Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Grading & Excavation Contractor.
Too often, safety managers are perceived as risk-averse, action-stopping do-gooders, says Tom Slavin, a Chicago-based safety consultant. But if a safety manager can create opportunities for project managers and supervisors to communicate safety programs to employees—and get the entire organization involved with safety—then safety adds value by preventing injury and ill health.
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Companies operate at three levels of safety performance, says Anthony Veltri, a professor of safety management at Oregon State University. Stage 1 covers about three-quarters of all companies, and includes firms that simply respond to regulations and minimize the cost of safety. Safety is just assigned to the safety manager.
Stage 2 includes 16% of companies surveyed by Veltri, and those firms play catch-up in safety. If company A sees a safety system that works well for company B, then A copies B. Never mind if that safety system does not fit the culture of company A. Stage 3 companies are the best. With them, operating safely creates competitive and strategic value. Safety principles are adopted and practiced by the entire organization.
Slavin advocates the use of a management system to create a safety culture. “A management system provides an organized fashion to get the entire organization involved,” says Slavin. Several such off-the-shelf systems exist, but they don’t all fit construction companies. International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 is bureaucratic, heavy on documentation, and doesn’t work for many contractors, says Slavin. He calls ISO standards paper tigers. A better one to adopt is American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z10, a relatively new standard that is more flexible than ISO. “Anybody can do Z10, even the poor performers, because the emphasis is on continuous improvement,” says Slavin.Add Grading & Excavation Contractor Weekly to your newsletter preferences and keep up with the latest articles on grading and excavation: construction equipment, insurance, materials, safety, software, and trucks and trailers.