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Industry Perspectives: How we can achieve zero incidents (hint: caring)

Chris Gower
Industry Perspectives: How we can achieve zero incidents (hint: caring)

What lands one professional sports team in the playoffs above their competition if the playing field is level?

Or how does a team miss the playoffs when the odds are in their favour: the best coaches, highest paid players, top-of-the-line equipment?

We’ve seen this scenario hundreds of times and we’ve seen those variables manipulated with little to no success. So, what’s missing that can’t be bought?

Heart. Heart is something that you can’t force, and arguably may not be able to teach. It’s the level of caring that propels teams to the top.

This comparison can be used with safety programs as well.

At PCL we have a very robust safety program and I could go on and on about our safety practices and procedures.

The reality is, all the training in the world, combined with an excellent program, won’t guarantee anyone will achieve zero incidents.

In my opinion, the key driver in an effective safety culture is heart — how much we care for one another can drive actions such as changing our attitude and speaking up when necessary.

I’ve been in a leadership position when we had a fatality on a jobsite. It changed who I am and how I feel about safety. It really drove me to ensure it never happens again — never.

During those dark days I witnessed enormous caring for those impacted. I continue to ask myself how can we, as an industry and an organization, behave with that level of caring all the time — to prevent an incident from happening?

When we see our children acting in an unsafe behavior, there’s no doubt as a parent we would step in.

It’s always easier to reinforce why people behave safely when it’s for our families. Knowing that everyone has someone who wants them to return home safely is a perfect reason to speak up and demonstrate heart.

I’ve seen project teams find unique ways to show why they work safe, such as by putting pictures of their families on display either on their safety vest or in the office. It’s a reminder that each person isn’t just a worker; they are someone’s child, parent, sibling, or friend.

It goes beyond just working safely on the job.

Many behaviors are formed off the clock, and by living by safety best practices when at home, we can help raise our awareness and change behaviors.

Safety isn’t about title, position, or seniority. It’s about people feeling empowered to act when they see someone performing unsafe work, and passionate about enhancing the safety culture on their site or in their office.

When we make it personal, celebrate successes, and engage everyone in this effort, everyone can return home safely. How are you bringing heart into your daily safety routine or your organization’s program?

Chris Gower is chief operating officer, buildings, at PCL Construction. To comment please email

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