FB&E Celebrates Milestone of 1,000 Days and 350,000 Hours Without Lost Time Injury: How Safety Culture is the Key to Success

By Ken Thomson

Facility Builders & Erectors

FB&E Celebrates Milestone of 1,000 Days and 350,000 Hours Without Lost Time Injury:
How Safety Culture is the Key to Success

Lost Time Injury, according to OSHA, is defined as an injury sustained by an employee at work resulting in absence from or a delay in meeting the employee's normal workload.

In December of 2021, Facility Builders & Erectors Inc. achieved a significant milestone for a commercial and industrial builder: 1000 Days and 350,000 Hours without a single Lost Time Injury.

Since that time, as of this publish date, the figures now stand at over 1115 Days and 367,000 Hours!

In this article, we'll show you how FB&E earned this milestone thanks to our organization's safety culture. We will define safety culture and explore why cultivating a culture of safety is the key to success. Finally, we'll hit on 3 best practices everyone can adopt, whether in your organization or in your own personal life.

What is Safety Culture?

OSHA defines company culture as "a combination of an organization's attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, values, ways of doing things, and other shared characteristics of a particular group of people."

Practically speaking, safety culture is an atmosphere that expects a level of situational awareness, common sense, and bias for safety from every individual working for the organization. It is a framework within which all decisions are made.

Or, as Ken Thomson, founder of FB&E, would put it: "Safety is a culture; it's not just an item on a checklist. It's a way of thinking about everything."

Why is Cultivating Safety Culture Important?

Safety culture isn't something that's flipped on with a switch; it is cultivated and refined over time.

"Safety is a way of life," says Thomson, "and needs to be instilled in everybody on the team. It starts at the top with leadership and works its way down through the organization in terms of planning. It's about introducing safety into the culture and sustaining it so that it becomes a way of life."

He adds, "A former head of Butler Manufacturing™ once said: 'If you can't manage safety, you can't manage.'"

On the surface, safety culture is simply an environment and way of working that protects the most important resource: the human life. It means everyone has cultivated a safety mindset at work with an alertness to anything out of place.

But safety culture goes even deeper than that. Though safety starts with individuals, their cumulative behaviors create a significant ripple effect.

A strong safety culture benefits the bottom line. A high standard for safety across all processes is what makes a project successful, because there is no loss or waste of work, meaning project timelines and costs stay on target.

Having a good safety culture attracts and retains skilled tradespeople who are interested in working with a team of like-minded people with integrity. This is especially important considering today's construction workforce shortages.

Finally, an excellent safety culture promotes customer satisfaction by delivering successful projects, ultimately reflecting favorably upon the organization's reputation as an industry leader.

"This safety milestone is something we're celebrating," says Ken Thomson. "It's worth celebrating all the individuals in our organization; we've accomplished this together. Safety is a daily effort and there's an awareness built into everything we do; it's cultural."

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Examples of a Safety Mindset

Safety requires personal accountability for situational awareness--a safety mindset. For example, ladder safety isn't something the average person thinks about when getting things done around the house. In fact, one of the leading causes of emergency room visits around the holidays is ladder falls, in part due to stringing holiday lights on the house by stepping on the unstable top rung of a short ladder (instead of borrowing a taller, more stable ladder for the job from the neighbor).

"Beyond common sense, there is a systematic thinking process that you need to have when you focus on safety in whatever you do," says Thomson. "You really need to think through the steps. 'Okay, how are we going to unload this truck?' 'How are we going to put this steel up in the air?' 'How are we going to tilt these concrete panels up?' 'Who does what?' 'What's the safety plan?' 'What are the control issues?' etc."

According to Thomson, a tradesperson becomes skilled with practice, repetition, by knowing how to work their tools safely step by step, and by knowing how to anticipate next steps. "If someone with a safety mindset comes across a saw that isn't in safe condition, they're going to stop and not use the saw, or correct what's wrong with it before cutting the wood. But," he warns, "if a person doesn't have that sense of safety training, he might say, 'Oh, it's just one cut'...and then wonder how he just put a four-inch gash in his leg."

How to Improve Safety Culture in Your Organization

Start by developing and enforcing a set of best practices and processes with a spotlight on safety at every step. This could be as simple as following established regulatory guidelines, or it could be an organizational expansion of those rules.

At FB&E, all of our subcontractors are required to adhere to our strictly enforced Code of Safe Practices.

Back to the topic of ladders: When you're a skilled tradesperson, your safe ladder use may be automatic because of the thousands of hours you've spent on ladders; however, you're still required to maintain a safety mindset and situational awareness to avoid hazards. At FB&E, we have explicit rules about ladder use. In fact, improper use of a ladder is one of the ten most cited OSHA violations--and we have zero tolerance for it. This is one way we maintain a culture of safety at FB&E.

To continue cultivating a culture of safety at FB&E, we offer education, practice enforcement, and we reward our team.

We provide ongoing safety education and training in-house and by external regulatory organizations.

We follow OSHA and Cal/OSHA requirements and enforce FB&E's Code of Safe Practices. We engage every individual on our team to be accountable for reporting any witnessed hazards or potential violations.

And we reward our employees, not just to let them know how much we appreciate each person's excellent contribution, but also to reinforce the importance of maintaining a safety culture in everything we do.

3 Best Practices of a Safety Mindset

    1. PREPARE.
In culinary arts, they call it "mise en place," or "everything in its place"--all the ingredients are prepared and stationed for the flurry of cooking about to happen, so there are no surprises and no mistakes. You're preparing to cook.

When you are about to drive your car, you might plug your course into the GPS, buckle your seat belt, check your mirrors and look back to make sure the driveway is clear of the kids before slowly backing out. You're preparing to drive.

In construction, you gear up--wear the proper safety equipment and clothing. Do a risk assessment of the job site--are there any potential hazards? You anticipate the possibility of exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals, machinery, materials, etc., and you make a plan for managing these hazards. You're preparing to work.

    2. MAINTAIN.
When you keep your chef's knife sharpened, or get your car's oil changed regularly, you're maintaining the safety and effectiveness of your equipment that is important for everyday use.

If you don't keep your knife sharp, you run the risk of it slipping while chopping an ingredient, sending yourself to the ER for expensive and preventable stitches. And if you don't get regular oil changes, it will wear out your engine prematurely and require expensive and preventable repairs.

If you don't keep your work equipment, tools, and gear in good, clean working order, you're creating a preventable safety hazard for yourself and your co-workers. Beyond keeping your personal items in check, also maintain a clean worksite as you go, keeping walkways clear of obstacles and free of spills. Maintaining cleanliness and order at every level maintains a safe environment.

Having situational awareness means you assume there will be hazards throughout your day, and your alertness will help you avoid those hazards. Just like with driving a vehicle, over time, an active sense of awareness can be cultivated to become automatic, thereby creating a mindset of safety in your everyday life. This situational awareness follows you everywhere you go, from the kitchen to the job site.

You wouldn't leave your deep-frying chicken unattended on the stove, and you'd never text while driving on a busy highway. It's common sense because you know both scenarios can cause serious harm and even death.

On the job site, the same common sense applies: Never rush. Avoid working alone, especially around hazards. And if you notice you're not feeling well or are having unusual symptoms, don't ignore the signs of needing medical attention. Stop your work and get some help--NEVER try to "tough it out."

Safety Culture Matters

Having a safety mindset is the key to personal and organizational success. It not only keeps every individual safe; it keeps projects on track, helping an organization's bottom line, customer satisfaction, and industry reputation.

Contact Facility Builders & Erectors today to work with a team that exemplifies safety at every step of a construction project.

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Published on March 31, 2022

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