Fostering a long-term culture of safety in construction

One of the main concerns in the construction world that remains rather consistent over time is SAFETY. As it should be, this is a very high priority for leaders in the construction industry. The daily implementation of a safety program is a great first step but the big picture goal really should be a whole CULTURE of safety.
This means that all employees are in agreement and held responsible for their own safety and health, as well as the safety and health of every other worker in the organization. This is a prime example of the “we are only as strong as our weakest link” mentality.
Every organization needs some sort of a program in place to prevent injuries and illnesses in the office and on job sites. Even complete compliance with OSHA’s guidelines will not eliminate all injuries and illnesses from the workplace because the workplace is filled with humans and humans make mistakes.

However, enforcing things such as physical safeguards, training, and proper maintenance followed up on by effective management will help ensure the safety and health of the team.

The following are also a result of a good safety and health program:

  • Workers’ compensation costs may be lowered
  • Employee morale and work efficiency may be improved
  • Operating costs will be lowered
  • Profit margins will be higher

Accidents are expensive. They add to workers’ compensation and medical costs, they make the organization have to repair or replace equipment, they slow production, and they may require the organization to hire and train new workers. These are just the material costs and inefficiencies. The pain and suffering that accidents cause employees and their families can be even more damaging and last much longer.

Interested in some tips on what leadership can do vs what employees can do to get ahead of and maintain this culture of safety? Reach out to us here for some safety program checklists, sample policy statements outlining the program in place, etc.

Regular review of the safety and health program is essential to achieving a safe and healthful workplace. As we’ve learned over the past year’s pandemic, things can change rather quickly. Therefore, effective and successful programs must continuously improve to keep up with the changing nature of the organization and industry. This also ensures that there’s a real commitment to the safety and health of the entire team – working beyond just a temporary program but towards that overall, long-term culture.

As a business owner, what does your Natural Disaster Response Plan look like?

What comes to mind when you think of the biggest threats to your company? Fire, theft, workers comp claims, auto accidents? You may feel pretty secure in your protection against those types of insurance claims and that’s a step in the right direction.

But what you might find interesting is that only 58% of natural disaster expenses were actually insured in 2021… That’s about $85 billion of the $145 billion in damages. In fact, overall natural disaster losses in last year alone were the fourth costliest ever recorded. There were hurricanes, earthquakes, freezes, floods and storms.

And even with $145 billion (yes, billion with a B) of damages in the U.S., a Beazley report found that only 12% of business owners ranked environmental risks as their most pressing concern. That report also found that only 38% of executives feel prepared to respond to environmental catastrophes.

So how can you reprioritize and feel confident in the event of damage that is beyond your control?

1. Create an Emergency Operations Plan

  • What happens if something happens? Who is in charge? How will the effects on your business be communicated to staff and clients? Who will delegate on and off-site responsibilities? What if your physical work space is compromised? How will your team be contacted and kept informed if email isn’t an option? If something takes place during business hours, does everyone know how to evacuate and where to go? Or where to locate emergency kits?

2. Back up important data

  • Hard copies of important data should be stored off-site and copies made as needed. Keep things like insurance, payroll and tax information stored somewhere that someone else knows how to access it if needed. Utilize the cloud for electronic storage as well.

3. Review and understand your existing insurance coverage

  • Be sure you’re confident in the amount of coverage you have and that your Insurance Advisor has reviewed endorsements and any applicable additional coverages you may need.

4. Maintain good, open communication

  • For your customers, use email and social media for updates if possible. Be sure they have contact information or know your protocol if your team is unreachable. And for your staff, stay in touch with them to ensure they are safe and healthy. It is also recommended to establish a disaster fund in case your company is unable to generate revenue, you can keep your team on payroll.

5. Regroup with your community

  • It is likely that when you’re able to (literally) weather the storm, it’s hugely due to help from others… whether that be financial, cleanup efforts, rebuilding, emotional support, etc. Lend a helping hand to others in need after experiencing a natural disaster and your community will be stronger together.

There are some things we humans just can’t control and we have to relinquish that power to Mother Nature. For the most part, she treats us very well but for those catastrophic times that are thankfully few and far between, the best you can do as a business owner is BE PREPARED.

Struggling with disengaged employees on your team?

It’s always fun and exciting to go through the onboarding process of a new employee. Both you, as the employer, and the newest member of team are excited, things are fresh and new, and the future of working together is bright. Of course the hope is that those feelings will continue, it will remain a good fit for all and everyone will benefit from the partnership.

However, sometimes the honeymoon phase wears off and employees can become disengaged. Sure, part of that is natural and happens in all aspects of life. But as Jon Gordon refers to negative or disengaged employees as “energy vampires”, they can be detrimental to your team, clients, and goals as a company. This negativity can be toxic and needs to be addressed sooner than later.

