Probably not. There continue to be significant changes in the work force in many areas, including size, background, language, and fundamental skills requirements. Certainly we’ve come a long way in designing safer and more ergonomically sound equipment and in reducing the number and insidiousness of work-site hazards. Without doubt, we have more and better warning signage, our people are better equipped and clothed, and we provide better basic safety training than ever before … but are we winning the battle?
The answer to this lies less in statistics and the reports you compile to satisfy others than in the evidence of your own senses. Safety is a matter of corporate culture, I think, no matter where you sit in the chain of command, rather than of any objective rating base. You have to ask yourself, “How does my commitment to safety measure up to my responsibility?”
As most of us recognize, the construction industry has a less-than-stellar record. Not only is this is bound to change, but the impetus for change is more likely to result from private initiatives and economic factors than from regulatory mandates. Already, a number of large companies—GM, Ford, and Chrysler, to name a few pioneers—will not do business with contractors and subcontractors with efficiency modification ratings (EMRs) of greater than 1.0. (the EMR is a comparison among all organizations in a particular business. Less than 1.0 is better than average, greater than 1.0 is worse.) So what does this mean to you? It means that these companies have found it’s not worth the increased liability to deal with contractors on the backside of the safety curve—a sound business decision that is gaining increased traction as the downturn continues. The implications are short and sweet: Maintain a lower-than-1.0 EMR, or expect to find yourself bidding on a fewer of the fewer of the jobs available these days.
Increasingly, state and federal agencies are catching on and joining the parade, so you can bet things are going to get even tighter. Moreover, once you understand that one-half of all the people in your field, by definition, will always exceed the 1.0 cutoff point, you see that the safety process is ongoing—and that’s the best starting point I can imagine for asking yourself again, “How does my commitment to safety measure up to my responsibility?”