The Ripple Effect: How a Culture of Safety Breeds Innovation
Shaun Carvalho, Chief Safety Officer, Shawmut Design and Construction
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of a strong and nimble construction safety program—which starts with a culture of safety. To truly impact change, safety needs to be a top-down and bottom-up business imperative. When safety is embedded in a company’s culture—with a commitment to creating a healthy, injury-free environment—employees are empowered to speak up and share their thoughts and observations. With a highly-engaged workforce, safety teams can confidently pilot new technologies that push closer towards hazard prediction, and react quickly and efficiently to extreme safety challenges such as COVID-19.
Laying the Groundwork
With no singular solution to prevent risk, a proactive and effective safety program is imperative, and needs to be supported by a dedicated workforce. That level of buy-in can only occur if a company proves its commitment to safety, starting at the top with leadership. At Shawmut Design and Construction, safety is a core value—everyone works towards the same goal of creating an injury-free environment, and the number one priority is making sure everyone goes home safely each night. From small, consistent actions including a safety moment at every meeting, to companywide safety updates from the CEO, to the creation of the Chief Safety Officer position, safety is engrained in Shawmut’s fabric.
"A cornerstone to the safety protocols is Shawmut Vitals, a custom technology platform designed to check for symptoms and manage contact tracing to minimize and control infectious disease spread."
The safety team has created consistent touchpoints to drive awareness, education, and advancement—both internally and across the entire Shawmut network— including an annual Safety Week, robust safety orientation, regular trainings and toolbox talks, and a monthly “Know Safety” newsletter. Safety incentive programs celebrate and reward positive behaviors, reinforcing the actions and steps everyone needs to take in order to create the safest possible jobsite—deliberate attention to safety at all times, making the right decisions to keep everyone safe, and pointing out safety violations to prevent injuries and reduce future incidents.
Identifying and Leveraging Resources
Successful, proactive safety results from layering technology and resources on top of a strong cultural foundation. With technology continuously advancing, having as many safety champions as possible increases the speed at which safety teams can vet, pilot, and deploy new innovations. These technologies and tools gather data that can help firms come one step closer to predicting and preventing risk.
Shawmut’s safety metrics system analyzes risk by pulling data from multiple channels and technologies. The system is only as powerful as the data it’s fed, making it critical for the technology to collect the right type of data, and for project teams to fully engage with the technology so it collects enough information. Following intensive research and piloting, Shawmut has employed two key pieces of technology company wide: ConstructSecure, a safety monitoring app that allows teams to make informed decisions based on real-time data, and Smartvid.io, which harnesses the power of AI to detect safety performance and drive desired on-site behavior. The data from these programs, among others, provides valuable insights on incidents, trends, and workflow across the corporate, project, and subcontractor levels, identifying risk and exposure. Teams can then home in on areas that need immediate attention and focus, prioritizing resources that will make the biggest impact and filling gaps in safety trainings.
Nimble, fast action in an extreme safety challenge such as COVID-19 results from a strong safety foundation. Developing and deploying effective and efficient protocols requires a team that is confident in its infrastructure, allowing them to focus on the crisis at hand. Acting quickly, Shawmut rolled out its robust COVID-19 safety plan across all its project sites nationwide, including safety protocols, new jobsite innovation, and an exhaustive COVID-19 risk assessment and response plan.
Responding in real-time to updates on the virus, coupled with the inherent drive to find the best safety innovations, the team has piloted and deployed technologies including contactless temperature screening devices. Building on its existing partnership with Smartvid.io, Shawmut swiftly incorporated its new capability to detect social distancing violations.
A cornerstone to the safety protocols is Shawmut Vitals, a custom technology platform designed to check for symptoms and manage contact tracing to minimize and control infectious disease spread. The idea for the platform was a grassroots innovation by members of a Shawmut project team who wanted to reduce hand-to-hand and face-to-face interaction through paperless health screenings. This solution was developed in-house, transformed from concept to rollout in under two weeks. The resulting platform is accessed through a QR Code, where team members fill out a project-specific health survey; anyone at-risk of being infected or exposed to COVID-19 is flagged in real-time to site superintendents for immediate action. Starting as a team member’s idea, this innovative safety solution is a testament to the power of a strong culture of safety.
At the core of a world-class safety program is a culture of safety, which instills within employees a sense of ownership to ensure the wellbeing of everyone around them. This commitment drives forward-thinking and idea-sharing, creating a level of engagement that strengthens and grows the safety program. It is this strong foundation that allows a construction firm to mobilize quickly in the face of a global pandemic.
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