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December 03, 2013
Report calls for renewed focus on safety in construction

A new report says a spike in construction-related fatalities coupled with a looming labor shortage highlights the need for a renewed focus on safety and leadership within the construction industry. Keep reading to learn more about the findings and what they mean for worker protection.

The report, “Building Safety and Leadership in the Construction Industry,” was published by Marsh Risk Management Research. It examines the latest safety and employment trends in construction and the role of effective leadership in retaining valued workers and building a culture of safety.

According to the findings, a shortage of experienced construction workers means that many unskilled workers have been moved into supervisory roles. Many of these new managers and supervisors are unfamiliar with the latest thinking and approaches to worker protection. At the same time, says Marsh, contractors are being forced to pay higher wages and offer additional benefits to attract and sustain workers, putting additional strain on their limited financial resources. This can mean leaders cut corners when it comes to safety in order to control costs.

“As the economy grows and the number of new construction projects pick up, now is not the time to be lax on safety,” adds Marsh construction safety specialist John Moore. He says investing in high-quality leadership “will go a long way toward retaining valued workers and maintaining a safe work environment.”

Best practices of strong safety leaders

What does it take to be an effective safety leader? Guy Boyd of Behavior Safety Technology (BST) points to the following:

  • Vision—the ability to see what safety excellence looks like and describe a compelling picture of what the future can be.
  • Credibility—leaders can admit mistakes and give honest information about safety even when it is not well received.
  • Collaboration—leaders promote cooperation and collaboration and seek input from others.
  • Communication—they encourage others to give honest and complete information about safety, and they keep people informed.
  • Action orientation—they are proactive rather than reactive in addressing safety issues.
  • Responsiveness—successful leaders are good at providing feedback and recognition; they use more praise than criticism.

The good news, says Boyd, is that these behaviors can be learned and developed. “Done well, leadership development supports a comprehensive approach to safety improvement, and positions leaders at any level to make a difference in the lives and livelihoods of their coworkers.”

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