Safety in the Construction Industry

August 22, 2023
Safety & Quality
published by
Matthew McQuinn
Chief Operating Officer

Why is it always about HSE? This article will discuss why it’s essential for companies to create an atmosphere that fosters safety in the construction industry.

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In our industry, several measures of success are used to evaluate a project upon completion. Some of these measures include:

  • Meeting the customer’s objective
  • Turning over a quality product
  • Completing the project within the approved schedule and budget

Undoubtedly, the most critical measure of success for both the customer and contractor is completing the job without someone getting hurt. Why is it always about HSE? First and foremost, the goal is to get each employee back home to their family each night. However, for all organizations, there are many added layers from a business perspective that make HSE excellence imperative to their success.

Why Is Safety in the Construction Industry Important?

Safety holds immense significance within the construction industry due to its far-reaching impacts. Beyond the primary goal of protecting workers from harm, safety influences customer perception, business models, and business development strategies.

The table below emphasizes the importance of safety in several critical areas. 


Importance of Safety in the Construction Industry

Customer Perception
  • Safety creates a positive first impression on customers
  • Demonstrates respect for customer’s facility
Business Model & Why It Matters
  • Safety is crucial for repeat business
  • Repeat customers lead to more profitability
  • Perceptions of unsafe contractors can result in loss of repeat business
Business Development
  • Safety is a key factor in building confidence and trust
  • HSE statistics impact the pre-qualification process for new customers

Customer Perception

When stepping into a new situation, we immediately use our perspective to form first impressions. It’s human nature. What is the first thing that you take note of when you step into a plant? General plant condition? Cleanliness? Although you can’t tell from the surface whether or not the plant meets all of its operational goals, EPA requirements, or OSHA targets, you will leave with your first impression. These are not soon forgotten.

Now, consider a customer stepping onto a construction site for the first time. What are they taking note of? The well-maintained barricades? The fact that everyone is wearing gloves to handle materials? That the working scaffolds are clear from tools and debris? All these things define how we manage and operate our projects. If we get the basics right, confidence is instilled that the less visible components are also handled appropriately. 

All team members may be doing what they need to be doing, but a customer who may only spend 5-10 minutes on-site will form their first impression from what’s on the surface (i.e., general housekeeping and PPE usage). Good housekeeping is integral to a safe job site. It shows a level of respect to the customer that we care about the opportunity to work with them at their facility.

Business Model & Why It Matters

For example, as an EPC Contractor serving the Gulf Coast region, a finite number of industrial facilities have the project types we execute, many of which are owned by the same company. We currently provide services to many of these customers, and our business model depends on repeat business. 

Projects with repeat customers are generally more profitable because you are familiar with their requirements, which allows you to work more efficiently. This, in turn, enables contractors to optimize their bids, resulting in more significant cost savings for the customer. It’s a win-win. If the perception exists that a contractor cannot work safely, repeat customers will turn into previous customers.

Most customers have a distribution network that automatically distributes incident reports from a project site to various levels of management. In cases where a contractor has continued events or incidents on-site, a customer’s upper management team receiving these notifications of HSE incidents will form their perception of the contractor, likely without even meeting their team. Unfortunately, these perceptions are almost impossible to revert and will negatively affect the ability to work at their facilities.

Business Development

Business Development teams work extremely hard to build relationships with new customers. Since building confidence and trust can take 1-2 years before quality projects start rolling through the door, it is increasingly difficult to replace valued customers. 

Part of the pre-qualification process for new customers is a review of HSE statistics, hence the importance of working safely to keep numbers such as EMR and TRIR down. It is essential to consistently demonstrate to customers that creating an atmosphere that fosters safety in the construction industry is how business is done. 

About the Author
Matt has 15+ years of industrial EPC experience in Refining, Petrochemical and LNG industries in both domestic and foreign project settings. His previous project experience with CB&I includes Field Engineering and Commissioning of LNG terminals, process units, and tank farms to Construction Management of brownfield revamps and turnarounds from 50,000 man-hours up to 2,000,000 man-hours. Responsibilities include technical scope and constructability reviews, project schedule analysis, contracting strategies, and self-perform field management.

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