Redefining the Role of the Site Safety Manager
At the 2015 IRMI Construction Risk Conference, Thomas Lyons (Construction Safety Manager with Gilbane) and Jennifer Wycisk (Corporate Safety Director with Webcor Builders) presented a session discussed the current state of site safety efforts.
Site safety managers play a very important role in the construction industry. Their efforts prevent accidents and save lives. Safety best practices should be shared across the industry. They are not something that needs to be kept in-house as a competitive advantage. Safety professionals need to constantly learn from the experiences of others.
Although the Safety Manager oversees safety on the workplace, they cannot be the only person enforcing safe workplace practices. Safety needs to be part of the culture. To have a safe workplace you cannot wait around for the Safety Manager notice a problem and correct it. It is important to speak up and take action when you see a potential problem.
Safety professionals need to make the workers on the site part of the solution. Your job is not to shut down projects when you find unsafe conditions. You must work with others to find solutions so you can keep the project on track. The safety professional should make the jobs quicker, easier and safer. Safety professionals should be a resource, not an obstacle.
Technology is a great tool for safety professionals. Drones can be used to send back video and photos of elevated sites to look for potential issues. Someone on site can use their iPad to send back video to a central site who is monitoring conditions across multiple sites.
Competence and character are as important for safety managers as knowledge, experience and credentials. The safety staff needs to be approachable. They need to be viewed as a valued member of the team.
It is important to set clear expectations of the site safety manager role. These include:
- Identify the purpose of the site safety manager. What are their responsibilities? How can they help find solutions, not just shut down the job site when issues are found.
- You need to get feedback from your safety staff to fully understand all issues they are involved in.
- Communication is important. Both positive and negative. If all the communication is negative and corrective people will dread your presence at the workplace. The communication also needs to reach the people who are empowered to make changes within the organization.
- Relationships are key. You need to find connections with people in the field and ask questions to fully understand the challenges of the workplace. It is important to coach, not command.
- Make sure the safety manager has a seat at the table for all team meetings. They need to be part of all the discussions around a project so they understand the bigger picture.