Construction Worksite Safety: Compliance vs Complacence

Posted in: Accident Prevention,Claims Costs,Safety,Workplace | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on August 17, 2016

A recent chat with a 24-year old construction worker brought a very interesting perspective to health and safety in the construction industry. Like a lot of construction workers, he started at the bottom with no more than some high school education, a need to earn a living, and little to offer other than his physical manpower and desire to learn. Since then he has been promoted to foreman and is now responsible for a team of workers under his direction.

When workers that don’t understand the importance of compliance observe workers who have become complacent, the entire health and safety management system begins to break down.

His observations of what the most significant hazards and safety issues were on his worksites, especially from youthful eyes, was particularly insightful. What challenges employers face while trying to keep their workers safe on the jobsite, how much of it is preventable, and how much is within their control, as well as different concerns for different workers.

Interestingly, but not overly surprisingly, he divided the workers into two groups: those new on the job— generally young and inexperienced, and longer term employees—usually older and more seasoned. He also split the issues into two categories – compliance versus complacency.

With newer workers, compliance with site regulations, safety procedures and hazard precautions were a major concern. Younger workers and new hires don’t always understand the need for worksite safety rules or accept advice from to co-workers with first hand workplace accident experience. They’re more keen to get a task completed and prove their worth, so they were more likely to cut corners, take short cuts, or attempt their ‘own’ method of getting the work done without considering the impact of their actions on themselves or their co-workers. In the end, they increase the risks and hazards of a worksite, which jeopardizes not only their safety, but the safety of those around them.

The long term, seasoned worker presented concerns from a completely different angle. After years of doing the same tasks day after day, observing the same safety etiquette without experiencing any accidents or injuries, complacency became the enemy. In many cases, these workers are older and/or more experienced than their supervisors and foremen, and they typically do not want to be told how to do their job, or be bothered with time-consuming, trivial checks that slow them down. Too often, it’s the extra steps involved in ensuring safety that are skipped or modified with an assumption that since nothing went wrong the last time that it should be fine this time. Without periodic review of safety procedures and guidelines, the risk of preventable compliance-based workplace injuries and accidents rises.

When workers that don’t understand the importance of compliance observe workers who have become complacent, the entire health and safety management system begins to break down.

Combine these two work groups on a worksite and a perfect storm is created for work-related incidents that can result in WCB claims, production delays, and increased construction costs.

Here are four simple ways to fight compliance and complacency while addressing construction worksite safety:

  1. Educate – training and education is fundamental to preventing and avoiding workplace accidents and injuries. Every employee needs to be familiar with not only the steps involved to do their job, but the reasons why these steps are essential to their safety. Make sure that Health and Safety manuals are readily available. Prominently display safety posters and hazard warnings on a job site.
  2. Review – periodic review of safety procedures and guidelines will address complacency and reinforce compliance. Reminding employees of correct procedures and what can happen if guidelines are not followed can only improve worksite safety. This is also an excellent way to identify areas or procedures that need updating or revisions.
  3. Revise – as the work site changes and the jobs evolve, it is vital to ensure that safety procedures are current, relevant and up-to-date. Any revisions to safety policies or procedures need to be reviewed with every employee on a worksite.
  4. Enforce – everyone on a work site should be encouraged to enforce safety rules and regulations not just safety officers, supervisors and foremen. When enforcement is not in place, compliance becomes slack and complacency becomes the norm. If you see something, say something.

You can find out more information on construction safety at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health (CCOSH) or the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA); useful posters and infographics can be found here and here and you can always connect with us on Facebook, Twitter , or LinkedIn. You can always reach us via email at [email protected], [email protected] or contact directly, during business hours, using our chat feature or by calling us at 1-844-377-9545.

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