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Health and Safety: A Value We Cannot Ignore

By Kenneth Mika posted 04-22-2019 09:44 AM


The other week I was at a dredging conference where there were multiple presentations on safety in the dredging industry. The presentations were provided by both consultants and contractors. One of the key themes from the presentations was the value of health and safety.

We need to value our lives and recognize how a health-and-safety incident affects not just us but also our colleagues, friends, and loved ones.

Health and safety matters in the field when conducting a prebid meeting, doing a site investigation, during construction, and in postconstruction operation and maintenance.

Health and safety matters outside of the field when in the office, with everything from the kitchen to your work space to your coffee.

Health and safety matters when traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles.

Health and safety matters at home with your family, too.

Most companies that I am aware of value health and safety as the top priority. A few examples of companies valuing health and safety are:

  • Requiring that health-and-safety topics kick off every meeting
  • Providing funds for health-and-safety equipment beyond what is required
  • Incentive-based near-miss programs that have catchy titles like “Good Catch”
  • Gift raffles for meeting safety standards
  • Allowing everyone to have “stop-work authority”

Can you think of other ways companies can further incentivize us to value health and safety?

One presenter at the conference talked about a health-and-safety incident that occurred at their company. The company valued that individual and the incident so much that they reached out to a competitor to ask if the competitor had had a similar incident, and to see how they changed the behavior or if they had ideas for changing the behavior to prevent the same incident in the future.

For a company to value health and safety so much that they went to a competitor for help shows that company cares first about their employees. Companies should collaborate more on their health-and-safety opportunities for improvement.

While, yes, we are competing to bring in more work than our competitors, a lot of our competitors are also our friends and family at the end of the day. We need to take care of each other and value health and safety!

What more can we do to value health and safety?

 Ken Mika is a project engineer for Geosyntec in Green Bay and Milwaukee, WI, and is a strategic leader with a proven ability to evaluate, build, and implement process improvements within and across teams. He has experience with field data collection in multiple media, staffing and field resource allocation, remedial design and contractor procurement, construction management, and building and maintaining cooperative teaming relationships. Mika is currently an ASCE Region 3 governor, Wisconsin Section president-elect, and 2020 Wisconsin Section Infrastructure Report Card co-chair.

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1 comment

08-06-2019 12:12 PM

Hi Kenneth, thanks for surfacing this subject.
One application of this concern for safety surfaced some years ago.
A great title for this is "HDYK."
e.g., An engineer goes out to a building to do a remote field review of its M/E gauges.
Another does random checks in manholes to assure gauges are operational.
  • Q1. Did they arrive safely? HDYK.
  • Q2. Did they leave safely? HDYK.
How Do You Know.

And absolutely NEVER accept a response "I thought you were going to check that!"