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Ten Simple Steps You Can Take to Improve Safety

Safety is as critical to company success as productivity and quality—in fact, a recent study* confirms that there is a relationship between safety performance and rework. One project manager participating in the study noted:

“I firmly believe that there is a direct relationship between rework and safety performance. Four years ago, [we] started looking at the root causes of the recordable injuries within [our company]. We found that over 60% of all our injuries were in the performance of rework. Over the past four years as we have improved the quality of our projects, we have had a corresponding reduction in recordable injuries.”

There are many benefits to building a strong safety culture. Some are obvious—reducing accidents and injuries, reducing the risk of lawsuits, or minimizing the cost of non-compliance. But improving your approach to safety can bring other benefits such as improved company reputation, an added differentiator in the bidding process or even an advantage in recruitment and employee loyalty.

And building a safety culture doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  Check out these “quick start” basic building blocks:

1.  COMMIT TO SAFETY
Much of the literature on building safety culture speaks to the value of leading by example. Case studies demonstrate that workers respond more positively to leadership by example than leadership by directive. Create a plan that works for your organization and engage employees at all levels to help you achieve it. Whenever possible, post reminders of that commitment—photos, posters, text messages, etc.

2.  RECOGNIZE GOOD IDEAS AND RESULTS
Continuously look for ideas, projects and outcomes that reflect what you are trying to achieve. A strong safety culture won’t be built in a day, but each incremental gain will add velocity and recognition will drive engagement.

3.  CREATE SAFETY TEAMS
The purpose is to identify “owners” of safety improvement in your company. The teams should include all levels of your staff and represent different company functions. They should establish regular meetings to discuss safety performance and improvement.

4.  INCLUDE SAFETY IN YOUR PRE-PLANNING
Most project managers agree that thorough pre-planning improves productivity, quality and safety. Ideally, pre-planning includes the scope of the work, names, roles and responsibilities of key staff. The most common hazards and safety procedures should be reviewed.

5.  ENSURE SAFETY TRAINING GETS DONE
Whether it’s a formal training program or a review of critical safety considerations at the beginning of the shift, observe and document its completion.

6.  CREATE A DETAILED FALL MANAGEMENT PLAN
Fall protection violations were the most frequently cited OSHA violations in 2014. Your fall management plan should be in place before the job begins. The plan should outline where fall exposures exist, hazards associated with the tasks, and controls implemented that can mitigate the exposure.

7.  KNOW YOUR SUBCONTRACTORS
If you are hiring subcontractors, be sure they align with your expectations for safety performance before you contract with them. You can request their recordable and lost time incident rates, OSHA citation record, and overall safety procedures.

8.  FIND THE ROOT CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS
When accidents or near-misses occur, use your safety team(s) to investigate the root cause and take steps to eliminate it. The incident, cause and corrections should be communicated to all employees.

9.  CLEARLY ADDRESS SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Unfortunately, substance abuse is an issue that it is often not addressed directly because it’s assumed that everyone understands the risks and consequences. Substance abuse should be clearly defined. Periodically reviewing how substance abuse situations will be handled with all your employees can create an environment that encourages communication.

10.  OPTIMIZE SAFETY AT EACH PHASE OF A PROJECT
As a job progresses, it is good practice to review safety performance. Many companies post safety statistics at the jobsite to raise awareness of all workers and help avoid future incidents.

There are many resources available to help you achieve better safety performance.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website has many resources
available; visit them at www.osha.gov.

Caterpillar offers resources for building a safety culture at https://safety.cat.com.

 

*Relationship between Construction Safety and Quality Performance, Wanberg, John;
Harper, Christofer; Hallowell, Matthew R.; Rajendran, Sathyanarayanan., 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers, DOI: 10.10601/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0000732.