The Key to Building Safety Is Communication

It’s no secret safety can impact the success of a business in many ways. Today’s organizations are increasingly focused on protecting their investments—and the biggest one is often their employee base. Keeping employees safe has become a primary focus for many organizations and the key to ensuring business growth. After all, employees are the ones creating products or services and interacting with customers and partners to advance the business. The safer and more prepared they feel in their roles, the better work they will do. It’s also known that having a reputation and record for employee safety contributes to employee retention and recruitment.

This focus on employee safety has clearly taken off and has significantly improved in the last few decades because of the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, worker deaths in America are down on average from about 38 per day in 1970 to 13 per day in 2015. Worker injuries and illnesses are down from 10 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to three per 100 in 2015. This drop can be attributed to continued work from the Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state partners and efforts of employers.

Facility managers play a key role in keeping working environments and employees safe. Here, we’ll discuss the skills facility managers should master to support a safe and productive workforce.

The No. 1 skill a facility manager should hone and grasp when it comes to fostering a safe environment is communication. Today’s facility professionals are tasked with juggling the needs of many different people—from customers to employees to contractors and more. Being able to manage projects and processes smoothly from start to finish requires clear communication with all of these groups of people to make sure they understand how changes within the facility will impact their safety and role. Also, facility managers are responsible for communicating new standards, procedures and codes to the groups previously referenced. Planning for and executing an effective roll-out of updated code information and safety measures can be challenging if you aren’t a strong communicator.

Recently, OSHA identified the top 10 hazards for workplace fatality or severe injury. The most remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. This tells us that employers are not doing an effective job in providing the proper education and training that’s needed to keep their employees safe. An employer or facility manager can eliminate some of these unsafe circumstances by making sure their personnel are confident and comfortable with the work they are doing on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, the Department of Labor strongly urges employers to go beyond the minimum requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and even improve morale.

Strong communication skills are critical not only for facility managers, but for many roles across the organization. It’s important to be able to ask intelligent questions that address the needs of different individuals. You may need to ask for clarification or favors when undertaking projects and initiatives. Facility managers in particular need to have a good relationship with their own team but also with the construction crews and contractors they may work with on projects. From a building safety standpoint, it’s important to show that you value the work and personal safety of the people you interact with, which ultimately will lead to better engagement and more successful projects.

When it comes to creating safe environments, facility managers need to look at their building as a whole—not only the obvious safety measures like installing an intelligent security system, lighting, door access, etc. One way to do that is to look around your building and uncover any areas where you could be exposing yourself and your employees to undue hazards; then put plans into place to make changes to reduce risks.

Another area in which facility managers can make an impact is by looking to the future. Learn about new technologies on the market that are designed to improve building safety, attend webinars and industry events that foster discussions around best practices and tap the knowledge of your professional networks through social media. Then when the time comes to implement new safety measures, make sure your personnel understands them as well as you do.

The true leaders in building safety will be the organizations and individuals that are always looking for new ways to improve upon the safety of their spaces and the people inside them. How will you take safety to the next level to protect and inspire your workforce?

About the Author

Scott Cook
Scott Cook is safety and environmental manager for Schneider Electric, Buildings Americas.  He is responsible for providing safety and environmental technical expertise and leadership across all aspects of the group, covering more than 1,900 employees across North America.

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