How do you build a culture of safety? Summarize the case study based on what you have learned from the readings.
Building a Culture of Safety
The construction industry accounts for the most workplace fatalities of any sector and is generally considered a high-risk environment. One construction firm, Messer Construction, decided to address this problem by implementing a comprehensive safety program called Safety4Site for its employees and subcontractors. A major focus of the program was creating a safety culture to improve safety awareness and prevent injuries.
Safety culture has three interdependent elements—behavior (actions taken by employees that are safe or unsafe), person (employee perceptions and attitudes about safety), and environment (organizational safety management systems). Messer Construction’s approach included all three aspects and was aimed primarily at reducing incidents of the four major OSHA hazards in construction: falls, struck by, caught in or caught between, and electrocution.
The three key pieces of Messer’s program were:
Universal use of eye protection. All employees were required to wear safety glasses when on a project site.
Daily safety talks. Called toolbox huddles, these daily briefings reminded employees of important safety precautions and discussed any incidents that had occurred.
Employee accountability. Based on 20 identified unsafe behaviors, all employees (managers as well as craftspeople) were expected to report any violations they witnessed on a project site.
Before the program was launched, managers participated in a three-hour implementation training session, and all employees received four hours of hazard training. To emphasize expected compliance, any employee who committed one of the 20 unsafe behaviors would be taken off the job site for a day and upon returning the following day would lead the toolbox huddle before beginning work again. Second violations would result in a 30-day unpaid suspension. Messer’s management was obviously serious about ensuring that everyone worked safely.
Data collected four years after the program’s introduction showed a 66% drop in violations over that time period. Managers identified and reported 60% of violations, 35% were reported by designated safety coordinators, and 5% were reported by front-line employees. Managers were actively involved in safety matters and committed to the program. Surveys taken after four years showed that 99% of workers were aware of the overall safety program. Most participants had positive views about Messer’s safety culture and performance. An important outcome was that 99% of workers knew that they were accountable for their safety on the job site, and 79% felt responsible for their coworkers’ safety.
Managers stated that safety measures were a higher priority than the operating budget or meeting scheduled build dates. In fact, they saw these safety efforts as a long-term program that would save money and reduce injuries. Further, the vast majority of workers stated that they would not take risks just to get a job done. The only change recommended by employees was to provide them with safety incentives or rewards.
Overall, Messer Construction instilled a safety culture that will give workers peace of mind knowing that their safety is nonnegotiable. They can build buildings with Safety4Site.*
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