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Health and Safety for Builders and Construction

Have you also expressed frustration at how much you have to do to comply with Health and Safety regulations?  Good news, it doesn’t have to be so hard.

A building company’s culture is at the heart of health and safety. You can put in place the required documents and processes, but if you don’t achieve culture change, it’s going to be a long and hard road to compliance. It is as much about creating a culture change as it is about implementing new processes and paperwork. 

Company culture is more than just ‘it’s the way we do things’. It may be documented, but probably isn’t. Getting long-term culture change means getting to some of the underlying factors. 

The Circle of Thought

Health and Safety Culture ChangePut simply, the Circle of Thought states that: 

  • Results come from Actions taken. 
  • Actions come from Choices made. 
  • Choices come from Thoughts. 

Consider this example. Berny runs a small building business with a team of three. One of his builders, Jimmy, hasn’t followed new procedures and a workplace incident has occurred. This is the second time (since April) that someone hasn’t followed procedures, even though Berny told everybody about them. 

Berny could tell his staff again (and again), but this time he decides to take a different approach. He draws the Circle of Thought on an offcut of plasterboard and explains the following:

  1. Whether good or bad, results come from actions – the result in this case was the incident. 
  2. The action of not following procedure led to the incident. 
  3. Berny asked, “What choices did Jimmy make that led to the action?” “Every action is the result of a choice and where there is choice, there are options.” 
  4. The choices Jimmy made came from some thoughts Jimmy had. Maybe he thought he would save time? Or maybe he thought he had a better way? Or maybe he just didn’t think!

Thinking about choices gives us options and can prevent someone from simply repeating the same things over and over. 

Berny sits down with Jimmy and the team to work with them, so they can re-think their choices. 

Hopefully, when a similar situation arises again, they will consider their options and make better choices, leading to better actions and, ultimately, to better results. 

Address the three pivotal Health and Safety questions

There are many questions that will be asked when you are trying to change a culture; unless they are answered, it is unlikely there will be any long-term change. You can reduce the core questions to just three and, if you can come up with good answers to these, you should be able to overcome resistance to change. 

Why do we need to change?

Simply telling your team that change is a requirement may produce compliance, but it may be grudgingly given. It’s much more effective if your team wants to change. Before beginning any major change in culture, address the ‘why’ first. 

For example, help you team understand that the law (in New Zealand) now puts more responsibility on individuals to comply with health and safety requirements. Everyone is responsible for site safety and not simply the company alone. Not changing could have significant consequences for them as individuals, and you want to ensure this doesn’t happen to your team. 

Where is this change taking us? 

Create a vision of a better future. Outline how the changes will make for a better environment. People need a rough idea of what the new health and safety culture will look like before they can buy into it. 

For example, help your team understand that a safe site is also a tidy and more efficient site. It can also be a good advertisement to your client’s neighbours, leading to more enquiries and more work. 

How will we get there? 

It’s good to understand the reasons and great to have the vision but, without the plan, nothing will change. Let your team know how you will arrive at the new culture. 

It may be that you can work on developing the plan together. However you achieve it, you must end up with a workable plan that is owned by your team. 

Producing a safe, tidy and effective site may require a change in your team culture, but when that change becomes entrenched the results are beneficial to everyone.

Talk Back

What challenges or successes have you had with regards to health and safety in your building business?


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