So what can you do as a leader to prevent and recover from disengagement on your team? Here are a few tips we’ve compiled that may be helpful if you’re noticing the morale and engagement heading south.

First, defining and understanding disengagement is important. It can be cause by things such as lack of:

  • Communication
  • Recognition
  • Trust
  • Flexibility
  • Teamwork
  • Autonomy
  • Support

Next, recognizing and identifying when an employee is disengaged can be done by:

  • Poor performance
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lack of interest in development
  • Isolation from coworkers
  • Increased use of PTO

Then, it’s time to approach the employee:

  • Address the issue head on, skip the small talk but be certain to listen well, ask questions and document conversations
  • Discovering that individual’s motivation and what makes them “tick”
  • Analyzing where engagement was lost and why
  • Identifying adequate skills and a plan to work to their strengths, even if it’s a change in their role
  • Come to a mutual agreement and commitment to action

The final step in this process is to work together towards a solution that will correct the problem by:

  • Create a specific and realistic development plan that includes your investment in them
  • Set goals and hold each other accountable
  • Encourage participation with the team, while keeping the personal plan confidential
  • Give consistent feedback
  • Recognize improved behavior and performance
  • Cheer them on to their potential and don’t give up!

Should employees be driving their personal vehicles to the job site?

With a (thankfully) booming construction industry these days and growth even happening outside of our home towns, travel and transportation is more of a focus than ever. Safety should always be the first concern but liability is a close second.

Some business owners may question what the right thing to do is when it comes to employees getting to and from job sites daily. Should they drive their own personal vehicle? Or should you provide a company vehicle? What do either of those scenarios look like from a coverage standpoint to be sure you and your company are protected? Here are a few tips that will hopefully help clarify these uncertainties.

Quite simply, it is not recommended that employees drive their own personal vehicles for work purposes. Work use is typically defined by going to or from a job, transporting tools or equipment, and/or other employees riding along as passengers. An accident occurring in this type of situation could be denied coverage by the vehicle owner’s personal insurance policy as well as the business policy since that vehicle is not listed there and the driver is most likely not listed either.

If you decide to provide a company vehicle to an employee, there are a few steps you can take (in addition to adding them to your policy immediately) to avoid what we call “negligent entrustment.”

  • On the written job application, include a place to list all driving violations or accidents for the past 5 years. You should also include a section authorizing the employer to obtain and review motor vehicle records (MVR) on a regular basis.
  • Before allowing anyone to drive a vehicle for company purposes, have the individual provide proof of a valid driver’s license.
  • If the individual has lived in other states during the previous 5 years, obtain drivers’ license information for those states.
  • Require all drivers to report any violations they receive or accidents they are involved in as soon as possible. This includes incidents involving personal vehicles.
  • Check all drivers’ MVRs at least once a year.

Other important factors include:
• Vehicle Condition and Maintenance
• Driver Training
• Policy of Restricting Personal Use of company vehicles (including those vehicles that go home with employees after work hours)

Evaluating the current status of your company’s fleet safety and risk management program is extremely important. And a step further, making the effort to improve those policies where needed on a regular basis will help limit your company’s exposure to a negligent entrustment judgment, as well as help control your future insurance costs.

Have you thought about what HR really looks like after COVID?

Although the COVID pandemic may not be quite over yet, there are several considerations all business owners and anyone in HR should be thinking about. In addition to new processes, this is also a great opportunity to revisit current procedures to ensure things are operating as they should. Here are a few steps you can take to cover your HR bases today and in the future of our new “normal”.

Be sure you have a plan in place for things such as:

o Remote work and technology
o Policies on employee termination, furlough vs layoff, pay cuts, time off
o Return to work (after injury or exposure) protocol
o Safety measures and screenings
o Office closure in the event it is mandated
o Handling an exposure within the workplace
o Mental health support
o Communication methods with both staff and clients

You should also have a structured plan for how you will stay current with resources like:

o Families First Coronavirus Response Act
o Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
o Centers for Disease Control, local and state government guidelines

This is extremely important in an effort to remain compliant at all times. Something like COVID is a very fluid and ambiguous situation with requirements as little as a poster you’re instructed to have up at your business’s front entrance so you want to be sure you’re adhering to all instructions given.

2020 may have felt like a bit of an HR roller coaster… or even a nightmare. However, let’s look ahead to 2021 and beyond. There is no better chance to prove your care and consideration for your staff than the way you react to a crisis. Your employees are watching. Your efforts and actions when they need you most will leave a lasting impression and be an invaluable reason they remain loyal to you.