Once a company has established a total commitment to a zero-incident jobsite, where both leaders and employees believe every accident is preventable, the next step toward achieving world-class safety lies in the methods employed to identify and prevent hazards. This is where the rubber meets the road—the core value of safety in action.

World-class safety programs require a variety of systems and processes to keep a company’s employees safe, as well as those of other contractors. These include:
  • regular safety briefings, such as toolbox talks and stretch-and-flex time;
  • regular meetings with onsite representatives from the general contractor, subcontractors and vendors to discuss coordination of tasks and potential hazards during the week;
  • use of leading indicators (near-miss reporting, site safety orientation and supplemental training) to track overall safety performance;
  • change management processes that use the data gathered in jobsite hazard analyses (JHAs), pre-task plans and near-miss reports to identify safer ways to complete each task;
  • site-specific safety plans that encompass the safety of all workers—not just those employed by a particular contractor; and
  • sequencing of tasks to prevent potential hazards.
JHAs, jobsite safety analyses, safety task analyses and pre-task plans all come in a variety of forms (e.g., checklists and reports), and most companies have at least one of these in place. These are all part of the same process: identifying potential and existing hazards on a jobsite and eliminating or abating them, be it before the workday begins or before a particular task is executed.

The difference between a world-class and an average system lies in how the data from these forms is used. Average, or even good, safety programs collect the data and sign off that the form has been completed and the hazard has been abated. A world-class program digs deeper—identifying not only the hazards, but also trends from one jobsite to another, and then developing a comprehensive plan to address these trends everywhere the company operates.

The plan is communicated through regularly scheduled conference calls or meetings with senior leadership and supervisory personnel in the field. It’s communicated to employees on the jobsite. It’s not just filed away as another checklist of things to do—it becomes a living document that educates and facilitates incident prevention throughout the company.

Examples of effective safety systems and processes can be found and downloaded, for free, from a variety of different websites. Many are created and shared by larger national contractors with the intent of helping other contractors implement the same successful systems and processes—not only to eliminate incidents, but also to make it safer to work with those companies on the jobsite. 

Other resources, such as those found on CNA’s website, are developed by the insurance industry to help reduce the cost of workers’ compensation claims. The systems and processes on OSHA’s website are pulled from the agency’s knowledge base, as well as companies involved in its Voluntary Protection Program.

Effective systems and processes typically have been viewed as the most difficult part of the world-class safety equation. In reality, they are the easiest part once leaders are committed and a total safety culture is in place.  

Up Next

This is the third installment of a four-part series on achieving world-class safety. The next column focuses on how contractors can keep their safety programs at the top through continuous monitoring, evaluation and evolution. Read the first two parts of this series here and here.

Chris Williams is safety director for Associated Builders and Contractors. For more information, email cwilliams@abc.org.