A better safety culture in construction: how to achieve it

In 2016, 11% of all work-related accidents in Belgium took place in the construction sector. A solid safety culture can help reduce that high rate. Want to work to achieve a company mentality that considers all aspects of a safe site? These four tips can help you on your way.

1. Allocate time and resources each year for prevention

Construction site safety cannot be achieved overnight, but must become embedded in the DNA of the company. Developing that mentality takes both time and money. So, allocate an annual budget for prevention measures. That investment will pay off in spades since a safe site leads to a lower risk of workplace accidents, thereby reducing absenteeism and ensuring continuous productivity.

2. Consider the usual suspects

Risky activities, a changing work environment and inadequate communication are a few of the reasons for the high number of work-related accidents in the construction sector. Consider each of these obstacles carefully. For example, provide training for working with machinery and rolling equipment before the employee starts working.

Clear communication is also essential to a safe site. When recruiting new employees - including interim workers - assess their language knowledge. A wide range of different nationalities can be found in the construction sector. It is preferable that all employees share at least one common language. Non-language instructions can also be a viable alternative, such as pictograms or illustrations instead of written warnings or manuals.

3. Be a manager who leads by example

You and the other managers play an exemplary role. So, take the lead when it comes to safety and show in practice that you prioritise it.

If you think and act consistently to ensure a safe workplace (identify unsafe situations, show appreciation for good practices, communicate regularly on safety and its importance), you create a mentality that encourages employees to follow the rules - not because they have to, but because they want to.

Machismo is found throughout the construction sector. Following safety regulations to the letter is sometimes considered ‘soft’ by employees. Do not allow this way of thinking and acting to thrive. If you always wear a helmet and safety shoes when visiting a work site, your employees will be more likely to follow your example.

Of course, the opposite is also true: managers who do not devote any attention to safety will be confronted by resistance more often if attention is suddenly devoted to the safety regulations or if they become more stringent.

4. Provide clear feedback and schedule regular toolbox meetings

Encourage your employees to give each other constructive feedback if they notice unsafe behaviour. A safety coach can help with this. Also, organise toolbox meetings on a regular basis. During them, the managers, employees and, if relevant, sub-contractors discuss the various safety aspects in the workplace, whether or not linked to a specific topic.

During the toolbox meeting, also analyse past work-related accidents and injuries that were avoided at the last second (‘near incidents’). After all, there can be much to learn from this kind of review, from where things (almost) went wrong to how employees can avoid accidents in the future.

You can share general insights and figures from toolbox meetings by, for instance, hanging them up in the storage area. Not only does this generate awareness among employees, but also shows that you take safety seriously.

Continue to work towards a safe workplace

Finally, a safety culture is never ‘complete’. Safety requires continuous attention and can always be fine-tuned. So, provide employees with regular training workshops with different topics, such as working at heights or operating a power drill. By, for example, devoting continuous attention to safety in the workplace, everyone will stay motivated to work towards this effectively.


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