I knew that one day my university degree in psychology would come in handy. One of our insurance carrier partners recently sent out a great newsletter related to the behavioral effect of safety in the workplace. Firms that specialize in construction management can utilize this powerful tool to increase safety of the work-site on a daily basis.
The premise of this risk management is simple. If all a construction company does is to track the number of claims and payouts reported to Labor and Industry (workers compensation), it may be missing a great opportunity to create a safer work environment. For me, it's kind of like the child who never gets caught doing the wrong thing even though they often do - they got lucky! That is not a good safety program. Instead, what we can do is to create a list of potentially dangerous situations, actively observe and track if the desired (or safe) behavior is being followed. In this way, we can track how safe the workplace is, not just how luck (or unlucky) it is.
This strategy allows for great feedback to the employee regardless of the behavior observed. For example, if the desired behavior is to have a hardhat on when inside the construction zone, here are the possible outcomes:
The behavior is being met, which may create an opportunity to give positive feedback for employees.
The behavior is not being met, which creates an opportunity to provide constructive feedback without having an accident or time list.
Both outcomes reinforce that everyday behavior matters and there is accountability in the work place.
As a rule, when creating the list of expected behavior, here are a couple of key elements:
Focus on the behaviors that have the most probability to result in employee injury.
Only list and track 5-8 behaviors.
Communicate to all staff exactly what will be observed and how.
Debbie Marcoulier, president of RSV Building Solutions shares with me, " At RSV we haven't had a lost work day due to an injury in more than a decade. Why? We hire only the best employees and subs. RSV's culture is based on total responsibility and taking pride in your work, but most importantly it empowers every employee to stop any unsafe operation at any time."
It is for this reason that an effective behavior observation program can provide excellent results related to decreasing employee injuries and reinforcing the correct behavior. This strategy can be used not only in construction, but in many other industries as well.