Improving the Way We Do Things Around Here By Bob Dolan
Inspired by the potential of wearable technology to advance safety, Bob Dolan joined Triax Technologies in 2012. Over his 35-year career, he has never experienced the kind of technological revolution — and excitement — that is occurring in construction right now.
Like most injuries, accidents on the job often stem from poor habits, which often remain unknown and unchecked until an accident unfortunately occurs. The phrase “hindsight is 20/20” applies here. Poor habits are typically cultural, and shifting culture is hard work: it takes commitment, patience, persistence and a willingness to hold all members of an organization accountable.
I recently searched the web for a definition of safety culture and found the following:
“Safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety in the workplace. Safety culture is a part of organizational culture, and has been described by the phrase ‘the way we do things around here.'”
Improving “the way things are done around here” begins with real-time, data-driven insights into “the way things are done around here,” or how things happen. While, historically, workforce safety data has been largely unavailable for practical analysis – locked in paper logs or spreadsheets and accessed only after the fact – emerging wearable technology has drastically changed that. Triax’s unobtrusive wearable sensor, for example, can help workers, supervisors and company leaders better document both risky and positive safety habits and practices.
Real-time safety data empowers real-time intervention and behavioral modification. This is often referred to as Behavior-Based Safety and is defined as the “application of the science of behavior change to real world problems.” An example of this occurred at one of our first project sites, a high school renovation project, where that general contractor was particularly concerned about site access and control. When the safety supervisor received a 4-foot fall alert at the same time for consecutive days, he suggested that the system was glitch-y or malfunctioning. Knowing where the fall was occurring and when enabled the two of us to determine that a worker was jumping off the auditorium stage instead of using the stairs. While that “habit” doesn’t result in an injury 99 times out of 100, the situation allowed the supervisor to bring up and reinforce best safety practices with the larger team at the next morning’s meeting.
Improving safety culture is a two-way street. Workers must be able to report hazards or injuries—and stop work—without leaving their work areas and with the confidence that supervisors will receive and acknowledge the report. Additionally, management must share good and bad examples (even better if it’s backed up with data) and must practice patience and accountability. Having the latest information, knowing a specific site, worker or trade’s greatest risks, engaging the entire company and providing tools to take ownership over their personal role in the process offers a long-term path to success. Real-time identification and documentation through technology is a beneficial development which will lead to safer and more productive jobsites.