Safety & Compliance —

Trailer Talks Episode 02 on How to Optimize Health & Safety Workflows and Reporting

RhumbixSeptember 06, 2023 • 10 min read

Welcome to today’s Trailer Talks Episode 02 on How to Optimize Health & Safety Workflows and Reporting on your job sites.  Today, we have Gregg Shipp (Director of Sales) and Guy Skillett VP of Construction Innovation from Rhumbix. Good morning gentlemen. 

Read our transcription below of watch the video here

1. Guy, perhaps you can provide a quick introduction to why health and safety management is so critical to construction companies. 

Guy – 

Safety, along with quality and cost, is one of the most important elements of field construction operations. 

Firstly, it is heavily regulated, with extensive federal, state and local ordinances driving compliance needs, and with very high levels of specificity and enforcement. 

It is a key element of successful construction outcomes – an unsafe jobsite is rarely one that performs well in terms of quality, and that means high costs, delayed schedules, and unsuccessful project outcomes. 

Finally, consider a company’s longevity, safety is a benchmark by which companies are assessed for worker comp coverage, which can be hugely expensive, and most owners and GCs will assess a company’s safety performance when awarding contracts. 

Bottom line, companies who don’t do a good job of safety don’t stick around very long, and rightly so. 

2. What are some of the more significant challenges faced by construction teams in terms of safety management and reporting?

Gregg – 

Effective safety management is like many things – you can’t manage or improve what you don’t measure. 

Safety involves a lot of field tasks – inspections, checklists, toolbox talks, pre-task planning, accident and incident reporting, credential management, site access, insurances, site training, engagement, the list goes on & on. and practically, a lot of this falls on the foreman to manage. 

They are the pointy end of the safety stick when it comes to keeping crews safe. 

They are also the ones responsible for materials, information, staffing, equipment, planning etc. It’s pretty easy to imagine that inefficient safety processes – i.e.. doing everything on paper – could lead to this being either less important, or just less well executed. 

At the end of the day, foremen need more streamlined tools to make their lives easier, and managing complex safety management systems on paper – like most processes – adds to foremen’s complexity. 

Safety is one of those domains of foremen responsibility that we are starting to see become more digitized, and that’s great. It will take some of the weight off foremen shoulders and start to generate really solid data. 

Guy – 

Building on the data theme, safety is as much about behavior as anything. You need to establish good safety systems and processes, but compliance is about promoting, achieving, and changing safe work behaviors. This can be tricky in the construction industry. 

Fundamentally, you achieve safe work practices through training and acculturation, and then constantly measuring, checking, validating, and testing your compliance, and looking for areas for improvement. Moreover, it is not one and done, when the work face changes, the crews, risks, behaviors can all change, so it is very dynamic. 

When you combine all the different systems, workflows, processes, data points, and things you are assessing and measuring against, it is a data nightmare, or rather it can be if done on paper. 

For folks trying to manage safety systems on paper, it is very cumbersome. Moreover, you are generating, or rather you should be generating, so much data that you practically cannot make use of it. 

Transferring data to excel spreadsheets etc. will take forever. Few folks will engage with it. 

This may result in safety processes being less well implemented, but more likely it means that construction companies will be unable to measure the effectiveness of their safety programs. 

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. And everyone should aggressively manage safety. If data is what you measure against, manual paper processes for safety create a real challenge for construction companies. 

3. Can you give a brief description of some of the critical health & safety workflows happening on a typical jobsite and how most construction teams manage these?

This is meant to illuminate the sheer number of reports/checks that are happening on a daily/weekly basis such as Injury Reporting, Inspections, Pre-Task Plan, Jobsite Audits, Toolbox Talks, etc. Really emphasizes the sea of paperwork and how this is typically a disjointed work task that is siloed away from other solutions foremen use.

Gregg – 

There are many. Especially when you consider that safety is also about the health of workers, and the environmental impact of the work being performed, which can be very onerous depending on the type of work being performed. 

For now, let’s consider some of the key responsibilities of a foreman. 

Toolbox talks are an informal opportunity to review an activity, and it could be unrelated to construction, and discuss as a crew how safety risks associated with it could be managed. It’s intended to have people start thinking about safety. 

Job hazard or safety assessments, pre-task planning – there are many names – are a formal process to critically consider the tasks, risks and controls associated with a work task to be performed. These need to be documented and should be detailed. Also, all the craft should sign off on these once complete. They should also be done before any changes in work, and on a construction site everything changes, so these can happen at a moment’s notice. Foremen need to have access to tools to make this more efficient so that work is not impacted. 

These are two critical ones that happen before the work starts. I’ll let Guy talk about some of the others. 

Guy – 

Gregg has touched on the ones that happen before the work starts, but a huge part of safety is measuring compliance and adherence to established systems. What did we say we were going to do, and what did we do? 

