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Safety in Short Term Projects

February 27, 2014

We have all read how the safety culture of a company is an extremely important component in employee safety.  An excellent safety culture takes lots of time and the efforts of management and engaged employees.  What happens when the group of people working together is temporary, not permanent?  When long time periods of employee bonding and training can’t happen as the group is project based and may change in a few weeks or months? An article entitled “Shaping the Safety Culture of Project-Based Workforces” talks about some common assumptions that happen in a long living safety culture that must be changed in short term team of employees in order to create the most effective safety culture possible.

1.)    Don’t: Change thinking before changing behavior.  Long term employees can have extensive training and supervision on certain safety behaviors in order to better educate them in hopes to change a behavior. Do: Change a behavior in a short term group and then the change in thinking will normally follow.  The desired outcome will hopefully be achieved effectively.

2.)    Don’t: Expect compliance with and knowledge of a long set of rules.  Don’t micromanage.  Do: Find the most common and important safety rules and constantly reinforce them.  Workers should be encouraged to reinforce these rules among themselves and generally other risks will be looked out for as time goes on.  Due to the short time working together, micromanaging all workers will be impossible.  Some independence is necessary and if the workers know the most important set of safety rules hopefully compliance will not be a problem.

3.)    Don’t: Count on an effective culture of safety to be developed within the project time range.  Big components of a safety culture are the characteristics and experiences of the workers that are working together.   It is frustrating to employers in a short term environment to try to develop the same characteristics among temporary workers if they did not show up to the project with them.  Do:  Enforce a few common, most important, competencies among all workers.  By encouraging the most critical safety culture characteristics first the ones that are not as urgent may come later if time permits.

The article really stresses that project based teams cannot be treated the same as every other team.  It suggests that mentoring must be highly focused on, orientation must be extreme and if short term employees are used among more experienced project employees they must be identified so they are not given a complex task.

One thing that shouldn’t change from project to project is the importance of high quality safety products.  Non-slip products manufactured by SlipNOT® can be used and reused with great success.  Products like temporary road plates can be used in one project and reused again as the high traction surface has been shown to remain effective for decades in high traffic situations.  Contact a SlipNOT® for more information on how to permanently keep temporary work teams safe.

Information taken from: Mathis, Terry. “Shaping the Safety Culture of Project-Based Workforces” www.ehstoday.com.  February 11, 2014, February 24, 2014

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