Success on any construction project depends on keeping it on time and on budget. When a project falls behind schedule for any reason, costs mount.
A number of problems can set a project back, but in a high-hazard industry like construction, accidents remain a too-frequent cause of delays and a danger to workers. Serious accidents cause significant delays and even can shut a project down while an incident investigation takes place.
Because accidents can affect construction-project timelines, construction superintendents need to bring safety to the forefront to help ensure that a project stays on schedule. When safety is viewed on an equal footing with budget and schedule, it helps to reinforce those elements. The focused planning and performance necessary to ensure that a project is completed safely are crucial in keeping it on schedule and on budget.
To ensure that safety is a priority, a construction superintendent needs a team dedicated to embedding safety into the project as well as the right processes and tools. In addition, the superintendent must be committed to the safety of the project and to holding everyone on the job site accountable for safety.
A construction superintendent can't do it alone. The superintendent needs partners that are focused on making the project a success. That team should include a safety professional to concentrate on health, safety and environmental concerns.
Last but not least, communication plays a key role in keeping the project safe. The superintendent should work with the safety professional on a daily basis, including morning and afternoon meetings. By working hand-in-hand with the safety professional, the superintendent can be confident that safety, health and environmental issues are being addressed effectively, and then can focus on budgeting and scheduling concerns.
The Right Tools
To embed safety into the project, the superintendent needs the right processes and tools. Of course, safety should be a part of the project from the start, covering issues such as job and task pre-planning, employee and contractor training and fall protection and management.
One crucial tool is the job-hazard analysis, which helps ensure that a given task is performed in the optimum way to enhance safety and health as well as quality and efficiency. A job-hazard analysis inventories each step of a task to identify potential risks and specifies the best method to minimize or eliminate those hazards. Having the right tools for the job is essential, and a job-hazard analysis is one of them. It provides a sense of empowerment for workers, improves safety, increases productivity, eliminates waste and improves the quality of the work.
Because a robust safety culture starts at the top, the superintendent must demonstrate an unwavering commitment to safety. Consistency is crucial, and safety has to be reinforced at every opportunity. A superintendent can't walk by a worker standing on the top rung of a ladder and not correct that behavior. The superintendent has to hold each and every one of his team members and workers accountable for safety every day.
This commitment builds a culture of safety so that every worker – and not just the superintendent and the safety professionals – becomes accountable for safety. That not only improves safety, but also quality and efficiency. The superintendent also has to make sure that health, safety and environmental concerns are part of every communication so that they become an integral part of every task.
Safety performance should be a key measure of success on a construction project. When safety becomes a priority and is embedded culturally within the organization – and is put into practice by every worker, every day – it helps to keep the project on schedule and on budget. Superintendents can help make that happen.
Geoffrey Hall is the senior vice president of ACE Construction. Allen Abrahamsen is the assistant vice president of Construction Safety Services for ESIS Risk Control Services.