Decades of learning from mistakes and leveraging new technology, tools and reporting means construction workers are safer now than ever before.
But accidents and fatalities still happen. We all remember where we were the last time a team member was involved in an incident. That dreaded phone call you never want to make or receive.
There’s always more work to be done when it comes to keeping our people safe. It’s not just about making sure everyone is in the right PPE or ensuring hazardous zones are clear. It’s also thinking about employees’ mental health, creating a safe environment that empowers someone to speak up when they notice a potential hazard. It’s a shift from seeing safety as another box to tick to one where your company is invested and committed to protecting the wellbeing of workers and maintaining a culture of safety on jobsites.
So if it’s real change you’re looking for – it needs to come from the leadership team and standardization of your operation’s safety practices. It can be a lot of work, but if done properly, it shows your people that you care about them. And when people feel cared for, they stay.
It’s time to raise the bar on safety practices
Federal, provincial and territorial safety associations are trying to make a difference in the safety statistics, but the annual fatality rate for the construction industry is still too high. In Canada, one out of every five worker deaths is in construction.
Developments in equipment and technology are helping to better identify potential hazards, but we can’t solely rely on these to keep our workers safe. And the construction industry may be regulated by health and safety acts, but there’s no legal requirement for businesses to obtain safety qualifications.
As a result, many construction employers across Canada are looking at COR Certification (Certification of Recognition) as a way to take a more proactive role in their company’s occupational health and safety. The program recognizes and rewards employers who go beyond the current legal requirements by using a set training matrix and system to measure a company’s safety. COR certified companies can show how they have invested in an extensive program that focuses on integrating safety into all aspects of their business. To achieve COR certification companies need to demonstrate that they have systems in place that ensure employee and employer input and engagement, rigorous compliance to policies and procedures and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Keeping people safe keeps people
Employers who care about their employees’ mental and physical wellbeing are at a much greater advantage when it comes to attracting, hiring and retaining workers. Following strict standards and guidelines can not only help build a reputation as a company who values their employees – but it can also be the difference between a great employee choosing to stay with you or leaving to find a job elsewhere.
Your customers are also expecting you to meet specific health and safety standards. Many companies are being more conscious and discerning in choosing who to work with, so making the most of every opportunity will give you that edge you need in today’s competitive climate. The third party vetting provided by COR helps to ensure you have the right information and accreditation, and that processes are in check. You can be confident that your safety procedures are meeting a specific standard and that your workers know how to proactively identify, evaluate and control potential hazards. This can go a long way in preventing incidents or injuries from occurring. Plus, certification can be the difference between being awarded a job or passed over as the public and private sector are increasingly requiring COR as a pre-bid qualification for contractors.
Culture changes trickle down from the top
Is safety part of your core business values? If not, it’s time to ask your leadership team why. Buy-in from leadership is one of the most important factors when it comes to changing company culture and ensuring new processes are understood and followed. Safety programs can be a significant financial investment and require a lot of time and dedication from team members. Start by assigning a safety evangelist who can drive your business forward – someone who believes that the most important work is taking better care of people. While some team members may be slower to see the value for all the perceived red tape, financial and time commitments – it will pay off in the end.
Educating and training your workforce on new processes is also essential. Employees need to be equipped with a company phone in order to implement a safety app for people to check in regularly and easily report near misses, hazard identifications and when necessary, injury incidents. That data and information is then analyzed and used to review job hazard assessment, enhance training and ultimately help you make better business decisions.
Bottom line: It takes commitment and a mindset to do better
Construction companies have both a financial and moral obligation to build and maintain a culture of safety.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own and as the industry puts more emphasis on keeping workers safe, COR certification won’t just be a “nice to have”, but a requirement for jobs in the future. It can help you establish the right standards and procedures to keep your workplace safe, which over time will help drive a safety-first mentality throughout your whole organization.
Dave Badger is the safety manager for Cooper Equipment Rentals. He has 25 plus years experience as a health and safety professional in the rental business and is a certified trainer for mobile equipment, WAH, and propane. Dave works with customers to help support their workplace safety initiatives while promoting health and safety awareness and education to Cooper employees.