Safety: Let’s practice what we preach
When you’re selecting a contractor to execute your turnaround or project, it is important to look at its attitude toward safety. Certainly, every project has its priorities, such as safety, quality, schedule and budget. But when safety is done right, the other three priorities quickly fall in line. If clients and contractors truly made safety the very top priority, they would see a significant improvement overall in their turnarounds. Much like sales is the driving force for companies, safety should be the driving force for all projects. Making safety a driving force ensures quality, which requires planning, which develops the schedule, which controls the budget. In the end, all the categories of a successful turnaround win when safety is put as the top priority.
When it comes to safety, there are three different kinds of companies. There are those that constantly preach safety and have a strong safety culture and the necessary safety programs in place to back up what they preach. There are other companies that preach safety but do not have the culture and programs in place to back up what it is they say. In other words, they don’t practice what they preach. Then, sadly, there are companies that are not concerned about safety at all because they are completely cost and schedule driven.
Execution contractors and subcontractors perform only as well as their clients. This is patently evident when it comes to safety. Plant owners who both preach and practice safety are a joy to work for and with. This applies to management and craft alike. Plant owners who fall into this category of preaching and practicing safety actually “lift” contractors up to their standards. Not only are the contractors “lifted up” to high standards, but they can take the lessons learned with them and apply those lessons to other clients’ projects — those clients that may not be so enlightened.
Those clients who fall into the second category of talking a good safety game but not practicing what they preach are the most dangerous to work for because the contractor does not know what to expect. The client preaches safety in all the documents and meetings, but things change when it comes time to actually execute the job. In these instances, there is often a disconnect between management and the field representatives. For many companies, if not all are on the safety bandwagon, the programs and processes put in place cannot work. The plant management may be in denial or have no knowledge of the fact that the safety program they think they have in place has been lost somewhere down the channels and is not making it into the field where the work is being executed. A good example of this type of safety culture is when owners keep contractors in the plant even though they are having major safety incidents. What message does this send to the contractors? And what message does this send to the craftspeople? It clearly says, “We tell you to be safe and careful while working in our plant so that we don’t have any incidents, but we really don’t care about your safety when there is a major safety incident.”
The third type of company, the one that is only motivated by cost and schedule, needs to be carefully evaluated as early as the bid process. This company puts contractors and/or owners in a “crapshoot” position. They may complete the job on budget and on schedule but, through its disregard for safety, this company could end up costing owners or the contractor “big time” through safety violations and incidents.
The solution is not an easy one, but we, as contractors, must nurture our own safety cultures and not rely on our clients. In every instance, we must empower our personnel to adhere to a higher safety standard even if our own standards are higher than those of our clients in some instances. It’s true that overall, our industry has become better at promoting a safe work environment than ever before in its history, but we can still do better. I believe all accidents are preventable and until we all get to that attitude, we need to watch ourselves and not rely on our clients to do it for us.
For more information, contact Whitney Strickland at (281) 506-7152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also published in BIC Magazine.
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