Taking a Break for Safety
By John P. Fuente, senior project manager, LF Driscoll
On a construction job site, safety always comes first. As construction managers, part of our job is to reinforce that message across the entire site, day in and day out. But sometimes—especially on large jobs—that message can become so routine that the crew starts to tune it out. That’s when a safety stand-down can help.
A “stand-down” gathers the whole project team—from the top project leaders to every construction worker—to discuss an important message (typically safety), as well as celebrate and socialize together. While this message is also reinforced within individual teams, an all-staff gathering allows everyone to hear the message together, first-hand and from project leadership. These meetings also help crews reengage with the jobsite after a holiday or other extended weekend. Our research has shown that most safety incidents occur around holidays, so taking a few minutes when everyone returns to collectively refocus attention on the jobsite, construction hazards and safety is crucial.
In addition to helping reinforce a message of safety, a stand-down has several more benefits for a project and its team:
- Celebration. We serve breakfast or lunch and use this time to celebrate the milestones we’ve accomplished on the project and what is yet to come. Giving out t-shirts and other thanks also helps make everyone feel valued and appreciated for their role on the project.
- Team building. These gatherings are a good opportunity for a project’s management team to connect with the entire construction workforce. By speaking to them directly, leaders make a personal connection they often don’t have the chance to make and help foster a sense of shared pride and teamwork across the site.
- Connection. Similarly, if the client or owner participates, the connection to the big picture becomes even stronger. We recently held a safety stand-down on the site of our Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) project, and one of the hospital’s senior vice presidents spoke to the team. He made it clear that safety is a core priority at CHOP and was proud to work with a construction team who took it equally seriously. That message certainly resonated with our workforce more than a safety poster ever could.
Holding these events is easier than you think. In less than 30 minutes before the work day starts or during lunch, you can show your thanks and create a more unified, educated and aware project team. If that means everyone goes home safe every day, the extra few minutes and few hundred dollars on lunch are well worth the investment.