Many see safety as a pain, additional costs, rules, an impediment to construction progress, paperwork, something that the authorities and clients focus on as a reason to torment contractors, and more. In fact, there are probably some readers already yawning thinking “not safety again”! But, if you want to know about additional costs, wasted time and more paperwork, then let your construction project have a serious accident. Serious accidents could close the project for hours, even days. It can take days to investigate and clear-up. It creates poor media attention, and it will impact those on the construction project, and particular the project manager’s and supervisor’s reputation, as well as the contractor’s reputation.
But, should we even consider all of that? Poor safety impacts peoples’ lives. It could even impact your life. It could be life-changing. Everyone on your construction project has the right to return home in the same state of health as they arrived at the start of their shift. Would you want to knock on somebody’s front door to tell them that their son, daughter, husband or partner is lying critically injured in hospital, or perhaps even dead? Hurt on your project!
Your family expects to see you safely home at the end of each day. Accidents could result in days in hospital and weeks of recuperation. The time when you aren’t earning money, or are only paid part of your salary. Days of pain. Days of trauma for your family. Accidents could lead to the loss of an eye, finger or limb. They can lead to permanent disability. A serious injury may prevent you from working again in construction.
Accidents result in increased insurance premiums for contractors, which pushes up the cost of business. Accidents eat profits.
Most clients expect their contractors to work safely. Many clients ask to see the contractor’s safety statistics and contractors with a poor safety record won’t be allowed to work on their construction projects – these contractors may find it difficult to find work.
Of course, accidents could mean that a critical piece of construction equipment is damaged, which will impact progress. An injured worker will result in less production. If the injured person is a key person, such as a crane operator or someone with a key skill they could be difficult to replace, and their loss will impact production on the construction project, causing the work crews to be less productive, even standing idle while a replacement is sought. Then, what happens to the work crew if it’s the supervisor who is injured?
Often the injured person’s wages must be paid by the company while they are booked-off work recuperating. This is a cost to the project.
Sometimes completed work, or critical material is damaged in the accident. Repairing or replacing the items costs money and often causes delays. Delays result in additional costs and could result in the client imposing monetary penalties on the contractor.
All serious accidents are investigated by the authorities. Where a construction project manager, superintendent, supervisor or foreman is found to be negligent they could receive a monetary fine, they could be dragged before the courts to face a lengthy and costly trial, and they could even end up doing prison time. Negligent construction companies and careless managers will definitely be sanctioned and fined. Indeed, it’s not worth working unsafely, it’s not worth taking short cuts and it’s not worth putting production and schedule ahead of safety. Your life and the lives of others depends on you working safely, it depends on project managers, superintendents and supervisors ensuring a safe working environment for their crew, other workers on the construction project, the client’s personnel and the general public.
Safety isn’t just about rules, rather it’s about changing behaviors, it’s a commitment from everyone from top management, through the project manager, supervisors and superintendents, down to every worker to work safely.
Accidents are life-changing. They often happen when you least expect them. Indeed, I’ve completed dangerous work at heights without incident, only to have a stupid accident at the end of the construction project when trucks were being loaded. It is possible to complete construction projects without accidents. I’ve completed many projects that worked in excess of a million manhours without serious injury. It takes a little care and a commitment from workers and management. It means that safety comes first on the project.
Safety should never only be about rules. Good safety comes about when people understand why working in a certain way is dangerous. Good safety is the result of people knowing the consequences of unsafe actions – and I don’t only mean the disciplinary consequences, rather it’s the life-changing consequences when there’s an accident. A trained and skilled workforce will help achieve high safety standards. Good safety comes from sound leadership. Never look the other way, or let poor safety go unchallenged. Good safety is a result of a team effort, a product of everyone looking out for everyone else. It’s essential that everyone on the construction project, including visitors and management, obeys the highest safety standards. Good safety practices do not have to cost extra, but poor safety practices will cost your construction project.
Have you had an accident on your project? What was the impact on the project and people?
How will you make your construction project a safer place in this national safety month?