ safety and well being.
Safety is a key component of any risk management program for the construction industry and requires the unequivocal support of supervisors who are on the front line with their workers.
At Caitlin-Morgan, we provide insurance and risk management services for the construction industry, including the ability to secure surety bonds. We also specialize in placing coverage for the transportation construction industry and telecommunications contractors. For more information about how we can help you and your insureds, please give us a call at: 877.226.1027.