Look at how safety, quality, and productivity all suffer if any one of them is neglected.
- [Instructor] As we begin this discussion on safety issues in construction, let's start by talking about gathering data on near misses. I've also used this term in some of my other courses so I think it's a great opportunity to explain exactly what I mean by a near miss, why I think that data's important, and how to capture it without getting bogged down. More importantly, I'll explain how this information cuts across safety, quality and productivity issues, making this data important and useful to everyone in the construction industry, regardless of your role, whether you're a field superintendent for a trade contractor, a project engineer in charge of one element of a job site, or a lead project manager trying to oversee an entire project and all of its moving parts, this information is information that can help you focus your efforts where they can do the most good. Let's take a look. When I use the term near miss, I'm not talking about an event where someone got hurt, that's different, that's a safety incident, and I'll talk about those events another time. A near miss is much more subtle. A common definition for a near miss is an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred. So essentially this is an incident in which nothing happened, but it could have. Now many people, especially safety people, tend to equate a near miss with an event, or something bad occurred but no one got hurt, so we'll say something like a ladder falling over as someone tries to get on, but that person managed to get off and escape injury and the ladder didn't hit anyone as it fell to the ground. Is that a near miss? Sure, it fits the definition, it's a significant event and it needs to be reported, but what I'm really talking about here is something even more subtle than that. What I'm talking about is walking by a person who's up on a ladder on the job site, and is leaning over way too far to one side trying to reach their work. You walk by, you see this, and you quickly correct their action, and then you move on. That's a near miss too. No damage, no injury, but just a little change and that person could have fallen from the ladder and been seriously injured, or worse. What I'm advocating here, and encouraging, is that we track these kinds of subtle near misses. Now, before you go off thinking that I'm crazy and that we don't have time for this, hear me out. First of all, if we have the right technology with us, tracking is easy. You're already there, you've already taken a minute to caution the worker on the ladder about leaning too far and talk to them about the possibility of falling. If you can take just one more minute, just one, to pull out your smart phone and record what just happened, you're on your way to gathering really useful information, and it really does just take a minute. Again, pull out your smart phone, or your tablet, whatever you carry around the job site with you, open an app, click on whatever function you use for recording near misses, and enter the event, in this case, leaning too far on the ladder. Add the trade or the contractor name, enter your actions: I cautioned them against leaning too far, told them they could fall and get seriously injured, and then just move on. Now ideally, you would also record or tag this with location information on the job site, in order to add another layer of useful information, and there are various technologies that let you do this very easily, like adding the report as a tag on the digital drawings, or letting the phone's GPS record a location, or just entering a location or a location reference number in order to be able to look at events later that all occurred in a given area. Again, it just depends on the app or the system that you use. Any app that you're using for this purpose though, should also let you add photos or videos if that would be helpful to better explain or document the incident. Again, don't spend an inordinate amount of time here. Nothing happened, you caught it before anything went wrong, you talked to the person, record it and move on. And this is where people, and even some apps, get really hung up on this. In this case, something subtle like this, I don't think there's any follow up that's probably needed, and in fact if you tried to follow up on every single subtle little event like this, it's going to eat up your time and get really ridiculous, really fast, and I see this happen on job sites. People will walk around and record information like this, maybe even call them safety violations, and it will trigger a whole chain of events where the incident gets assigned to someone for follow up, then that person has to go out and find the person involved and have a meeting and take notes and write a report about their follow up, so that we have this big long paper trail. It's exhausting and the real world result is that this is precisely one of the reasons why people don't stop and say something or don't record the event as a near miss. They have enough to do already and don't want to trigger this whole chain of events for something that is seemingly so small. Now I couldn't agree more on that last point, but, I will tell you, overlooking these things or looking the other way as you walk the site, is precisely one of the reasons that we have problems with safety, quality and productivity. Even when you stop and correct the action, if you don't record it, and record it in a manner where the data can be seen and aggregated, then we never have a chance for improvement, so what I say is do what I told you to do a minute ago. Stop and say something, you don't want to find out later that the person fell off the ladder. Watch them as they correct their behavior by moving the ladder over to reach safely. Spend one minute recording the event and then move on. In a case like this, I don't think you need to assign it to anybody for follow up. Your one minute talk corrected the action, record it and move on. Okay, why? What's the point? Well the point is, I don't want just you doing this on the job site, I want everyone doing it, for two reasons. One, we all see things on construction sites that we know are wrong. We need to start doing a better job of looking out for each other. If you do it in a positive way, this can really go a long way. And two, because if we can record and track all of these small little things in real time with input by everyone, then we might have a chance to spot something, a bad trend, before it turns into a bad incident. In safety, we call this tracking leading indicators, and if I can sit and pull up these reports of leading indicators, and then aggregate that information altogether, it can tell me a story and I can decide if that story is turning bad and needs my intervention. By the way, this again is opposed to having to read about a full blown injury after the worker finally does fall. Let's think about this here. If all of you on the job site are doing this, and this information is being logged and tagged, I should be able to go in and view all near misses. Then I should be able to sort them, say by location, or by trade. All of a sudden, I might end up spotting something significant, like it wasn't just you who warned someone in this location not to lean over too far on the ladder, it was actually eight different people over the course of the last three days, all in the same general location, and all the same trade. Now that's worth investigating before something goes wrong. We all get in a hurry, we can all forget and make mistakes, but eight times in a few days is probably an indication of something more than that and you may need to focus your attention here before all of these near misses turn into a major incident. Under my scenario here, this can get recognized and corrected before something goes wrong. Under the way we've always tended to handle this in the past though, it's not likely to come to any one's attention until someone gets hurt. Either everyone looks the other way and says nothing, or eight people do say something but no one realizes this is an ongoing problem because it didn't get reported. Or it got reported by someone doing a safety walk, who recorded it and wrote a report, but no one's going to read that report for a week or two, because it's a long report and we're all busy. Now I know that many of you in the industry can relate to this, and I can too because I saw this very situation that I'm using as an example, I saw this happen. A person working for a couple weeks on finishing a wall leaned too far to one side, lost his balance, and fell off the ladder from about eight feet up. He hit his head and he died on the construction site. Now later during investigations and interviews, a number of people would state that they had said something to this person several times about leaning too far. The person's supervisor though, would state that they didn't know anything about this and they didn't know it was happening. This was real stuff and we need to fix things like this in order to improve our industry and our working conditions. I really hope that this starts you thinking about some steps that you can start taking right now. Maybe you already have a system that can be used to do exactly what I just described, record these observations, you just haven't been using it this way. Or maybe this gives you some information that you need to help you evaluate your choices as you make plans in your company for improvement.