Workplace Safety: The Stakes Are Too High to Ignore

Over that past year, I’ve seen my share of construction-site injuries and I am almost certain that a good portion of them are because workers adopt wrong or unsafe behavior.  Such behaviour often means taking shortcuts but I believe it’s mostly about workers taking the inherent dangers of the job for granted. Risk is part of a construction worker’s life but by far the biggest challenge is getting workers to put their safety first, and to place the same care and attention on themselves while working as they would their family and loved ones. Point in case, in my first week on the job, I spotted a worker chipping concrete near an exposed perimeter edge, 17 floors above the ground, straight down an elevator shaft. Before I can say something, the grizzled worker turned to me, winked and grumbled, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I haven’t missed a day of work.”  “Well, if your attitude towards safety doesn’t change, you won’t make it another year, that’s for sure,” I said, under my breath. It was my first taste of life in the construction industry. The tête-à-tête was one of many I’ve had in my tenure as a health and safety compliance specialist. It may have not been my childhood dream, but I love the job just the same. Like many of my friends, I wanted to be a sports reporter when I grew up. I did manage to cover news and politics at the Toronto Sun for more than decade, before leaving for the Toronto police and eventually working for former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, as his press secretary and communications expert. Well, that’s another story altogether. Having decided on a career in health and safety, I went to work for Tickner & Associates, to gain a broad knowledge of the health and safety sector, as is it relates to the construction industry. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people in the industry, workers, supervisors and company heads alike, who understand safety and the dire consequences of not taking it seriously. It is, indeed, a matter of life and death. No amount of education or training can prevent accidents unless you have a workplace culture that understands the importance of safety and makes it a priority. Risk is a part of a construction worker’s life but did you know that over the course of a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 1 in 200 chance of dying. However, with an improved safety culture, regular site inspections and adequate training, there’s a good chance we can stop adding to those statistics. Too many companies think safety is obvious and that training isn’t needed. Safety is ultimately about leadership – and each second that passes without workplaces buying into a safety-first mindset means they are taking unnecessary risk. The stakes are too high for the industry to ignore.