  • These workflows will include formal inspections, checklists, ad hoc observations, or site walks by management personnel.   For instance, you’ll have formal inspections of safety critical equipment such as scaffolds, manlifts, ladders, elevated works platforms, harnesses etc. 
  • Then throw into the mix all of the permit to work elements like lock out tag out, stored energy, confined space etc. and the list starts to get long and varied. 
  • In the event of an incident or occurrence – and you want lots of occurrences, but not incidents. More on that in a bit, you’ll want to document them and measure them to ascertain causality, and what can be done to improve and prevent recurrence. 
  • I mention occurrences because you can learn a lot about measuring what nearly happened – near misses, unsafe work practices or conditions, observations about safety mitigation measures not being in place etc. – and these will help you identify what needs to be changed moving forward. 
  • The issue here is that these need to be identified and actioned immediately. If left unaddressed, people can become accustomed to unsafe acts or conditions, and this is hugely damaging. 
  • Paper processes make identifying areas for improvement difficult and make timely action almost impossible. 

So, with all that being said, what improvements should people be considering for better health & safety reporting?

Gregg – 

I think we’ve started hammering on the digitization aspect heavily already, but bottom line is that health and safety is one of those areas of construction management screaming out for digitization, but in a bespoke, best-in-breed platform. 

Lots of people have started to digitize safety forms in a form builder, but that can add more to the foreman’s plate by giving them yet another tool to learn, and more data to add than is necessary. 

What we always suggest is that contractor’s should consider best-in-breed solutions for the applications they ask of their crews. Give them the best timekeeping tool, the best tools for tracking performance. Safety is no different. 

With that being said, where there are opportunities to give them fewer tools that do all of the above, if they are fit for purpose, then this further adds value. 

What we are trying to do at RMBX is build an app that allows the foreman to do much of what they need to do, all in one simple tool. Foremen are at the sharp end of safety management, and anything a contractor can do to make their lives easier frees up time to focus on more value-added tasks, like ensuring safety, and quality, and productivity. 

The bottom line is digitization, but digitize very carefully, and in a way that considers the end user’s experience, not only what the solution can do. 

Where might contractors get added benefits from digitizing safety in the same platform as other workflows. Can you provide some examples?

Guy – 

Building on what Gregg said, we believe there are real synergies from combining workflows in a single platform, and these are driven by the experience of the foremen, but also of the data. 

There are many great safety apps out there – SafeSite, Foresite, SiteDocs, LightHouse Safety, Anchrock, Hammertech – all worth a look for folks looking at safety management.

Most of them are dedicated to safety solutions. What we are trying to do is simplify what a foreman must do by bringing multiple workflows into one tool. We believe that a foreman has specific tasks – safety, crew management, timekeeping, production tracking, change management, daily reporting, inspections, checklists, observations etc. and why shouldn’t they be able to accommodate all in one tool. One log in, one UI to learn, and the opportunity to avoid duplicate data entry in workflows that overlap – think headcount in T&M tickets, daily reporting, timekeeping, toolbox talks, JHAs – all of which require some component of the crew and who was on the jobsite. 

But beyond that, for companies, there is only one tool to buy. One integration to manage. One cost to carry. One tool to teach everyone. 

Furthermore, there is amazing value in timekeeping data being combined with safety metrics. 

Safety measurement – how the industry tracks trends and performance – is all about how much work you do (hours spent) with how many incidents you have. This is the EMR. 

Preventative performance is how much work or risk you might be exposed to based on upcoming work or tasks. That information on time, or crew mix, or risk, is inherent in your timekeeping metrics. And combining time with safety can be challenging and time consuming. 

We strongly believe that bringing these two data sets together will drive a lot of efficiencies for field and office, but also deliver an altogether different data set for companies to leverage. 

Again, you cannot manage what you don’t measure, and as we start to hear more and more about data cleanliness, data structure, data mapping and relationships, the opportunity for AI and ML to impact construction, we are also hearing that folks cannot pursue these easily because data is a hot mess. 

This is where consolidation and standardization of workflow and systems start to become impactful, above and beyond what the foreman does day-to-day. 

Fundamentally, the fewer tools you have to manage, the cleaner and better your data environment becomes. If you can do a better job with reporting and make the foreman’s life easier, that’s a whole lot of wins!

4. What are some of the more powerful metrics or insights that can be generated through connecting health & safety reporting with your timekeeping and labor data? 

Gregg – 

Guy hit on many of them, but really anywhere where your labor data – i.e. timekeeping, headcount, crew mix, attendance, starts to interact with safety, which is basically everywhere. 

Some key performance indicators that we look at include:

How frequently does a worker bounce between tasks, projects, or crews? This might indicate a a level of change, exposure to new or different risks, and general workplace complexity which is undesirable. 

Which foremen and workers are working on tasks for which a relevant toolbox talk or JHA has not been performed? Often the only time folks realize that a required workflow has not been completed for a task is in the event of an injury and the immediate follow up. This moves the burden of responsibility away from the crew. It’s very difficult to manage this if the data is not combined and presented to you as these exceptions should be rare but are key to identify early. 

Guy anymore to add?

Guy – 

I can think of many, but in the interests of time, 

  • Who is generating timecards but not doing inspections and checklists at the rate desired?
  • Which workers are on a timecard in a week, but not also on a toolbox talk or JHA?
  • Can you gamify incentivize safety tasks by combining work history (which you get from timekeeping) with safety data (that you get from a safety management system)
  • Can you look at tasks across all projects and see that perhaps you need to run a company initiative for manual handling based on current risk exposure?

We think there is a huge opportunity to bring together safety and construction management workflows with better tech. 

Thank you for your time today on a very important topic for our trailer talk series. We’ll see you next month!