Safety survey: Worker involvement, supervisor leadership drive metrics

The latest Safety Management in the Construction Industry SmartMarket Report reinforces prior series findings on the high priority of accident prevention while placing new emphasis on supervisors’ onsite actions and leadership in promoting safety. Prepared with participation from CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training plus San Francisco information technology developer Procore, the report reflects findings from biennial Dodge Data & Analytics contractor surveys.

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The report includes case studies on building a data-driven safety program and improving safety culture, along with features on substance use disorder, ergonomics, and using virtual reality for safety training. Available for free download at www.construction.com/toolkit/reports.

Laborers and chiefs dominate four factors selected by the highest percentage of contractors as world-class safety program essentials: jobsite worker involvement (84 percent); strong safety leadership abilities in supervisors (83 percent); regular safety meetings with workers and supervisors (82 percent); and, ongoing access to safety training for supervisors and jobsite workers (77 percent). They rank far above other important factors such as regular safety audits (67 percent), having staff positions devoted to safety (61 percent), or regular safety meetings among staff at the corporate level (62 percent).

Survey findings also show that contractors rely on supervisors and foremen to deliver safety training to jobsite workers: 73 percent of respondents selected that channel as the means by which they provide training, almost 50 percent more than those selecting an in-house trainer—the second most popular option. The industry therefore needs to make sure supervisors and foremen can provide the safety leadership needed onsite, report authors note, adding that the industry tools to do so are not being fully utilized.

The Foundations for Safety Leadership (FSL) training module was introduced in 2017 as an elective to the OSHA 30-hour safety training course, but only 43 percent of those participating in the current SmartMarket surveys were familiar with this offering. This is despite the fact that, among the 29 percent who are actually using it, nearly all (90 percent) report that it is effective in improving the jobsite safety climate. “Through our partnership in these studies with Dodge Data & Analytics over the years, we learned that well over 80 percent of the contractors surveyed relied on the OSHA 30-hour training program for their supervisory training, even though it was not designed for that,” says CPWR Executive Director Chris Cain. “The Foundations for Safety Leadership module was developed to fill this gap, and more than 70,000 workers have received the FSL training since it was introduced three years ago. The contractors we’ve spoken to who have utilized it speak very highly of it, but from this report it is clear that we need to do a better job of promoting this free resource.”

The latest SmartMarket Report continues to find strong business benefits resulting from contractor programs, with over two thirds of survey respondents reporting that safety management increases their ability to attract new work. Over half also find that it improves their ability to retain staff, a critical factor for success in an increasingly tight labor market. “Dodge studies consistently find that most contractors are struggling with skilled worker shortages,” says Dodge Data & Analytics Senior Director, Industry Insights Steve Jones. “The competitive edge from being able to retain staff is growing in the industry.”

The report also looks at the tools to improve safety management, from the use of safety policies and organizational practices to training practices. The most popular policies are site-specific, including plans and training programs tailored to all employees and subcontractors. While most contractors (66-plus percent) encourage workers to react to and report hazards onsite, far fewer ask for input on safety conditions (50 percent) or involve them in safety planning (39 percent).

Contractors still expect to increase their use of online training in the next few years, but at a lower rate than those responding to 2017 Safety Management SmartMarket surveys. They are also keen on the potential of technology to improve safety. While a relatively low percentage are currently using wearable devices (11 percent), virtual reality for training (5 percent) and visual monitoring employing artificial intelligence (3 percent), a surprisingly high percentage believe these technologies have great potential to improve safety in the next three years.