Why safety in construction won't change until we change the way we position it

Every good company wants a safe job site. No one wants to bear the emotional, psychological, or financial burden of incidents or injuries. And companies have gone to unprecedented lengths to create strong safety cultures. So why are we still talking about serious safety issues in our industry?
There’s the human factor, yes, no doubt it’s part of a tough equation. But, could it also be because we’ve been looking at safety (and implementing it in companies) from the wrong perspective?
Safety is no longer just inspections and incident management.
It’s so much more. In fact, it’s operational, and that puts safety management into a different business vertical than it’s been traditionally housed. Top companies are integrating safety and operations because they recognize the need to match the natural motions of the way job sites operate and infuse safe practices throughout. Safety, when integrated into pre construction and daily operations, improves operational efficiencies and reduces risks.
Everyday operations that increase risk, should be streamlined with more efficient processes.
Technology can help. Enrollments and orientations could be done online prior to stepping on site and digitally integrated with worker licenses, JHAs, permits, and time tracking. Once on site, site managers can verify identities in person, alongside credentials and approve workers, reducing wasted hours day one filling out paperwork. With this, information is centralized and easily accessible throughout other key operational processes.
Paper processes (like permits on most sites) increase risk in an already highly dangerous setting. And digitizing permits isn’t enough to solve the operational gaps in this field process. Permits should integrate digitally with JHAs and worker credentials so they can be easily approved, monitored and managed with all the key information available at the fingertips of the site manager.
Permits also need to flow seamlessly from subcontractor submission to site management for approval, be accessible from a dashboard to see the latest submissions awaiting review, and approved permits should be displayed in real time via digital permit boards so teams aren’t wasting time manually hunting for the latest updates posted on the whiteboard.
We should also be looking at new processes for permit zones. With technology we can implement better digital safeguards for permit exclusion zones, with workers signing in/out electronically and photo capture before and after activity to ensure safety processes have been followed within (and out of) the zone.
Safety has been traditionally siloed. And safety software has propelled that approach with point solution apps. But that’s not helping.
Currently what is becoming apparent within construction is the use of multiple disconnected apps that may perform only one function for the business. Within the industry these are called “point solutions” and the ease at which one can develop new technology and software these days has caused a flood of these apps into the marketplace. However, we are starting to see fatigue within the industry, and pushback from systems managers and CIO’s as these apps, that don’t integrate or speak to each other, begin to add more confusion than clarity to daily operations. Key insights into business intelligence becomes lost, unable to show real time trends, and creates more risk gaps because no one can see what’s really happening in the field.
Operations are unique to each company, as is safety, and your software should be as well.
There is nothing simple about the projects you build, the coordination required, and the incalculable tasks being performed day in, day out by millions of people around the world. Construction is also unique: no one construction project is the same; each build from concept and design to project delivery and the conditions faced on site is different. Software that is aimed at making that complex job easier is also inherently a complex piece of technology. And that’s why the best approach to software implementation is not providing the industry with an out of the box, one-size fits all approach, it is by providing an intuitive platform that is highly customizable to a client’s unique needs, essentially reproducing and enhancing their pre-digital processes and procedures into a software system that can be molded and scaled as a company grows.
When we shift the paradigm of safety being an “addition” to job site tasks, to being tightly interwoven as part of the operations of a job site, you change the perspective and conversations amongst your teams. Instead of creating more burdens, safety tasks become part of worker’s daily habits. And when you implement software that helps you streamline your operations and therefore reduce your operational gaps and risks, you build in better safety.