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Articles | June 25, 2024

Cultivating Better Relationships for Improved Safety

Safety is an integral part of everything we do and should be treated as such.

ASA Foundation

By Scott Risch, Rosendin

There are many conversations around how to improve safety culture within the construction industry, but to move the needle, it’s important to stop bifurcating safety from a company’s larger culture because safety is an integral part of everything we do and should be treated as such.

During my more than 25 years in the industry, I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to improve safety within an organization is to build strong relationships and invest in them frequently.

Safety is not the other person’s job. A safe project takes ownership and a commitment to not just work together but to look out for each other. We all need to be open to being reminded that we forgot to put on our gloves or that there is a better, safer way to complete the task.

When this occurs, we need to be thankful. Someone cared enough about you, your family, and your community to pause their work to talk to you about your safety. That is awesome. If you are not there, that’s where we all need to get.

Using Relationships to Support Safety Initiatives

Positive relationships allow teams to build trust and offer peer-to-peer support and accountability without someone becoming defensive. One way we do this at Rosendin is to build relationships by breaking bread together – enjoying food and drinks while discussing common interests and life outside of work.

When a team has this foundation of trust and respect, there’s space for everyone to learn and grow. It creates an environment of collaboration and allows people to feel comfortable sharing candidly what they need to perform their job safely and effectively. I’ve seen firsthand how prioritizing relationships can transform a job site from hostile and contentious to positive and joyful. A team that enjoys coming to work and working together will always be safer, more productive, and provide the best product for their clients.

This focus on relationships should also extend to partners, vendors, and clients. Ensuring everyone on a job site – not just our internal teams – feels aligned and supportive of one another only improves safety for all involved.

How a Focus on Safety Improves Business

Creating a positive work environment through strong relationships improves employee morale and is good for business. Not only are satisfied employees more likely to engage in safe job site behaviors, but they’re also generally more efficient and stay with their companies longer – allowing their safety experience and general work expertise to be built upon and shared while reducing costly turnover rates.

In my experience, when employees are happy, they’re more engaged and likely to share great ideas—for safety protocols or other ways to improve the company’s workflow. Creating a safe space for these ideas helps unlock employees’ greatest potential. The best part is that developing positive team relationships is low-cost—all it requires is time and effort.

Communicating the Importance of Safety

Communicating the importance of safety doesn’t end with training. While training is critical for sharing the ‘why’ behind safety procedures, this communication works best when we continue it on the job in a clear, compassionate, and solution-oriented way. As leaders, we can also communicate through our actions by leading by example and holding ourselves to the same standards we expect from everyone else. This is often one of the most powerful ways to communicate the importance of safety and inspire positive change.

Leaders should also remember that communication includes listening, and effective communication goes both ways. Create opportunities where employees can share problems, voice their concerns, and provide feedback. Additionally, when employees share their thoughts and experiences, we as leaders are responsible for acting, validating, and valuing their input.

The best way to do this is to follow up with them. Let them know the outcome of their contribution by telling them that the hazard has been corrected and that the material is being moved closer to the work area. Discuss with them why it can’t be done by talking through the situation. They will appreciate the respect you showed them and the value you placed on the relationship. They will know through your actions that they are an integral part of the solution and take more ownership.

Celebrate the Efforts, Not the Results

Celebrating safety milestones is an exciting and rewarding way to improve team morale and bring positive attention to the value of safety. In construction, we often celebrate a lack of injuries or the number of safe hours, but I recommend rewarding the recipe – not the result. This focuses on the efforts that helped the team achieve the desired result, not just the result itself. At Rosendin, some of the milestones we plan to start celebrating include the number of training hours, the number of safety inspections, and the number of engagements.

About D. Scott Risch: Scott is the VP of Environment, Health, and Safety at Rosendin. He has over 25 years of experience in the construction industry, building cross-functional, multi-site teams dedicated to keeping workers safe.

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About Rosendin

Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Rosendin is employee-owned and one of the largest electrical contractors in the United States, employing over 7,500 people, with revenues averaging $2 billion. Established in 1919, Rosendin remains proud of our more than 100 years of building quality electrical and communications installations and value for our clients but, most importantly, for building people within our company and our communities. Our customers lead some of the most complex construction projects in history and rely on us for our knowledge, our ability to scale, and our dedication to quality. At Rosendin, we work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential by building a culture that is diverse, safe, welcoming, and inclusive.

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