Sept/Oct 2012


Best practice basics for project construction safety

By Dan Welshons

Each construction site is unique, so each project’s safety management system should be as well. When putting the system in place, many variables must be considered, beginning at the planning stages and continuing through to closeout. Environment, region, culture, workforce skill and ability, contractor experience and scope, regulations, budgets and politics are just some factors that influence a robust project safety management system.

The industry has established a strong baseline of best practices that are a fundamental part of a safety system. These elements are key to successfully executing work safely. After decades of improving safety culture, we now know that a safe project construction site can be achieved through careful planning and consideration, as well as through investments by the project owner, the project company and the contractors.

Of course, the evolution of best practices is never complete – the documented history of proven techniques and successful approaches on similar projects has helped identify key ap­proaches, but each unique project can help refine and expand what we have.

To get started, here are a few basic best practices that should be applied at any mine construction site:

Organize an initial alignment session It is important that owners, project teams and prime contractors agree – from top to bottom – on what the project will look like from a safety perspective. Project stakeholders should provide their experiences, beliefs, values and commitment to building a project safety management system that fits the needs of the project. This will promote ownership of the project’s goals, poli­cies, plans and work procedures.

Document the health and safety policy A written and signed health and safety policy, posted prominently on-site, de­monstrates the project stakeholder’s commitment to safety. It also encourages leadership staff and other team members to become involved, and acts as a powerful reminder of the commitment to and the expectation of safety that all parties should maintain.

Set project performance goals All incidents are preventable. Stakeholders must state zero harm as an overall goal to drive home the safety message. While there is nothing wrong with other statistical performance goals, or lagging indicators, significant emphasis should be placed on identifying leading indicators that support the desired behaviours of the project team. This approach will uncover gaps within the attitudes or competencies of the workforce, their degree of leadership involvement, their ­­­understanding of each individual’s role, as well as their knowledge of the overall safety management system. Actionable and measurable leading indicators allow the team to analyze results and look for improvement op­portunities. The practice of setting goals, measuring against them, and taking ad­vantage of the takeaways, is a key in­gre­dient for developing a culture based on best practices.

Make safety planning a priority Planning is a critical component of everything we do. Strategic planning, from a project safety perspective, identifies the best tools for the job and documents how to use them in an organized approach. Typical safety planning documents deal with proper training, active leadership, roles and responsibilities, reporting, incident management, communication, auditing/gap analysis, and continuous improvement methods. Understanding the content of planning documents can be a challenge for those performing the work. Best practice suggests that clear concise procedures, documents and tools are most readily implemented by field teams. It is important this gap is understood and that proper communication is prioritized during project initiation.

Learn from the project closeout It is very important to capture results in real time and to feed the information back into the safety management system in order to continuously improve the best practice approach. During the project closeout process, it is also essential to properly incorporate key takeaways back into the core structure of the stakeholder’s safety management systems. It is also necessary to share these takeaways with the mining construction community to allow others to capitalize on them.

To reach the goal of no harm, we need to apply recognized best practices and allow our best practices to evolve as the safety practice grows, and as we learn how to better use or deliver them. It’s up to us, who take pride in our safety culture, to make game-changing moves and to keep raising the bar in construction safety.

Dan WelshonsDan Welshons is the global director of health and safety for Hatch's project delivery group.

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