Safety: It’s just good business


Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity on Riley Street in Holland receives some assistance on its entrance canopy from Elzinga & Volkers. Photo via

For the first time in recent memory, the construction industry in West Michigan is taking time out to discuss an important part of our business that's all too often just boiled down to stats and numbers — during Alive365: Safety Week.

The week, from March 21-28, features free safety training and certification programs for all kinds of construction and specialty trade contractors, hosted by local businesses and featuring speakers from MiOSHA, the governmental organization responsible for workplace safety. We're presenting the week, along with several industry partners.

Safety training, like those classes offered during safety week, not only keeps workers up-to-date on the latest safety regulations, but focuses on building a culture of safety that is ingrained in everything our industry as a whole does and every building that we build.

Why a safety culture? 

But why is building a safety culture that is ingrained in every part of your business so important? Consider the following two equally important reasons:

1. You should be genuinely concerned for each of your workers’ safety and want them to go home at the end of each day healthy and happy.

Yes, we have chosen a dangerous, high-risk career. But it is unacceptable to acknowledge even one injury or death among our workforce as “just a part of this business.” The state of Michigan mourned the loss of 12 people who died of construction work-related causes in 2013. We believe that, together, our industry can bring that statistic to zero.

2. The pursuit of safety positively impacts job revenue and your bottom line. Experiencing fewer accidents on the construction site lowers your Experience Modification Rate. Your low EMR translates to the following:

  • Lower workers’ compensation insurance premium rates
  • A way to market yourself to clients as a cost-reliable partner
  • Added project opportunities by meeting owner EMR requirements
  • Increased company production
  • Avoiding costly lawsuits

A safety program

It’s never worth the short-term savings to compromise safety for cost, convenience or schedule challenges. As the safety director, devoted to our workers’ safety, I have found the following tactics extremely helpful in building an effective safety program:

Hire character first

Achieving safety success starts with hiring individuals who possess the highest regard for safety, quality and professionalism. Most companies believe it's the systems or programs they've implemented that lead to success, but the finest systems will be useless if they're not followed by dedicated employees. Hire character before skill every time. You can teach a skill much more easily than you can teach attitude and commitment to your program.

Dedicate resources

Invest in your employees. If you take care of your employees and put them first, they will in turn treat clients well and make a positive impact on their job sites. In addition to an assigned internal safety director, recruit a safety committee who will continuously look for ways to foster safety awareness. Train on-site supervisors to hold detailed, weekly job-site inspections and toolbox talks that are relative to the work being performed. Also, consider hiring a third party to audit job sites in order to receive outside perspective on your level of safety.

Partner with OSHA

Yes, you heard me! By using the free services OSHA provides for site consultations, you can ensure a safe work site and save your company from paying costly fines. Especially if your superintendents are short on time, have your local OSHA education officer review your project at the beginning or at various stages of critical work to ensure safety standards are met.

Communicate practices

Communication is one of the most effective ways to influence your workforce’s dedication to safety. As part of your safety program, consider holding a regular, company-wide safety meeting to educate employees on safe practices, as well as recognize and celebrate safe behavior on the job site. Our meeting rundown includes:

  • Managers from the field and the office presenting on a relevant safety topic each month and safety procedures to avoid these concerns
  • Reviewing our safety records and discussing impacts of: the total days since a lost-time injury, days since a recordable injury and results of recent OSHA site reviews
  • Sharing client testimonials that recognize a specific employee or crew
  • Celebrating when substantial safety milestones are reached by throwing a party to reward employees for their dedication to safety 

West Michigan leads the industry in constructing high performance and architecturally significant buildings.

Ingraining a safety culture in every company, every project and every employee will reinforce the assertion that West Michigan is a great place to build your next facility.

More information on Alive365: Safety Week is online.

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