Back to Posts

What Steps Can You Take to Build World-Class Safety?

Sandy Smith

Every work day in the construction industry, an average of three people are fatally injured. The Associated Builders and Contractors are taking STEPs to change that.

What if your company could be 680 percent safer than the industry average? What if you could reduce your Total Recordable Incident Rate by 85 percent? According to the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC), that’s not just wishful thinking, it’s possible.

Every company – including companies in non-residential construction like the members of ABC – wants to send its workers home after a day of work in the same condition in which they arrived. Until now, relatively few studies have been conducted on the correlation between the use of measures companies can take to keep workers safe on job sites – known as leading indicators –­ and the number of incidents, accidents and injuries that occur (trailing indicators). The empirical evidence did not exist.

So, the Associated Builders and Contractors created the Safety Performance Report to address this issue. The charts and summaries within the report present the clearest picture to date of the remarkable impact that leading indicator use has on a company’s safety performance, such as fewer disrupted or lost lives and a safer jobsite regardless of the size of the company. In fact, companies that engage in leading indicator use are, statistically, considerably safer than their peers.

The 2019 ABC Safety Performance Report is not a research project or academic study. It captures the results of ABC STEP (Safety Training Evaluation Process) member companies performing real work on real projects. The report, according to ABC, builds on analysis of nearly 1 billion hours of work annually presented in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Safety Performance Reports to identify what comprises a world-class safety program. According to ABC, the building blocks to create a world-class safety program are:

  • Leadership commitment to an organization that creates the conditions for all to do their work without incident.
  • Cultural transformation into a company where every employee believes all incidents are preventable.
  • Deployment of a world-class safety management system throughout the organization with the desire to achieve industry-leading results.
  • World-class results delivered using leading and trailing indicators to share successes and lessons learned with all employees.


“If we choose to lead, if we choose to commit, and if we choose to transform, together we will create the conditions for all to do their work without incident and go home safe and healthy every day,” said Michael D. Bellaman, president and CEO Associated Builders and Contractors.

The report focuses on eight key leading indicators. These include:

Toolbox safety talks – The report quotes Shelley Sutton, vice president of shared services, hth companies inc., a STEP Platinum and ABC Accredited Quality Contractor, as saying: “Starting each day with a toolbox safety talk not only reinforces those general safe work expectations and obligations, but more importantly, demonstrates to the workforce the importance of putting safety first each and every day.”

Substance abuse programs One-third of all incidents on construction jobsites are drug- or alcohol-related. Companies with substance abuse programs/policies with provisions for drug and alcohol testing where permitted are 60 percent safer than those without a program.

Safety program performance review A biannual review of safety program performance by executive leadership that evaluates whether the program is producing expected results and identifies opportunities for improvement leads to a 59 percent reduction in TRIR and a 60 percent reduction in DART rates.

“To consistently achieve an elite level of safety performance, it is critical to know which tools, programs and procedures are the most effective,” said James K. Thompson, corporate EH&S director, Kwest Group LLC, STEP Diamond. “Conducting a safety performance review on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis keeps us grounded in reality and focused to make any necessary adjustments or improvements for greater success.”

Taking action on trailing indicators Training personnel to know the meaning and relevance of key safety rates and numbers such as EMR, TRIR and DART leads to a 57 percent reduction in TRIR and a 62 percent reduction in DART rates.

Employer supervisory safety meetings “The best way to mitigate hazards is to know where they are in the first place - and talk about it! We make it a daily practice to identify the potential hazards and risks unique to each jobsite. We communicate this to our workers in English and Spanish during morning briefings and display it prominently so all workers can safely perform their duties and mitigate exposure to risk,” said Scott Skidelsky, president, Balfour Beatty, STEP Platinum and ABC Accredited Quality Contractor.

During weekly safety meetings with supervisors, a status report on site safety activities is offered; pre-planning discussions are conducted; lessons learned are reviewed; and a review of serious incidents is conducted.

Use of personal protective equipment – Having a written PPE policy that is consistently and universally enforced, conducting an annual needs assessment and continually investing in new equipment leads to a 55 percent reduction in TRIR and DART rates.

Pre-planning for jobsite safety “Nobody starts their workday with the goal of having a job-related accident, but safety programs that over-rely on workforce interventions miss a substantial opportunity to proactively identify, mitigate and minimize risk. Preplanning the safety aspects of construction work helps identify potential problems before they mature to the point of threatening site safety,” said Jon Lynch, president, Three Rivers Corp., STEP Diamond.

Safety program goal setting Implementing a formal process to annually assess safety program needs and establish safety goals leads to a 48 percent reduction in TRIR and a 50 percent reduction in DART rates.

Sandy Smith is global content lead for Intelex Technologies Inc. An award-winning journalist, Smith has written about occupational safety and health and the environment for 25 years and was the content director for EHS Today and SafetyOnline.



This material provided by the Intelex Community and EHSQ Alliance is for informational purposes only. The material may include notification of regulatory activity, regulatory explanation and interpretation, policies and procedures, and best practices and guidelines that are intended to educate and inform you with regard to EHSQ topics of general interest. Opinions are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Intelex. The material is intended solely as guidance and you are responsible for any determination of whether the material meets your needs. Furthermore, you are responsible for complying with all relevant and applicable regulations. We are not responsible for any damage or loss, direct or indirect, arising out of or resulting from your selection or use of the materials.

Would you like to become a member of the EHSQ Community? Sign-up is free and easy.

May 01, 2019 @ 09:00 AM EDT Construction, Manufacturing, Chemical, Energy - Oil and Gas Health & Safety, Operations, Risk Management, Training Management

Login or Sign Up to join the conversation!


jacques willocq's picture
jacques willocq

Very pertinent reminder of proven approaches. Question is why is it not more widely applied, having being known for at least 15 years? Resistance to change? Fear of spending money?

May 16, 2019 @ 01:27 PM EDT