BY CHRISTINE ACKERLEY - For safer jobsites, companies should encourage workers to plan for the worst and report near misses, heard the audience at a recent Canadian Construction Association (CCA) panel discussion.
The Safety on the Jobsite session at the 96th CCA conference in Panama focused on why and how companies should make safety a priority.
>“When you get the call that one of your workers has been badly injured, that’s the worst day of your life,” said Mike Sharp, vice-president of Black & McDonald.
“It’s devastating, and when the shock and guilt pass by, you’re left with the legal implications.”
Others shared their experiences.
“Usually, when I get the phone calls, it’s too late,” said Andrew Heal, a construction lawyer with Heal & Co. LLP.
“There are significant penal consequences of a financial nature when safety is not your top priority. And if an organization is party to an offence, and the senior officer departed markedly from the standard of care, you can be convicted criminally.”
One of the most effective safety strategies is also the simplest, said Sharp.
“Train every worker to ask themselves, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do this?’” said Sharp.
“That last-minute risk assessment has proven invaluable to our workers’ safety.”
To reduce the number of incidents, it’s also vital to look at indicators of potential safety issues, instead of only analyzing serious incidents after they happen, said Sharp.
>For every fatality, 600 related incidents happened that didn’t involve any harm to workers, said Dee Miller, the vice-president of JJM Construction.
>Reporting those minor incidents allows companies to review training and find areas to improve, explained said Mark Butt, vice-president of construction at Buttcon.
But there’s still a stigma to reporting those incidents.
“A lot of our industry thinks if you over-report, people will see you as a bad company, and you’ll get a bad rap and lose future work,” said Butt.
“But, if you report in-house and review all the reports, you are going to have a far better safety culture.”
In addition to reporting near misses, soliciting workers’ input on those incidents helps company leadership implement the best safety procedures, said Miller.
“The workers often know solutions to things you didn’t even know were problems,” she said.
Valuable worker input only happens in a comfortable, trusting atmosphere, noted Sharp.
“Workers are often hesitant to say anything, so it’s important to have them trust you, and to communicate to them that you’re really looking for their input,” he explained.
The panelists motivate reporting and input in different ways.
JJM Construction uses anonymous suggestion boxes to report near misses.
The blind process eliminates any hesitation workers may have to report, said Miller.
Both Black & McDonald and Buttcon encourage workers to sign their names on reports of near misses, and emphasize that workers will be rewarded, not punished, for their reports.
Every company should look at its safety procedures, said Miller, and ask that key question: what’s the worst that can happen?
“When you ask companies about safety, there’s a uniform answer: we’re doing fine,” said Miller.
“I wish that companies would be a little more open and honest with themselves about where they are with safety.”
“We think safety just happens and it doesn’t,” she added.
“It’s actually a science.”