How a construction approach to safety can benefit everyone

This week marks Skanska’s 13th annual Safety Week and the 4th annual Construction Industry Safety Week. We asked Paul Haining, Chief EHS Officer for Skanska USA Inc., how the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle of continuous improvement, this year’s focus, can help drive us towards zero incidents as an industry.

Proper planning, an engaged workforce and proactive communication reduces incidents. These are the basic principles for Skanska’s Injury-Free Environment® (IFE) mindset and safety protocols that drive the way we work.

While a construction Environment Health & Safety (EHS) Manual can be hundreds of pages of procedures, a lot of it can be boiled down to a simple thought process that can be applied even at home by DIY-ers. The Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle helps drive our culture, influencing the way we live and those who work with us.

How the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle works:

Plan: Evaluate the work to be done, whether across the scope of work or for just a single day. Establish what success looks like. Identify all hazards and how you will address them.

Do: Execute the plan as it was written. If circumstances change or if conditions arise that were not accounted for in the plan, stop. Revaluate and move ahead according to the new plan.

Check: After the work is complete, evaluate the results. Did the plan work? Are there things that should be improved in the plan moving forward? What didn’t the original plan cover?

Act: Make adjustments and create a new plan based on the evaluation. Begin the cycle again.

The Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle drives safe choices and productivity. Everyone’s inspiration for working safely is different. The “why” is the motivator that drives someone to make the safe choice over a quick and dirty alternative. Where we find common ground is in the method in which we work.

The Time is Now

Our industry has made great strides to protect workers and we are closer than ever to achieving the ultimate goal of zero injuries. With construction volume forecast to increase and a significant number of seasoned craft workers nearing retirement, we must all work to sustain a culture that rejects the thinking that incidents are an unavoidable part of the work we do.

The construction industry is looking at a potentially grim equation if it doesn’t reinforce its safety efforts. Dodge Data & Analytics is forecasting a 5 percent increase in construction starts in 2017 at the same time as the construction industry tackles a labor shortage with more than 150,000 unfilled positions. With many industry veterans leaving the workforce, the risk is that newly-hired skilled workers enter the field without knowledge of how to plan work to avoid injuries.

The labor shortage presents an opportunity now, more than ever, for the industry to band together to help drive unified expectations and our safety culture. Each person who steps onto a construction site has something to learn. That is what the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle instills in the people who use it on a daily basis. By teaching this method of working to each person who enters a Skanska jobsite, we are giving workers – new and old – the foundation to work safe on future projects, industry-wide.

When we all work safe, we all go home safe.

Taking the mindset home

Another facet of Skanska’s IFE culture is that it isn’t just for work; it’s a lifestyle.

On this blog a few years ago, I discussed how pro cyclist Danny MacAskill plans for risk and how he says he constantly evaluates what he’s doing. That constant evaluation is the core of Plan > Do > Check > Act and it should be applied whenever we do anything with risk.

Just as complacency on a job site can lead to a cascade of factors that lead to injury, a near-miss when driving, working around the yard or even waiting for your ears to stop ringing after a great concert is a sign that, perhaps, we can plan those activities differently to be a bit safer.

As we focus this week on making our industry as safe as can be, so too can each of us strive to be safe no matter what risks we face every day.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

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Safety for All Seasons

This time of year, the changing of the seasons in many parts of our country puts Mother Nature at center stage, with leaves turning from crisp greens to golden yellows, oranges and reds.

Soon, many of us will be raking those leaves after they fall from the trees and doing other fall yard work associated with getting ready for the onset of winter.

Strenuous outdoor work also means the potential for injury, including to the back, shoulders and wrists when twisting, bending, lifting, and reaching.  Improper use of lawn tools can sometimes make things worse.

Simple precautions – like stretching, and wearing gloves and safety glasses – are important parts of our backyard routine. Paying attention to the job at hand and eliminating distractions – especially around saws, mowers and hedge trimmers – can further reduce or eliminate injuries and possibly a trip to the doctor.  It’s important we all practice good safety habits at home no matter what the season calls for.

Skanska ID site visit to SKW at Sparrows Point, MD

Safety on our job sites is no different. In the final months of 2016, we’re working to reduce distractions and promote neat and tidy project sites in order to prevent injuries to our employees and our subcontractors.

On job sites, we see distractions in many forms, including: 

• Inattentive equipment or vehicle operators are responsible for a high percentage of incidents where a piece of machinery hits or runs into something;

• Messy site conditions and poor housekeeping contribute to slips, trips, and falls, which comprise a significant number of injuries;

• Preoccupied workers suffer from lacerations and abrasions at an alarming rate as a result of being distracted on the job.

Fall is a wonderful time of year to enjoy with family and friends. Simple precautions when doing outdoor work can help make sure we get to join in the fun.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

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Taking aerial work platform safety to new heights

The single greatest risk on a construction site is falling, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Skanska and other leading builders are striving to eliminate that risk, in part by reducing the use of ladders on our project sites. A safer and more flexible solution is aerial work platforms, but even with AWPs, the number of serious accidents is astonishing. So Skanska is pushing the industry for higher levels of AWP safety.

