Industrial contractors are certainly no slackers when it comes to safety but, lately, a seismic shift in thinking has occurred that could revolutionize the market.
While rules and protocols—personal protective equipment, safety training, safety oversight, well-maintained equipment and overall work environment—remain critical, contractors are turning to individual and team behavioral approaches at increasing rates in order to minimize safety and risk. The concept is “leadership from the bottom up,” which builds an environment of respect and trust.
There is an undeniable need for the new approach, as demand for manpower is straining the market and leading to corresponding declines in skill and productivity.
According to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, industry employment has expanded by some 142,000 jobs, an increase of 1.9%, in just the last year. As such, strains on the labor force pose the greatest threat to safety as they challenge a contractor’s ability to maintain a strong safety culture across expansive geographies and diverse markets.
Performance Contractors of Baton Rouge is using a rather unorthodox manner to change its safety culture, says Torrey Garrison, vice president of environmental, health and safety. Taking a comprehensive approach that addresses an employee’s overall well-being, the contractor has instituted an app- and web-based employee assistance program.
Through the EAP, workers can anonymously access topics ranging from time and financial management to more serious topics such as coping with split families and crisis intervention. PTSD is another hot topic. “We want to take care of our employees on and off the jobsite,” Garrison says. “We provide them with outlets to speak about things they might be going through. If we’re taking care of them off the jobsite, they are better prepared to do their work safely on the jobsite.”
In the fourth quarter of 2019, more than 250 employees logged into Performance’s EAP website and more than 260 downloaded the app. But Garrison says it’s not about the numbers: “Even if it’s just seven people, that’s seven people who are getting help who wouldn’t be getting help if we didn’t have this program.”
Performance displays banners at jobsites, discusses the EAP at monthly meetings and reinforces everything in monthly emails to keep it relevant. “It’s 100% confidential,” he adds. “We don’t know who they are. We know the topic they may be inquiring about and we know the number of people that have either downloaded the app or called, but no names.”
To further reinforce safety, Performance operates “hands-on evaluation centers” in Lake Charles, Houston, Mobile and Baton Rouge, where new hires literally operate the equipment before they go into the field. They watch videos, then physically walk through a variety of hands-on exercises dealing with fall protection, scaffolding, confined spaces, lock out/tag out, etc.
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Source: Construction Executive - See full article here.