GUEST COLUMN: Develop a strong safety culture in your workplace


A review of America’s occupational safety statistics reveals both good and bad news for workplaces nationwide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace fatality figures dropped 22 percent between 2001 and 2011, the most recent full-year statistics.

A 22 percent reduction in 10 years is indeed good news. But the bad news is that workplace accidents still happen. In 2011, 4,609 workers died on the job in America. I look forward to a day when that number will be zero. As long as accidents continue to happen, occupational safety must be a top concern in workplaces nationwide.

Since the company was founded, Bush Construction has not experienced any lost-time incidents. An excellent safety record doesn’t happen by chance. Some may think workplace safety begins with buying all the latest safety equipment. While industry-appropriate equipment is certainly necessary, it won’t do any good if nobody uses it. A hardhat never saved anyone’s life by gathering dust on a shelf.

An excellent safety record begins with a strong safety culture, in which accident prevention is a top priority. In workplaces with a strong safety culture, employees observe safety guidelines to protect against illnesses and injuries. They look out for each other to prevent mishaps from occurring. And effective communication plans are in place to streamline resolution when challenges occur.

Communication is the cornerstone of a strong safety culture. It is important to talk with employees at every level in the company, to assess their attitude toward safety. Workplace training is a vital part of the overall safety plan. Employers must make sure their employees receive safety training appropriate to their duties, the equipment they use, and their surroundings. When it comes to accident prevention, no aspect of the workplace can be taken for granted.

Leadership is another key component of a strong safety culture. Safety leaders within a company should help establish goals, monitor progress and watch for potential problems. On Bush Construction job sites, our project superintendents observe workers to make sure they are following safety standards, and share helpful safety information during weekly Toolbox Talks.

Consistency also is highly important. Safety inspection checklists can help in maintaining a high level of consistency. Every company should establish core safety guidelines and make sure they are observed, with no exceptions. That is why hardhats and safety glasses are always worn on our job sites.

The greatest rewards any construction worker can receive for observing safety precautions are good health and a successful, injury-free career. For the construction company and its clients, superior safety has the added benefit of increasing efficiency and minimizing expenses.