Skip Navigation

Course 833 - Developing a Construction Safety Management System

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Improving the CSMS

Management must communicate clearly, and consistenly.
Continuous improvement integrates all management functions.

Continuous Improvement

Think of safety as an important aspect of the quality of production and service. Product quality is elusive. The only way you know you have it is by asking those who define it: the customer. All the company can do is try hard to produce a product that fits the customer's definition of quality. When the product is designed to prevent injury or illness, the customer will define the product as safe. Unfortunately, some companies do not consider safety when designing products. Consequently, they may unintentionally design unsafe or unhealthful features into their products.

Quality and safety are very closely related. Both may be considered error-free performance. When an injury occurs, the "event" increases the number of unnecessary and wasted steps in the production process. So, how does safety fit into a philosophy of continuous improvement?

Every CSMS requires periodic review, analysis, and evaluation to make sure the system is efficiently and effectively operating as intended. Take a careful look at each element in the CSMS to see what is working and what changes are needed. Identify needed improvements and design, develop, and deploy them into the CSMS.

W. Edwards Deming, Father of Total Quality Management
W. Edwards Deming, Father of Total Quality Management

Change Management

After reviewing, analyzing, and evaluating the existing CSMS, you may discover that a number of improvements to the CSMS are necessary. It's important to carefully develop and implement the needed changes using effective change management principles.

W. Edwards Deming

A common change management technique is the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle, first developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart, and later successfully applied by W. Edwards Deming. If you remember the 1950s (a few of us still do), you probably remember that Japan did not have a good reputation for producing quality products. Deming was sent to Japan during the post-war occupation to teach quality control methods and he promoted the PDSA Cycle and was partly responsible for Japan's meteoric rise in manufacturing. He believed statistics held the key to improving processes, and that management must take responsibility for quality in the workplace because management controls the processes. He was so successful in helping Japan, he was awarded special recognition for his work.

Today, Deming is considered by many around the world as the father of Total Quality Management (TQM).

Deming's Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle

PDSA Cycle
Deming's Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle

The PDSA Cycle uses a systematic series of steps to gain data for the continual improvement of a product or process. The process is called a "cycle" because the steps are continually repeated. The PDSA Cycle contains four primary steps. These four steps are repeated over and over as part of a never-ending cycle of continual improvement.

Let's see how we can apply these steps to improve the CSMS:

  1. Plan. Identify a safety goal, supporting objectives, strategies and metrics to measure the change. It's important to limit the scope of the change to reduce the number variables. Too many variables can make it difficult to determine specifically the causes for the results of the change.
  2. Do. Implement the change, such as a new safety procedure. Make changes at one location to limit the negative impact if the changes do not work.
  3. Study. Monitor the change to see if it works. Test the validity of the outcomes of the change for signs of progress and success, or problems and areas for improvement.
  4. Act. Choose one of the following three actions when the cycle is complete:
    • If the change works, keep it
    • If the change needs improvement, continue the cycle making small changes
    • If the change does not work at all, throw it out and start over

Continuous Improvement Principles

Continuous Improvement
Make small changes to continually improve the CSMS.

Important principles have evolved from companies that perform continuous safety improvement planning and implementation; they represent best practices in continuous safety improvement:

  1. Determine the current situation using objective (fact-based) data analysis, not subjective feelings.
  2. Set a goal to always address the root causes/system weaknesses. Assume root causes always exist.
  3. Focus work and resources on the people, machines, and systems that add value.
  4. Improve safety processes through continuous controlled experimentation using the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) and other methods.
  5. Make decisions based on long-term systems improvement.
  6. Update or create standardized processes to reduce variation and waste, and promote continuous improvement.
  7. Employ partnering and knowledge sharing within the company and with external suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that gives a good ideas about using continuous improvement in your workplace.

OSHA's CSMS Improvement Model

OSHA Inspection.
OSHA consultants can be a big help in improving the CSMS.

Once the CSMS is established, it should be evaluated initially to verify that it is being implemented as intended. After that, employers should periodically, and at least annually, step back and assess what is working and what is not, and whether the CSMS programs are on track to achieve their goals. Whenever these assessments identify opportunities to improve the program, employers, managers, supervisors, and employees should work together to make adjustments and monitor how well the program performs as a result. Sharing the results of monitoring and evaluation within the workplace, and celebrating successes, will help drive further improvement.

OSHA's CSMS evaluation and improvement contains three steps or "action items:" Monitoring, verification, and corrective actions. The basic components of the three-step process include:

  • Establishing, reporting, and tracking goals and targets that indicate whether the program is making progress.
  • Evaluating the program initially, and periodically thereafter, to identify shortcomings and opportunities for improvement.
  • Providing ways for workers to participate in program evaluation and improvement.

Action Item 1: Monitor Performance and Progress

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Define the lagging and leading indicators of progress.

The first step in monitoring is to define indicators that will help track performance and progress. Next, employers, managers, supervisors, and workers need to establish and follow procedures to collect, analyze, and review performance data.

Both lagging and leading indicators should be used.

  • Lagging indicators generally track worker exposures and injuries that have already occurred.
  • Leading indicators track how well various aspects of the program have been implemented and reflect steps taken to prevent injuries or illnesses before they occur.

It's more important to track leading indicators as they are predictive of future performance.

How to accomplish it

Develop and track indicators of progress toward established safety and health goals.

