One lawsuit can cripple a construction firm, and one overlooked detail can cost a worker his life. At the 2005 Annual Construction Safety Conference, presenter Patrick Conroy, vice president of Risk Control Services for Honolulu-based construction insurance firm King & Neel, outlined the following “10 Commandments” of safety for supervisors.

  1. Love thy workers as thy self. Be sure your workers understand and accept personal responsibility for safety. “Nobody's born with this,” Conroy explains. “It takes training and lots of experience. The goal is establishing a safety culture where the company embraces the idea that safety is a value. The owner has his process, he passes that onto management, who passes it down to the field team and finally to the workforce.”

  2. Know the rules of safety that apply to the work you supervise. Never let a worker be injured because you were unaware of the precautions required on the job. A great way to do this, says Conroy, is by attending OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour outreach classes conducted all over the country.

  3. Anticipate risks that may arise from changes in equipment or methods. Use available expert safety advice to help guard against new hazards. One way to do this is through a process called a job safety analysis (JSA) or activity hazard analysis (AHA), explains Conroy. “It's a step-by-step process where we put the construction and safety processes side by side,” he says. “It's sort of a checklist, a living breathing document that grows and is used throughout the construction process.”

  4. Encourage workers to discuss the hazards of their work with you. Never proceed with a job where questions of safety remain unanswered. “Push back is part of the safety culture that starts at the orientation when the employee is hired and then it is further annunciated and highlighted throughout the worker's employment,” Conroy says. “In this type of environment, a worker doesn't have to worry about any kind of negative feedback from speaking his mind about safety concerns because it's already inbred in the culture.”

  5. Instruct your employees to work safely with persistence and patience. “We are constantly coaching and counseling supervisors and workers,” Conroy says. “We find a worker or a team of workers who are not necessarily following the suggested rules and best practices. Then we start the process with the foreman and do instant training right there. If they are missing protective equipment or the right tools, we push back [stop work] until the right equipment and tools are there.”

  6. Follow-up with instructions consistently. If necessary, enforce safety rules by disciplinary action. This relates to the progressive discipline process called the three-strike rule used by the organized labor and construction industry, Conroy says. “If a supervisor is continuously letting his workforce work unsafely, condoning that process, then he gets the first strike, which is an informal coaching,” he says. “The second strike is a formal counseling, and the third strike can be suspension for three to five days without pay or termination.”

  7. Set a good example. Demonstrate safety in your work habits and personal conduct so that you don't appear a hypocrite in the eyes of your workers. “Accountability is how you deal with the set-a-good example issue,” Conroy maintains. “Supervisors lead by example. Part of the safety culture is that all compensation for middle and senior management must be measured and adjusted for good and bad performance. That's what we call compensation and measurement analysis.”

  8. Analyze even the smallest accident. Where minor injuries go unheeded, crippling accidents may later strike. All companies have investigative processes in place for accidents that cause minor or major injuries, says Conroy, but companies who have a real safety culture also investigate near-misses.

  9. Cooperate with those in the company who are actively concerned with employee safety. “The safety man or woman does not own the safety program — the men and women who work in the field own the safety program,” he says. “So when we talk about cooperating that means the CEO down to the lowest laborer and back up the chain of command.”

  10. Remember, accident prevention reduces human suffering and loss and is good for business. Safety is one of your prime obligations to your company, your fellow managers, and your fellow workers.