Construction Safety and Quality Go Hand-in-Hand

February 4th, 2016 by Nick St. Denis

“A safe job is a quality job.” That was the message from Consigli Construction Co. Inc.’s Moritz Schmid and two other industry experts last week during a webinar.

Schmid joined Oregon State University’s Dr. John Gambatese and Zero Industry Institute’s Bennett Ghormley for a presentation on how safety and quality are tied together in the construction industry.consthelemet-300x211

Ghormley, whose company provides safety consultation services, said he is often asked, “Who will pay for quality and safety?” But the price, he said, is already being paid. The cost for at-risk behavior is injury, and the cost for non-compliant quality is re-work.

“Owners, contractors, insurers and consumers bear the cost of quality and safety non-conformance,” he said. “Keys to prevention are the same for both.”

Ghormley said injury and re-work prevention are assured by the “four Cs”: compliance, communication, caring and commitment.

“Compliance is not a choice,” he said. For safety, it entails Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements and other safety standards. “In quality, it’s adherence to requirements, meeting the customers’ needs, error-cause removal and doing the work right one time … Not adhering to quality requirements is at-risk behavior and can lead to injury due to additional workhours, additional exposure and added hazards of doing the work again.”

Ghormley puts the onus primarily on leadership. He said leaders—including managers and supervisors—should involve employees in the process by listening to their ideas and using their input. Employees, he said, respond well to seeing their ideas implemented into a company’s practices.

“I’ve found out over the years that if a leader will listen to a worker… you gain critical ‘buy-in,’ and critical buy-in promotes both quality and safety,” he said. Project leaders must show employees they care through involvement, recognition and appreciation. Getting everyone’s commitment, he said, is critical.

Ghormley suggests firms “change your goals” and look to eliminate injuries and quality defects completely, rather than just targeting a lower percentage or number. “Change any safety goal to a commitment to zero injury,” he said. “Change any quality goal to a commitment for zero defects.”

Gambatese said safety and quality can be measured both by “leading indicators and lagging indicators.” For example, regarding an accident, he looks at “things we do before the incident, and things we do after the incident.” Measuring quality is similar, with lagging indicators reflecting rework due to failures and defects.

Safety and quality, he said, are connected by “lean thinking” and establishing a hierarchy of controls. The two particularly overlap when putting into place administrative and engineering practices that lead to a safer environment. As the number of injuries decreases, so does rework and defects.

Schmid focused specifically on practices before, during and after construction that can impact safety and quality. Planning is key, he said, as is establishing an efficient work environment. During post-construction, simply gathering feedback and learning from past incidents can be valuable.

During pre-construction, clear expectations should be set among the owner and project team, but also internally within the individual companies involved. As construction begins, regular safety walks should be held. Schmid also discussed the pros and cons of prefabrication, which can speed up the process, save cost and improve ergonomics and safety. However, issues with the product may not be identified until the materials and systems are on site. Size limitations can be troublesome, and prefabrication requires extensive collaboration.

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