Jan 8, 2020
There is a new push within the construction industry to create new corporate safety cultures regarding the health and safety of workers. This push has long-term ramifications and benefits for workers.
Recent advancements in technology have added efficiency in the design and performance of megaprojects and other construction designs. Margins are thin and timelines for completion are getting tighter. Margins of error are shrinking while corporations are increasingly emphasizing a project's bottom line. Some industry analysts are growing concerned that with all the rush to complete these major capital projects, employee safety is getting left behind in the dust. Can these same technological advancements that are improving project efficiency be used to also improve workplace safety?
One Chicago-based construction company, the Walsh Group, is saying emphatically yes. Welsh made it a keystone practice of their corporation to transform their safety culture and improve employee safety on the job site. This safety leadership was integrated into their corporate culture at the highest levels. For Walsh, higher profits and improved safety culture are equally achieved. How is safety leadership achieved? It must be a top-down and bottom-up approach to add up to meaningful transformation. So what does that approach look like in reality? For starters, while many construction companies do have safety officers in their top ranks, those officers tend to act as cops who punish employees for safety failures rather than encourage and develop positive behavior. What transpires from this type of punitive safety enforcement is that employees tend to hide rather than share any safety issues and concerns. This is the opposite of a thriving safety culture.
The Walsh Group has taken steps to open up its process to everyone in the company. They have moved their library of health and safety manuals to the cloud from the printed page. Then, the Walsh Group conducted quizzes quarterly to ensure workers and managers have read and absorbed the material. Additionally, they ensured that accurate data collection played a significant role in transforming their safety culture. This technology shift took a complete change in corporate behavior as significant investment had to occur to begin the process. This way, the industry can set clear expectations of what defines success in safety leadership and there is an unambiguous source of truth when dealing with any lagging safety issues.
“We need to prioritize a culture of safety over a finish-at-any-cost mentality. This will benefit workers and ultimately prove good for business,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, told construction leaders at a recent CEO Breakfast. He added that safety is important for attracting new skilled workers. “Young people have different attitudes towards life and work than the generations before them.”
Technology advances have made the design and execution of construction projects more efficient. This has become increasingly important to the corporate bottom line in a highly competitive business environment and razor thin margins.
However, some worry that worker health and safety been left behind during this technological advance to improve profitability. The question being asked is, “Can technology also help to deliver higher profits through improved work site safety?”
The Walsh Group, a Chicago-based construction company with operations in Canada, believes the answer is ‘Yes’.
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