In 2013, the most recent year for which the International Powered Access Federation has compiled data, AWPs accounted for 53 fatalities worldwide, including 30 deaths in the U.S. Specific causes of those fatalities included AWPs overturning and operators being electrocuted, falling and being trapped while at the controls. Those numbers frustrate and sadden me, because those deaths were all preventable.  How can Skanska help drive the change needed in our industry to eliminate jobsite incidents?

Transbay 1 (1)

These crew members who are part of our project erecting 24,000 tons of superstructure steel for San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center work from an aerial work platform equipped with anti-entrapment technology.

An important step we’re taking is that by the end of this year, all AWPs on Skanska USA project sites – both owned, rented and through trade partners – must be equipped with active anti-entrapment technology. By this, I chiefly mean a pressure-sensitive strip that’s installed above or below the control panel, so that if the operator is pinned against an overhead object that pushes his or her chest down on that panel, the machine stops working and sounds an alarm, and might even retract slightly.

We’ve been able to get AWP manufacturers and major equipment rental companies to update their fleets with anti-entrapment technology by joining on this issue with 11 other major U.S. contractors. Now, with so much of the industry demanding anti-entrapment technology, it is on its way to becoming standard. That will both improve safety and lower the technology’s cost, and it will level the playing field for all of us. The AWPs on many Skanska project sites already meet this requirement.

Skanska is already looking to do more with AWP safety. For instance, we’re testing wearable sensors that would shut off an AWP if it comes in close proximity with a pinch point. I’m excited about these advances, but let me emphasize that technology alone will not end incidents. At the heart of an Injury-Free Environment® is a workforce that genuinely cares for their own safety and the safety of those around them. We as leaders – and we’re all leaders in some way – need to do everything we can to build that culture of caring.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

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What can we learn about risks from pro cyclist Danny MacAskill?

It’s mesmerizing to watch Danny MacAskill defy gravity on his bike. Danny, for those who don’t already know, is a fellow Scot who is a professional trials cyclist – he completes extremely high-risk obstacle courses on his bike. And what obstacles he overcomes: On videos that have attracted tens of millions of views on YouTube, you can watch Danny jump boulders on his way down a rocky mountain side; hop his bike from one abandoned railroad track to another, spinning to change direction in mid-air; and do a front flip on his bike over a barbed-wire fence.

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Danny MacAskill thoroughly prepares for the high-risk obstacle courses he undertakes. Similarly, in construction we must relentlessly identify and mitigate the risks faced by project teams.

Photo Credit: DannyMacAskill.co.uk

There’s a great deal of risk in what Danny does – that’s why so many people watch him ride. It’s worth understanding how he recognizes and prepares for those risks, as there are key parallels in risk identification and mitigation between Danny’s riding and what we do every day in construction – and in everyday life. In all cases, not being vigilant to the risks that surround us all too often lead to serious consequences.

Seeing risks

Here’s what Danny has to say about planning for his tricks: “When I’m first thinking about doing a line, you’re actually thinking about the worst-case scenario that’s going to happen. You think about the different crashes and possibilities. You’re constantly assessing what you’re doing – your mind can definitely play games with you.”

Construction should be approached in the same way. Every possible risk needs to be identified, analyzed and with detailed plans put in place and responsibilities assigned to mitigate the risk. Look-ahead meetings, daily briefings and construction work plans are key parts of this on our job sites. Tasks at home must be given the same consideration.

Sometimes, confidence can blind people to risks. Each day’s activities must be approached as distinct undertakings requiring comprehensive risk evaluations.

Managing risk

Danny only moves ahead with a trick when he’s fully ready. Here’s what he had to say about that in another interview: “I tend not to do things that I’m scared of. I try to have things completely sorted in my head beforehand. I have to be 100 percent clear that I’m going to do the trick I’m going to do.”

Beyond mental awareness, Danny prepares in other ways. He lays out the stunts he wants to do sometimes months ahead of time. Then he practices his moves, sometimes using practice ramps and setting up mats to cushion his falls. He always has the proper equipment, including a helmet and gloves.

To mitigate jobsite risks on a daily basis, Skanska uses the construction work plans that we – in partnership with crew leaders – develop for each activity and review every day. We manage the risks identified in these plans through any of the large collection of tried and tested controls we’ve developed over many years for jobsite- and activity-specific hazards: everything from critical crane lifts to working at extreme heights to simply wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the task at hand. If we disrespect these risk mitigation tools, then we’re disrespecting the risk they’re designed to control. That risk doesn’t go away, and when not controlled it comes back with consequence.

I’ve seen high-risk projects achieve superior safety performance because the project team is constantly aware of and fully respects the inherent risk at all times. When the right level of respect is given, the team watches out for the risk every waking minute.

Genuine care

While processes and strategies are essential for dealing with risks and hazards, what’s also key is genuine care: When the construction industry reaches the point at which each person on a jobsite genuinely cares for their own well-being and that of the people around them, then it will be possible to eliminate worker injury. We’re getting closer to that point, as demonstrated by the more than 40 companies sponsoring this year’s industry Safety Week. These firms – including Skanska – are putting competition aside to work together to improve safety, demonstrating the type of big-hearted approach we all need as individuals.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

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