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Promote a Culture of Safety With a Connected Workforce

By Written by By Rachel E. O'Connell - Senior Editor, Construction Executive
Republished with persmission from Construction Executive May 3, 2022, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.

Construction Safety Week 2022 ran from May 2-6. With that in mind, Construction Executive conducted an exclusive interview with Gary Clevenger, vice president-risk control at CNA to discuss how to build a well-trained, connected workforce in order to promote a culture of safety and reduce the risk of injury.

Construction Executive: How is a connected workforce safer than an unconnected one?

Gary Clevenger: Connected workforces allow communication to flow up and downstream. Technology helps communication and messaging to be delivered to the workforce, as well as offers a space for critical messages and feedback loops for management. Companies that embrace connectivity can deliver and receive consistent messaging, feedback in real time and make corrective actions that enhance safety and productivity.

CE: How do training and connectivity promote safety?

GC: Digital collaboration and innovative use of technology can deliver consistent, consumable information to the workforce. Digital training platforms allow management to deliver clear messages on safety and hazard mitigation. Examples include: in line translation that delivers content to the worker in a preferred language, and increasing comprehension and understanding demonstrates the importance placed on the safety and well-being for all workers.

CE: What kind of training should contractors implement to improve safety?

GC: The construction industry continues to face shortages of skilled labor. Workers new to the industry should be provided with new employee orientations that prepares this new workforce for the hazards found in construction. Onboarding, prequalification and project- or task-specific training are components of an effective EHS strategy. Communicating safety expectations and addressing critical hazards by through technology platforms can effectively provide new employee orientations that track performance and comprehension—all valuable insight for employers.

CE: How does technology influence training and vice versa?

GC: The avenue for communication that fosters additional engagement with the workforce. Digital learning serves as tool for conveying awareness, hazard recognition and transfer of knowledge across a large population of the workforce in an efficient and consumable fashion. It has been found that because social media has changed the way society consumes content, digital training and awareness are effective ways to connect with employees.

CE: What is a “culture of safety”?

GC: The culture of safety allows everyone to be part of the conversation and solution. Safety is built into conversations, programs, work process and decisions with equal weight. It becomes a core value for a company, not just in words but also actions that demonstrate the commitment to worker safety and health.

CE: What can the industry do to ensure a culture of safety?

GC: A culture of safety is a core value that empowers workers to put their safety and health first over other competing priorities. Allowing workers to make safer choices and not be penalized when they make a decision that impacts safety and health is a strong first step. 

CE: What technology solutions best encourage safety and reduce injury?

GC: Technology can be a factor and improve workplace safety when deployed thoughtfully with clear expectations and training. Wearables, proximity sensors, virtual training, autonomous equipment, telematics, biomechanics and AI can all play a role in improving worker safety and reduce exposures to injury. However, without a thoughtful and planned approach to innovative technology, there is a danger of over reliance and missed expectations. New technology does not eliminate the need for training, hazard identification and mitigation. A strategic approach should be part of the evaluation and implementation of innovations.

CE: What is the No. 1 way a leader can promote safety within their teams?

GC: To promote safety within their teams, leaders should deliver on safety promises and empower workers to put their safety as a priority. This can promote the value and commitment it takes to succeed.

CE: How do a culture of safety and low risk of injury impact the industry/the perception of the industry?

GC: Skilled trades women and men are the construction industries most valuable asset. With the tight labor market, workers have a choice. Safety and personal risk are a key component when choosing a career. A positive safety culture can change the perception and speak to the values of a company that many employees look for. A career that values the workforce and promotes safe work practices is often valued by its employees.

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