In 2014, one in five fatalities occurred in the construction industry. This doesn’t include injuries seen in the field, which happen frequently and can often be perilous. Many business owners try to change this by creating new safety rules, or by leaving workers themselves with the responsibility of fixing the problem. But this isn’t always effective, or right.
At George Nice & Sons, our #1 priority is the safety of our employees. And we’re doing everything in our power to create an environment where safety is their priority as well. We want to hear it being discussed on every job site. We want to see it in action. We want our employees praising one another for good safety practices. The problem, however, is that it’s tough to break old habits. And let’s face it, safety isn’t exactly the most exhilarating thing to talk about.
There’s a book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, which shares a pretty interesting story about Alcoa, one of the world’s largest producers of aluminum. The point of this story is that Alcoa’s new CEO, Paul O’Neill, chose to work toward zero worker injuries rather than concentrating on the company’s financials. He claimed, “If we bring our injury rates down…it will be because the individuals at this company [have] devoted themselves to creating a habit of excellence.” And through this focus on safety, he transformed the entire company.
Instead of creating new rules for employees to memorize and follow, it makes more sense to analyze team habits in full and focus on a few things at a time. What risks are present? Where do the most injuries happen? Once this is understood not only by business owners, but also by their employees, negative habits can be changed much more easily and quickly. Baby steps, simply.
Staying open to new products and techniques can help a great deal, too. By using the same products and vendors and relying on the same approaches, we fail to progress. Jobsite safety isn’t due only to the cooperation of workers. It’s a direct result of good leadership and better products and techniques.
Our goal at George Nice & Sons is to begin implementing a safety committee. This committee would be made up of a few employees from a mix of areas and departments, and those who are most respected amongst their peers. They will each have a responsibility in the committee to encourage their peers to practice good safety. Although it is still in the works, we hope to permanently alter the way we view safety everywhere, whether in the shop, in the office, or on the job site. Together, we can all make construction less treacherous!