In most parts of North America, busy season for the skilled trades is well under way. Material is getting dropped off, potholes are getting filled and landscaping businesses are in full-on get-it-done mode. With all this action paving the way to peak recruitment, onboarding and employment, it's not surprising that every year one important piece of business gets under appreciated:
From the outside, it's easy to roll your eyes and wonder how something so critical could get lost in the commotion of a busy business. But if you've ever seen a construction site operating at 110%, you'll see why it takes a robust core HR system to cross every "T" and dot every "I" for every single employee.
From hardhats and OSHA certifications to worksite culture and communication best practices, safety for most skilled labor companies needs to be a top priority. Here are four ways to stay on top of it during busy season.
Make Safety More Than a Company Value
"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first." - Simon Sinek
If your business is in the work-with-your-hands arena, chances are "safety" is a company value or priority...at least on paper. But for many organizations, aggressive completion timelines, the short-handed state of the labor force and the dreaded "this is how we've always done it" line can get in the way of walking the safety line. As a leader in managing your people, make it clear that you actually mean what you say - period. Here are some tips:
- Get the higher-ups on board
- Create incentives and rewards for high-performing, safe teams
- Remind employees what it's all about - safely doing great work with great people
Prioritizing safety not only creates a more positive work environment for laborers but also makes your organization more attractive to prospective employees. Job seekers will value your company's concern for its employees.
Challenge the "Tough Guy" Industry Norm
"Work hard AND smart." - Mike Rowe
Have you seen that quote from Mike Rowe? It's one of our favorites, and it's particularly true for people working in labor. Your team has to work hard to get the job done, but working smart means coming up for air and seeing the reality around you. If that reality includes an unsafe workplace, a dangerous task or an injury, that employee shifts from an asset to a liability. Good businesses not only strive for safe conditions, they also:
- Make it clear from Day 1 that prioritizing safety reigns (if it's part of the role, it should be part of the onboarding)
- Make safety a team effort
- Debunk myths, like the idea that injuries, no matter how minor, are "part of the job"
- Destigmatize workplace injuries; injuries aren't weaknesses - they're part of being human
Create an Empowered Work Culture
"Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is." - Mark Cuban
No matter how adamant business leaders in the office may be about safety in the field, it really all comes down to the team on site. Implement the following expectation:
"If you see something, say something."
And just as importantly, follow through on listening to concerned workers. Every employee, from the newest and most entry-level to the most senior, should feel comfortable telling someone if they see something that could lead to an accident or is in violation of industry standards.
Everyday hurdles can feel like major roadblocks, but implementing safety on the work site shouldn't be a tough sell. A safe business:
- Attracts better workers
- Retains more workers
- Receives fewer citations and fines
- Is more likely to have a positive recruitment pipeline in place
- Has a better reputation in the community
"Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don't want to." - Sir Richard Branson
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an important part of staying up-to-date and compliant with safety regulations. Falls, in particular, have seen a massive decline since OSHA started its work. The organization, which has both federal and state offices, released many resources during 2019’s 6th Annual National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down, including:
- Preventing Swing Falls in Bridge Work
- Fall Hazards Quiz
- OSHA Prevention Videos: Construction Hazards
Besides falls - which according to the most recent OSHA data, accounted for 39% of the "fatal four" - other common injuries or deaths are caused by being struck by an object, electrocution and being caught in or between something.
Teaching safe habits and new methods to create a safe and efficient working environment can help reduce the risk of injuries. In fact, since 1970, worker deaths have decreased from an average of 38 workers a day to 14. Of course, any life lost to a safety oversight is a failure, so the importance of knowing, teaching, complying and enforcing safety standards in your business is a never ending effort. The first line of staying on track is to have a well-organized plan, including:
- Setting the right cultural tone on the job site
- Knowing who is trained/certified to do what
- Continuing the professional development of your workers
- Staying organized with a construction-oriented Learning Management System (LMS)
- Being ready to launch your workforce before busy season
- Using your onboarding plan to make all these items clear to new workers (need an onboarding plan? We've got a free downloadable onboarding checklist).
Guaranteeing the health and safety of your team during another demanding busy season requires the inclusion of a safety strategy outline in your overall workforce strategy. BirdDogHR partners with ClickSafety, an online training solution, to implement OSHA-certified training through our LMS. To learn more about how to make safety easier, get a free HR assessment.