Enthusiasm Is Contagious: 3 Steps To Improve Safety Participation In Construction


Remember a time when a mandatory piece of equipment became the valuable tool you can’t imagine working without? Or how a different way of tackling a task seemed awkward at first, until it wasn’t?

Overheard at a safety conference: “Hey, you guys have got to see this. Here’s something we’ve been doing at our jobsite and it’s working for us.” It came from a guy who sounded really upbeat. Is he really talking about work?

It’s every construction foreman’s goal: crew participation in getting the job done on time and with no reported accidents.

It’s a shift from “What do I have to do?” to “What should I do?” This kind of thinking is a key ingredient in a positive safety culture that spreads to everyone on the team. That’s the best kind of contagious.

Now, basic compliance is a good thing – no knocks there. A sustained focus on safety is how it should be, especially given the fact that construction is towards the top of the list of most dangerous professions. Being trained up on the latest SOPs makes sense, so it becomes routine. But what do we do when we get distracted or there’s a new set of circumstances we’re not used to seeing? We might miss a step.


Having a team accept ownership for their safety is more than dropping a set of expectations on your crew and demanding results. It’s acknowledging that they’re the ones doing the work and therefore they’re the ones exposed to the risks. Let’s make the safety program about them.

  1. Gather the group and get buy-in.
    Don’t start with slides; you’ll lose some of your audience. Instead, open it up at the very beginning by asking, “Why safety?” You’re trying to encourage thinking around “What’s in it for me?”

    Sure, you’ll get some blank stares. The first person that volunteers something like, “So I can throw the ball around with my kid after work” is the one that’ll start the flow of ideas that make it personal. It’s about quality of life; making it back home at the end of the day in the same shape you were in when you left.

  2. Make a plan.
    Get as many people involved to tap into the broadest possible experience base. As a work group, you decide:
    • In addition to OSHA’s Fatal Four, what are the known risks given the types of tasks and equipment in use?
    • Who’ll represent the group and be involved with equipment purchases and training roll-outs?
    • What’s the best way to get everyone up to speed on what they need to know?
  3. Do something daily.
    • Take five minutes out of your morning tailgate talk for brief refreshers. Include hot topics like crane safety, or revisit ongoing themes relating to safety harness best practices, etc.
    • Consistency is key to changing our thinking, and then behavior. It’s easy to focus on giving more air time to the tasks at hand to meet a deadline. But don’t be so siloed in thinking. A single injury or damage to equipment can wipe out weeks of productivity gains.


Veterans on the crew can attest to developing a broader peripheral view and a knack on noticing when something’s not right. Between phases of a concrete job, for example, a quick scan of the jobsite can pick up a potential issue that can be immediately called out. This ability is learned over time and through thorough encouragement and practice.

Wireless communication allows contact with everyone, at any time. Even when it’s loud and chaotic, real-time communication helps you to stay safe and in tune with what is happening around you. Sonetics Wireless Headsets let you hear and talk, while your hands stay on your work. Click here for more information on how communication can improve safety and productivity with your team.

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