By Bart Wilder, VP of Safety
Our industry has a lot of catch phrases meant to keep safety at the top of people’s minds when working on construction sites. We talk about the Five Red Flags. Eliminate the Hazards. Be where your feet are. Be your brother and sister’s keeper. All these expressions essentially boil down to being aware and present. We know that incidents are more likely to happen when people aren’t focused on their work and their surroundings. Here’s another saying we have at Hoar, Think Like a Safety Leader. I like that one because if you’re thinking like a safety leader, you’re doing more than shouting out a few memorable catch phrases during a safety meeting — you’re setting an example and leading with your actions. This week is National Construction Safety Week (rescheduled from May), so I’d like to share 3 easy steps to take every day to think, and act, like a safety leader on your job site — whether you’re a superintendent, project manager, owner, or trade partner. The more safety leaders on a project, the safer everyone will be.
- Never Waste a Step
Whether it’s one of several meetings you have that day, or an on-site question that needs your attention immediately, it can be easy to hurry from point A to point B as each issue arises. But every time you step out onto your job site you need to be present and aware of your surroundings. Try to keep your head on a swivel, looking at everyone working and moving around you. Is everyone wearing the right PPE? Are they using tools correctly? Are they being aware of their surroundings? As you walk your site, be a safety leader and look out for any potential or active hazards you can eliminate.
- Coach and Empower
Let’s say on your walk, you happen to spot an unsafe situation. Your job isn’t to correct the issue and move on. That’s just a temporary fix. I challenge you to coach the people involved. Teach them why the issue is unsafe, coach them on how to work safely, and then empower them to coach others to work safely as well. Your goal should always be to reinforce and expand a culture of safety through teachable moments and consistent engagement.
- Positive Reinforcement is Powerful
As a safety leader, your role isn’t just to point out things people are doing wrong. If you spot someone wearing the appropriate PPE and following safety procedures correctly, stop. Say something. It can be as simple as, “That’s what I’m talking about!” or “Nice job!” By shining a small spotlight on their positive behavior, others around them will take notice and may be encouraged to follow their example.
These are simple ideas. Be aware every time you’re on site. Take 5 minutes to coach and teach. Offer positive praise when earned. In my experience, the simplest ideas can have the greatest impact. So, I challenge you to keep it simple. If you only remember one construction safety phrase — make it Think Like a Safety Leader. Because safety leaders eliminate hazards, look out for everyone on their site, stay focused and present, and look out for those “red flag” situations we know lead to incidents.