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Interacting with workforce key to safety culture for Bird

Angela Gismondi
Interacting with workforce key to safety culture for Bird
ANGELA GISMONDI — Matt Cronin, vice-president of industrial, and Matt Fraser, senior health, safety and environmental co-ordinator, both for Bird Construction discussed the importance of safety throughout all levels of the organization during the Ontario General Contractors Association’s Leadership Day event recently.

The single most important influencer on safety culture on any worksite is the presence and engagement of leaders with those on the frontlines, said Matt Cronin, vice-president of industrial with Bird Construction.

Cronin and Matt Fraser, senior health, safety and environmental co-ordinator at Bird, discussed the importance of safety throughout all levels of the organization during the Ontario General Contractors Association’s (OGCA) Leadership Day.

The panel discussion was billed, Who Influences Safety on Your Site: The Integrated Safety System and the Human Performance Side. It was moderated by Craig Lesurf, chair of the OGCA’s safety committee and the League of Champions.

Cronin pointed out humans make mistakes and systems need to be put in place to protect them.

“The problem with humans is they are humans. Humans are fallible,” Cronin stated. “How do we set up our procedures onsite so if the human does fail it’s not going to result in something that is catastrophic?”

Cronin and Fraser spoke about a system used at Bird called the Leading Indicator Dashboard, a program put into place 10 years ago as a way to track the performance of site teams and their participation in the company’s safety program.

“Everyone within our company has a set number of safety activities that they are to complete on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis,” Cronin told the Daily Commercial News. “These activities are set out in our activity matrix which outlines the activities and the frequency that our supervisory and management team are expected to complete those activities.”

“The success of the program is the interactions with our workforce. The dashboard is a means of tracking our performance and ensuring these interactions are happening,” he added. 

Activities include attending morning toolbox talks; safety meetings; conducting site inspections; completion of Behaviour Based Observation cards; Field Level Hazard Assessment spot checks; and completion of interventions or hazard identifications.

“We started tracking and reporting on these activities based on our observation that sites where these activities were not being completed at the prescribed frequency, had higher frequency of safety incidents,” said Cronin. 

“The tracking of these activities on a personal and project basis helped to encourage our teams to increase their participation and in turn improve our safety performance. Our belief is that the more safety related interactions our leadership (site and office) have with our craft personnel, the more engaged our workforce becomes in terms of safety.”

The goal is to ensure management and supervision are out in the field speaking to the workforce on a regular basis. There are many benefits, Cronin said.

“It shows our workforce that our management and supervision are focused on safety; it increases the likelihood that hazards will be identified during these interactions; these interactions require our team to be out in the field rather than in the office where they can make a larger impact in terms of safety; and it supports a collaborative and engaged workforce, and creates a HSE culture of complete accountability and personal responsibility where effective hazard identification, assessment and control are critical components for safe production.”

Fraser also spoke about communication on the jobsite.

“It’s a great opportunity to understand concerns, hear concerns, observations, positive or negative. Workers are telling us what they need,” said Fraser. “Our goal is to build a community onsite. Having these conversations, engaging, empowering our workers to do what they have to do.”

Cronin said accountability is also important.

“A lot of it comes down to accountability throughout our organization and holding us to the fire to make sure we bring our ‘A’ game every single day,” said Cronin, recalling one particular job they worked on. “If we weren’t performing well we heard about it and it wasn’t pleasant.

“We need to hold ourselves accountable, not just at the field level but at the executive level,” he added. “We don’t want to manage safety with a stick, we want to encourage people to do the right thing because they want to but that takes effort. We want to be driving that accountability internally, not waiting for a client or the industry to do it for us.”

Discussing safety often also helps keep it top of mind for everyone.

“Talking about safety over and over puts safety at the forefront of your mind,” said Fraser. “It’s that little nudge to remind you, encouragement towards a positive safety direction.”


Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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