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Construction Safety

Enterprise Safety Management: Creating a Framework

Peter Furst | January 19, 2008

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Building a house--construction worker

The bedrock on which the enterprise safety management (ESM) framework rests is a culture that values safety, has a vision for creating an injury-free workplace, and follows a strategy that ensures the accomplishment of that goal. (See my September 2007 article.) The foundation for the ESM framework is a "best-in-class" safety program that acts as a guideline to the organization's management and employees in fostering an injury-free workplace.

The ESM framework is about integrating and aligning the organization's systems, processes, and procedures and providing the people within the organization with the information so that they may learn, innovate, and drive excellence in the operations so as to achieve an injury-free workplace (IFW).

Enterprise Safety Framework

The ESM framework has four key elements: safety procedures, people focus, operational process, and organization systems. Each element has two attributes. For these elements to effectively participate in the creation of an IFW, they require relevant and timely information. The sources of information are external and internal, with a 360-degree focus. The people "activate" the organization, so it is imperative to manifest the "right" leadership, manage effectively, and provide timely information so that everyone may make the appropriate decisions to achieve an IFW. The reward and recognition systems must also support this. The ESM elements also have to become aligned with other elements and integrated into the organizational systems.

Safety Procedures

The safety procedures address the technical aspects of managing safety. There is a program element, a risk assessment element, specific requirements for managing safety, as well as the necessary resources.


The safety program must include all the sound engineering practices, state-of-the-art education, audits, and inspections to ensure that policies and procedures are followed. These elements should be in line with processes and procedures utilized by the best-in-class organizations. The safety process must also address the unique needs, risks, and exposures of the organization, which may include a substance abuse program, an automobile fleet program, a wellness program, etc. The program must become a process and be integrated into operations so that it is a true "part" of the way things are done.

Risk Focus

Traditional safety management spends a great deal of time identifying physical exposures to hazards and worker behavior. These kinds of interventions do result in some improvement in performance, but ultimately they plateau. The reason being that injuries may be driven by other risks that are not dealt with in the "hazard-exposure" analysis. To effectively address the elimination of worker injuries, the organization must focus on risk. Some other areas where risks may reside are operational procedures, business practices and organizational systems. These risks also must be identified, analyzed, and eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. Another area of risk mitigation involves the definition of the organization's acceptable level of risk.

People Focus

There are two attributes to focusing on people: leadership/management and getting people involved.


Leadership is a key element in creating and sustaining a value-based culture which supports excellence. Principle-centered leadership involves ethical behavior, causal thinking, inspiring a shared vision, enabling and encouraging others to act, modeling the way, challenging the process, and encouraging others to carry on.

Management is the process of obtaining, deploying, and utilizing a variety of essential resources to effectively and efficiently contribute to an organization's success. Managers deal with one of the most important resources of the organization—the employees. Managers spend much of their time planning, organizing, controlling, staffing, and energizing the work of people and other resources. Management is necessary, but leadership is essential.

Involved Employees

To achieve an IFW, the organization needs to have its employees involved and to actively care about creating an injury-free workplace. The employees need to follow safe work practices, watch out for one another, diligently participate in identifying risk in the daily operations and work procedures, and plan the daily activities with safety in mind.

Operational Processes

Lean thinking is about eliminating waste. Any activity that absorbs resources and does not create value is deemed as wasteful. Let's apply this thinking to the practice of traditional safety.

Efficiency and Quality

Loss analysis, toolbox talks, safety training, safety committees, accident investigations, etc., all are practiced to prevent future losses. We know for a fact that these do not completely eliminate risk. These techniques have been practiced since the inception of formal safety in the early decades of the past century. If these techniques truly worked, then after about 100 years, we would have eliminated all incidents. So there must be risks that these tools do not either identify or do not effectively control. So, to some extend there is "waste" in the practice of safety.

To achieve improvement in anything, we need metrics. In safety, the metrics are historical and reflect past underperformance. A study of the past is not the best predictor of a future state. The standard that is used for benchmarking is the Bureau of Labor Statistics information, which is basically an average, and not too challenging to meet. Small improvements over the average standard will not create an IFW. To achieve excellence in safety performance we need a standard that reflects high expectations. 1 If we map the process to create value, foster efficiency, and aspire to standards of excellence, we will end up with stellar results and an injury-free workplace.

Planning and Integration

Everything that is done requires some form of planning. Contractors are good at planning the work. The key is to plan the work with safety in mind. To effectively manage safety, pre-operational planning must occur very early in the contracting process. Some of the longest lead items dealing with safety may have to be included in the "buy"; therefore, safety planning should start at the time of estimating and pricing. Planning then needs to continue throughout the construction effort. With a project overall safety plan formulated before the start of work, followed by phase of construction planning, then midrange planning (2-4 weeks), and task planning, this cascading of plans will address long-term and short-term project safety needs.

Organizational Systems

The two attributes of organizational systems are (1) systems and processes and (2) innovation and learning.

Systems and Processes

These cover the policies, procedures, and practices the organization engages in to exist. It includes human relations, accounting, legal, organizational structure, business practices, operational means and methods, and for contractors, bidding, estimating, purchasing, cost control, and other aspects necessary to engage in the construction business. All these systems have to be aligned to achieve excellence in performance. This is evidenced in production, quality, and safety results.

Business and operational integration is crucial to the creation of an injury-free workplace. The internal systems, processes, and procedures must be in harmony and all work toward the creation of an injury-free workplace. This integration and alignment encompass a 360-degree focus horizontally, vertically, internally and externally. It also implies flawless execution.

Innovation and Learning

Innovation, growth, and learning are important because of the nature of modern business. Just about the only constant in business is that change is inevitable. And change is occurring at faster and faster rates. So the organization has to understand its environment and learn from it so as to change its internal processes and procedures to remain competitive and perform well. The innovation continuum includes efficiency, as well as evolutionary and revolutionary innovation. Growth involves increased knowledge and understanding by the employees, as well as management, thereby enabling them to effectively operate and support the internal integration and alignment necessary to create the injury-free workplace.

See the second part of this enterprise safety management series that discusses alignment and execution; communication and metrics; and culture, values, and vision.

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1 Many companies with outstanding overall performance have used Six Sigma methodology to get there.