A refinery manager recently spoke to an audience of 75 people at a contractor safety meeting. He said, “Raise your hand if you have worked on a large scale turnaround, upgrade or expansion project that was completed on schedule, on budget and without a safety incident.” Not one attendee raised his or her hand.
It’s amazing when we recount how so many advancements accelerated in so many fields during the past century and continue to accelerate today. The advancements in transportation, space exploration, biomedicine, communications and power generation alone have impacted every facet of daily life. When you consider the great things man has accomplished, it’s staggering. At the same time, it’s puzzling that, for all our achievements and advanced technologies, our industry still struggles to build project plans and teams that can consistently meet such familiar objectives as safety, quality, schedule and budget.
Are high levels of performance with regard to safety, cost and schedule control possible in our industry? Most will agree the answer is a resounding yes! Nearly every veteran project manager we’ve interviewed over the years supports the belief high performance levels are not only possible but also are sorely needed. The questions then become:
• Why do so many projects fall short of goal?
• What are the factors that snatch away success?
• Which guiding principles, methods and best practices will lead to consistently high levels of performance?
Industry data reveals a clear link between time, budget, safety and quality. Projects that finish on time and on budget also perform above expectation with regard to safety and quality. Conversely, projects that finish behind schedule and over budget typically perform below expectation with regard to safety and quality.
It’s easy to correlate safety, project schedule and budget. If work has to stop or is slowed due to unsafe conditions, then the schedule and budget are negatively impacted. Safety incidents, regardless of how small, cost time and money. A severe incident can lead to a stand down and have an even greater impact on schedule and budget. Experience and logic clearly demonstrate a direct relationship between the quality or application of safety and the degree of project success.
If this hypothesis is true, then, cannot and should not safety be used as a catalyst to drive better all-around project performance? While most agree with the hypothesis, many stick with simply declaring on a banner or at a safety rally “safety first.” Others hire a specialized “safety” contractor without realizing the level of success will largely depend on their real perspective, as it relates to safety, and the actions employed in planning, communicating and building/selecting a safety team. Unfortunately, project safety is often viewed as a necessary additional expense and not as a tool to increase productivity. The prevailing attitude is, “We have to do it this way because our safety policy requires it, but it’s really going to waste time.” In some cases, doing a job right the safe way will take more time but as you look at the larger spectrum, the opposite is true — doing the work right, the safe way, does save significant time, effort and money.
In his book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” author David Allen says, “You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it ‘done.’” As mentioned earlier, some essential actions needed to drive safety and productivity include integrated planning, clear communication and integrating qualified team members.
Many projects fall short of goals because safety planning is not integrated with the work plan. In other words, work packages are often created in a kind of maintenance or mechanical bubble and safety is applied only during an audit in real time when the actual work is starting or already underway. Project safety is most effective when it starts in the planning of work packages. If hazards are identified during the planning stages, then they are avoided in the execution stages. The likelihood of having to identify hazards on the fly are reduced and there is no need to stop work and interrupt productivity.
High-level project goals and objectives are usually very direct, “Get the work done on time and don’t get anyone hurt.” More needs to be done to achieve high levels of performance. Each contractor and team member needs to know the project goals, expectations, scope of work, critical path, workflow and how his or her specific jobs and tasks are related and possibly overlap. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Specific knowledge in context can be empowering. If all contractors on the site truly understand the project goals and etcetera, then they are more likely to become integrated into one team and can consciously coordinate, plan and work together and support each other to successfully complete each phase of work.
Truly effective teamwork is not possible if each team/team member does not fully understand his or her role and impact in relation to the critical path and workflow. They also can be utilized as valuable communication resources helping to promote and reinforce the safety/productivity messages as they relate to specific objectives, schedule and workflow.
During an Academy of Achievement interview, Steve Case, former CEO and chairman of America Online (AOL), once said this when referring to people, team and vision, “I’d say people are the most important [factor], and if you’ve really got the right people and you’ve got them working together as a team, whether it’s in business, whether it’s in science, whether it’s in politics, you can make a big difference. If you don’t have the right people, no matter how smart you are, no matter how good your idea is, you’re not going to get very far.”
Most CertifiedSafety clients agree with Steve Case. They often say to CertifiedSafety managers, “The people you bring to our site are going to make the biggest impact on our project.”
High levels of performance come from knowledgeable, dedicated, qualified people who utilize proven processes and work methods. Historically, most owner/operators relied on individual mechanical and general contractors to provide their own safety and safety people. The result was a mixture of varying safety procedures and practices and often a clash in cultures. Today, things are beginning to trend toward specialized safety contractors. The market is trending in this direction for several reasons:
(1) You are more likely to get qualified, effective personnel. For instance, CertifiedSafety is a “safety people” business with a large core group of long-term employees who have a demonstrated track record of success. Safety is their primary focus as a career and not just a part of “today’s job.”
(2) A third-party safety person functions as teammate to other contract workers while representing the owner/operator’s policies and interests. This independence promotes a greater level of objectivity as it relates to identifying and working to correct unsafe behaviors and conditions.
(3) Third-party safety will lower overall project cost. Having one specialized safety contractor, with one trained and qualified resource pool, working one plan using proven work methods simply results in higher work performance and productivity. Additionally, the single pool of people can be pushed, pulled and dispatched to where and when they are needed. This reduces standby time and improving time on tools.
Safe projects typically come in on time and on budget. Safety and your safety provider can be used as a catalyst and a force multiplier to improve and drive project efficiency and production. While many companies claim to provide project safety service, they are usually multifocused companies using lesser qualified people and processes and are not likely to yield the desired result. CertifiedSafety has one sightline — a single focus — and that is safety as a productivity enhancing force multiplier for your projects.
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