As with any building project, planning is essential to the success and effectiveness of any endeavor. Building and maintaining a staff of safety professionals is no small undertaking. Large construction companies with hundreds of employees cannot be served efficiently if their Safety Department staff is not commensurate in number with the manpower in the field. The days of the company ‘safety guy’ who doubled as the janitor are no longer an acceptable business model. Hence, a safety “Team” needs to be assembled to meet the challenges associated with a large workforce in today’s construction world.
It is no secret that strong leadership on any team is integral. Most people either ARE or work for a team leader or manager. However, in the world of construction safety, every member of the safety team needs to display leadership skill. Therein lies the importance of selecting individuals, who not only have a measure of experience in the construction field, but who can also emerge as leaders in cultivating and championing the concept of safety as a core value. Great leaders lead not only by example, but by gaining the trust of those at the receiving end of the message. In turn, when workers believe in and trust their safety team, they are drawn to participate. Once they participate it becomes their culture.
To be effective and reach their audience, Safety leaders need to do more than simply know and pontificate chapter and verse from the OSHA handbook. When Safety leaders connect with workers on a personal level then the safety culture becomes personal to the worker. Safety professionals that take the initiative to reach out and build relationships experience a higher level of cooperation and compliance from the worker base. The art of communication is just that, an art. Rather than focusing on the negative, highlighting and commending the positive empowers the listeners to want to make improvements. Safety professionals who make a priority out of being approachable, accessible and available are what make a successful department that is viewed as an asset and a resource to its employees. Safety begins with knowledge and communication. If you’re looking to build a successful safety team, start with knowledgeable safety people who are good communicators.
By Fred Mulgrew, Therma Safety Manager
Fred has more than 40 years of construction experience and has been a member of UA Local 467 Plumbers/Steamfitters since 1978. He has an extensive background in the mechanical contracting industry, largely from the pipe trades, and safety side of the business.