Private Eyes: Construction Safety Isn’t Just About a Week

Jacqueline Falla discusses how companies can transform safety from a regulatory requirement to a standard by which one lives.

Written by Jackie Falla | May 3, 2021

(By Jaqueline A. Falla, Director of Client Services. Elaine Construction Company, Inc.) Springtime’s arrival brings with it longer days, trees abloom, the promise of summer, and, wait for it — Safety Week.  This annual rite of passage is pointedly pinned on the calendar right before the industry’s busiest season and stands as an important reminder about the dangers of construction.  Together, all across this great nation, there will be stand-downs, toolbox talks, demonstrations, and daily reminders of the hazards that abound in the profession.  New guidelines, old adages, and best practices will be shared, but how do companies transform safety from a regulatory requirement to a standard by which one lives?

Just this morning I caught my pant leg on a bench at the end of my bed and nearly went down – hands full of the paraphernalia required for a long day at work.  I’m lucky that I have quick reflexes, but with three of the top ten hazards of a job site falling under, you guessed it:  Fall Protection, it’s far better to be careful than lucky.  Let’s take a look at the most common OSHA violations:

  • Fall Protection
  • Hazzard Communication
  • Scaffolding
  • Lock-out/Tag-Out
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Ladders
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Machine Guarding
  • PPE

In reviewing the perils of this profession, I am forced to admit, that time and money play a major role in non-compliance.  Keeping a site organized, free from debris, and tripping hazards, comes at the cost of a conscientious worker, and likely a good labor crew.  While it is true that doing things the “right” way can take more time, and time is money, doing them the wrong way, can cost a life, impact your OSHA rating, your reputation, and your bottom line.  A clean site is the beginning of a LEAN site, where organization and efficiency not only increase productivity but safety.  This is likely to be one of the topics discussed during this week that will bear witness to standards that save lives.

What compels some to follow the rules and others to break them?  Why is safety part of the make-up of one worker, and not another?  I can’t answer that question for you but have a suggestion that might help.  In a 1979 study profiled in the Journal of Psychology, researchers conducted a most interesting experiment.  I love getting myself to do things that I am not necessarily inclined to do, even if it is for my own good, which I think we can all agree, these safety precautions are in fact for my own good, and yours.  Their study exposed a fundamental human truth – we are more likely to do the right thing when we are being watched, than when we think we are not.  The most amazing thing about this is that a real person doesn’t even need to be there monitoring the work.  If you are a parent, you understand that watching your children 24/7 is impossible, but what if you didn’t have to watch them, what if the suggestion of being watched was enough.  This study indicated that by posting signs with eyes, letting workers know that their behavior was being monitored, and imploring them to act accordingly, did just that!  I can hear it now, Darryl Hall and John Oats singing Private Eyes are Watching You – watching your every move, they’re watching you, watching you, watching you.  I hope you can appreciate a good ‘80’s hit, but more importantly, this low-cost solution to compliance that could be the secret to a safe year ahead.  

I should put my money where my Safety Week mouth is and throw out those pants.  Be safe, be smart, be the person that comes home whole at the end of the day.  Safety Week 2021 runs from May 3 – 7, 2021.

Construction Safety, Insights, Trends, Women in construction

Jackie Falla Jackie Falla is the Director of Client Services for Elaine Construction, a woman-owned construction firm in Greater Boston. She is also an accomplished blogger on a variety of topics and is actively involved in several industry organizations such as CoreNet Global|New England, Society of College and University Planners, and Woman’s Exchange for Leadership and Life.