Top management is often concerned about the company’s image, reputation and credibility. But then, many managers have never appreciated that they need to provide leadership and vision in implementing and streamlining safety management systems within their organizations. The construction industry is vulnerable to this since most builders do not make health and safety their core value. This edition highlights three recommended practices that top management should employ to visibly demonstrate and communicate their commitment to safe and healthy workplaces.
By Perkins M. Omondi
Every employee in the construction industry has a right to a safe workplace and safe conditions of work just like in any other workplaces. Employers, in the industry, on the other hand have the legal obligation to make sure that they provide safe places to work and have no reason to complain or avoid this duty of care towards the employees. To safeguard the safety of the workplace and maintain it so, the employer needs to implement Environmental, Health and Safety Management Systems (EHSMS). By so doing, the employer will be able to maintain safe worksites that are also void of violations and accidents. To realize this, top management and leadership of the organization – who actually make up the segment of business owners, managers and supervisory teams – have to commit to help create effective safety policies, which can be seamlessly integrated into their construction operations. This calls for three key recommended practices that the involvement of top management and/or leadership has to make exist across the entire chain of the construction company’s operations.
Top Management Commitment in Informing Compliance
In simple terms, compliance starts from the place where Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Directors appreciate the requirement to put on the appropriate minimum Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), provided there are regulations that specify this. In an attempt not to violate any policy specifications and/or requirements in the workplace, top management’s commitment is geared towards ensuring that there is no room for compromising procedures and processes that are intended to make operations compliant. Leadership, therefore, informs the way of compliance since their take on safety and practical actions influence the rest of the workforce. Their active involvement in abiding by all the safety standards and guidelines in place implies that they endorse such directives as exemplified through their actions.
Top management also influences the relevance of safety standards in the workplace. They determine how the standards will be interpreted, embraced and maintained by the employees. Literally, they help to maintain and to consistently improve safety standards and policies in every stage of the construction operations. They hold the direction to which every employee should follow and this can only be realized when the example comes from the leadership. The example that CEOs and Directors exhibit stresses the relevance of safety management systems and enhances coordination across different divisions of operations as this makes the workforce feel that policies and legal frameworks are not designed for them alone. Therefore, they own the safety standards and appreciate the leadership’s take to prioritize them.
Institutionalizing Management’s Commitment with a Publicized Safety Policy
The health and safety policy cannot work if the top level of company management is not committed to execute effective health and safety management systems in the worksite. It is the responsibility of top management to make sure that there are sufficient resources and policies to maintain a safe workplace. To realize this, top management have to ensure that there is implementation of relevant and effective management strategies. One of such management strategies is an occupational health and safety policy. As the topmost management level, it should be intentional to facilitate designing, developing and formulation of safety policy to guide all construction operations. The top management needs to seal the ownership of the policy by putting in place, systems and programs, that will institutionalize it.
To institutionalize safety policy, top management should play the role of ensuring the following, at their capacity:
- Determine specific roles, accountabilities and responsibilities for any safety programs among workers. This should consider different operational areas and all levels of employment as laid out in the company Organogram. Important to this is responsibilities of the management as these inform how effective the rest of the workforce will be in performing their safety responsibilities.
- Make sure that all the required resources, including necessary personnel like safety representatives, officer, managers, are availed to execute and maintain safety programs. This should take care of any timelines relevant to ensure effectiveness of the programs, as well as corresponding construction works in question.
- Be aware of the status of safety management systems and site safety management strategies. Maintaining, improving, updating and reviewing policies and strategies should always be prioritized while also taking an interest in any potential external influences to these.
- Top management needs to coordinate work plans and action plans, making follow ups and monitoring their status relative to the safety outputs they were designed to deliver. While doing this, the management should concurrently determine performance levels and make any changes that might be deemed necessary for continuous improvement.
- Embrace worker consultation and collaboration, especially when there are proposed changes and adjustments in the safety policies, management strategies, work procedures, practices and processes that have related impacts on their health and safety.
- Consult with safety professionals and seek advice from legal experts. These should go a long way in ensuring that health and safety policies are correctly and effectively interpreted and implemented as part of the organizational standards.
With these fully considered and consistently put in place, through direct involvement of topmost management, the safety policies and standards will be institutionalized as part of the company’s main aims of achieving the best health and safety practices. This follows the fact that top management constitutes the key driver of workplace health and safety in whichever work setting. When their commitment is presently felt, much will be realized across all areas of operations as far as safety standards are concerned.
Streamline Accountability for Health and Safety
To build, maintain and improve workplace health and safety conditions in construction sites, top level leadership has to execute basic regulatory requirements that are backed up with safety policies relevant to their construction operations. But these policies are never sufficient without consideration of management’s attitude and behavior, both of which are key drivers to a working policy. Such efforts, if positively initiated by management, do cultivate the needed level of accountability. This is because they already hold themselves accountable by putting systems in place that warrant their commitment to assuring safety in the workplace. This comes with the understanding that as a top manager of the company, you have a role that you cannot run away from and you are answerable in case the worst emerges that called for your input.
Accountability from the top management also promotes and builds a health and safety conscious culture. Through accountability, the behavior of leadership, including supervisors’ keeps on track the importance of safety aspects in the workplace. Emphasis on safety is put into all operations with safety issues taken into account. The management needs to challenge themselves by developing performance appraisals that account for safety issues, compliance and safe work practices. These should be targeted at the leadership first, including CEOs and Directors, then to the rest of the employees. In line with this, accounting for good health and safety performance should entail clear definition of tasks along with established reward systems and performance measurement.
In summary, top management should be directly involved in all initiatives and matters that relate to workplace health and safety. This implies that their understanding that safety forms an integral part of their normal business operations has an influence on overall safety performance. Evidencing their commitment should consider establishing health and safety management systems that are effective for all levels of operations. They determine what health and safety culture would be, as well as what every employee would perceive of safety. Therefore, as top management, it is important to be pro-active and this needs to be a visible commitment to prioritize safety as this emphasizes the importance of safety in the company. This provokes positive health and safety culture and standards among employees.
Perkins Martin Omondi is an Occupational Health and Safety Practitioner specialized in Environmental, Safety, Health and Social (ESHS) safeguards, ESG Analyst and an EIA/EA Expert. He is also ACBA’s Country Representative in Kenya, a Training Consultant with ZOE Talent Solutions and a Co-Founder of Eden Frontiers Consult Ltd. He can be reached through: +254-700901457; E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; or on https://edenfrontiers.co.ke/