"Success to the strongest; who are always, at last, the wisest and best."

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

What distinguishes the safety professionals in construction from their colleagues in other industries? Is it knowledge, status, abilities or tenacity or the differences in the OSHA Standards? Is it the desire to be far away from home and office in a construction trailer surrounded by mud in the spring and dust in the summer? Is it the preference for long, sometimes uncompensated hours, extreme weather and constant change?

To an experienced construction safety manager, these hardships and the differences in safety between the two industries go largely unnoticed. The challenge of managing safety on a construction project and the rewards of safe, successful, on time completion and the continual change are appealing and certainly offset some of the difficulties that are encountered. There are also striking similarities between construction and general industry. ASSE identifies four primary functions of safety professionals no matter which industry they support:

  • Anticipate, identify and evaluate hazardous conditions and practices.

  • Develop hazard control designs, methods, procedures and programs.

  • Implement, administer and advise others on hazard controls and hazard control programs.

  • Measure, audit and evaluate the effectiveness of hazard controls and hazard control programs.

In addition, successful safety professionals must know most aspects of every worker's job, and be able to persuade both workers and managers to take the necessary precautions and, perhaps most important, using their skills, instill a value for safe work behavior. Another key attribute identified by several construction safety directors is a good personality, because in our world today, not much is accomplished without good relationships and cooperation.

Unlike the manufacturing safety manager who generally monitors routine tasks in a relatively static environment, the construction safety professional is constantly confronted by change as a project progresses. These changes run the gamut from demolition to excavations to concrete pours to steel erection, piping installation, mechanical equipment installation and, in some instances, chemical process startup; each with their own set of unique risks. Indeed, construction safety is challenging and very dynamic on a project.

Where do we find these safety champions of the muddy trench and the high steel? Are they waiting at the gate, ready to clock-in, itching to protect our workers? Not hardly. In fact, recruiting an experienced and effective construction safety professional is clearly a challenge, because most are either established in their companies, unwilling to work in some areas of the country (or the world), or are simply reluctant to travel. The alternative is to hire safety professionals with potential and develop them to be strong and effective for your company.

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