  • Track lagging indicators, such as:
    • Number and severity of injuries and illnesses
    • Results of worker exposure monitoring that show that exposures are hazardous
    • Workers' compensation data, including claim counts, rates, and cost
  • Track leading indicators, such as:
    • Number of employee safety suggestions
    • Number of hazards, near misses, and first aid cases reported
    • Number of workers who have completed required safety and health training
  • Analyze performance indicators and evaluate progress over time.
  • Share results with employees and invite their input on how to further improve performance.
  • When opportunities arise, share your experience and compare your results to similar facilities within your organization, with other employers you know, or through business or trade associations.

Indicators can be either quantitative or qualitative. Whenever possible, select indicators that are measurable (quantitative) and that will help you determine whether you have achieved your program goals. The number of reported hazards and near misses would be a quantitative indicator. A single worker expressing a favorable opinion about program participation would be a qualitative indicator.

Action Item 2: Verify Program Deployment

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Check the lagging and leading indicators of progress.

Initially and at least annually, employers need to evaluate the program to ensure that it is operating as intended, is effective in controlling identified hazards, and is making progress toward established safety and health goals and objectives. The scope and frequency of CSMS program evaluations will vary depending on:

  • changes in OSHA standards;
  • the scope, complexity, and maturity of the program; and
  • the types of hazards it must control.

How to accomplish it

  • Verify that the core elements of the program have been fully implemented on each of your job sites.
  • Involve workers in all aspects of program evaluation, including reviewing information (such as incident reports and exposure monitoring results); establishing and tracking performance indicators; and identifying opportunities to improve the program.
  • Verify that the following key leading-indicators are being tracked and processes are in place and operating as intended:
    • Reporting injuries, illnesses, incidents, hazards, and concerns
    • Conducting job site inspections and incident investigations
    • Tracking progress in controlling identified hazards and ensuring that hazard control measures remain effective
    • Collecting and reporting any data needed to monitor progress and performance
  • Review the results of any compliance audits to confirm that any program shortcomings are being identified. Verify that actions are being taken that will prevent recurrence.

Action item 3: Correct CSMS Weaknesses

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Always be on the lookout for weaknesses in the CSMS.

Program evaluations should be conducted periodically (and at least annually) but might also be triggered by a change in process or equipment, or an incident such as a serious injury, significant property damage, or an increase in safety-related complaints. Whenever a problem is identified in any part of the safety and health program, employers, in coordination with supervisors, managers, and workers, should take prompt action to correct the problem and prevent its recurrence.

How to accomplish it

  • If you discover program shortcomings, take actions needed to correct them.
  • Proactively seek input from managers, workers, supervisors, and other stakeholders on how you can improve the program.
  • Determine whether changes in equipment, facilities, materials, key personnel, or work practices trigger any need for changes in the program.
  • Determine whether your performance indicators and goals are still relevant and, if not, how you could change them to more effectively drive improvements in worksite safety and health.

Institute World-Class Leadership.

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Deming: The aim of supervision is to help people and machines do a better job.

According to W. Edwards Deming, "the aim of supervision should be to help people and machines do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers."

The key to adopting and instituting leadership, of course, lies at the top. Management needs to lead by example, action, and word. The leader "cares" about those he or she leads. After all, the management's success is tied to the success of all employees. The "servant leadership" (leaders serve those whom they lead) model fits well into the ideas expressed by Deming and others.

There is no better way to demonstrate sound principles of leadership and commitment than in making sure employees have the support, resources, training, and time to use safe work procedures at a job site. Ensuring safety is one of the most visible undertakings management can take to show employees that they are not merely hired hands who can be replaced, but are valued human resources: a part of the family.

Drive out fear

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Driving out fear the most important requirement for an effective CSMS.

To have an effective safety culture and CSMS, Deming believed that we must first, "drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company."

Driving out fear is the most important requirement when deploying an effective CSMS. You must begin here first. Management controls the workplace. It influences the standards of behavior and performance of its employees by creating cultural norms in the workplace that dictate what are, and are not acceptable behaviors. Management may rely solely on safety rules and progressive discipline (negative reinforcement) in their attempt to control the safety behavior and performance of its employees. However, a strategy such as this, that may be successful in forcing compliance, is never successful in producing excellence in product or process. Strategies using fear and control are rarely, if ever successful. What develops from such a strategy is a controlling, compliance driven climate of mistrust and disgust; only a shell of an effective CSMS.

Managers and supervisors can drive out fear through a real commitment to:

  • fact-finding, not fault-finding;
  • uncovering the weaknesses in the system that allow unsafe work practices and hazardous conditions to exist;
  • educating and training everyone so that those weaknesses are strengthened; and
  • recognizing employees for appropriate safety performance.

Doing these things will help build trust between labor and management. Morale and motivation improve because employees are not afraid to report safety concerns to management. In an effective CSMS, a safety concern is never considered a complaint.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the that gives a good ideas about using continuous improvement in your workplace.

Take Action

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Get everyone involved in continuous improvement!

Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish CSMS improvement. The improvement process is everybody's job. What a great concept! Put everybody to work to improve the safety culture and CSMS.

Here's the hard part. Someone must have the vision: If not top management, who? How do you shift responsibility for safety from the safety director and/or safety committee to line management? If the effort does not have the approval of the CEO (with action); real improvement may never be successful.

The safety committee may serve as the catalyst to initially begin the planning for CSMS improvement. If top management balks at the need for an improvement process, focus on "educating up" by emphasizing the benefits. The safety committee must provide the education to influence the perceptions that ultimately shape the transformation.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Quality safety in the workplace may be thought of as one aspect of _____ - free performance.

2. Who is considered to be the father of Total Quality Management?

3. Safety can never be understood or properly appreciated if the _____ view is taken by management.

4. According to Deming, what is the most important requirement when implementing the CSMS?

5. What must we do if top management does not give or see the need for the CSMS improvement process?

Have a safe day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.