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Course 833 - Developing a Construction Safety Management System

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

Improving the CSMS

Reviewing Your Program

Develop, Deploy, Design Image

Any good CSMS requires a periodic review, analysis, and performance evaluation to ensure that the system is operating as intended. You should take a careful look at each element in your safety and health program to determine what is working and what changes are needed. Identifying needed improvements provides the basis for new safety and health objectives for the coming year. Developing and implementing new action plans for those improvements will ensure continued progress towards an effective safety and health program. That, in turn, will reduce safety and health risks and increase efficiency and profit.

In this module, we'll examine Total Quality Safety Management concepts that apply to all elements of the CSMS. Since we're talking about "life and limb," continuous evaluation and improvement of the CSMS is all the more important to make sure all elements are in place and effectively maintained.

Quality and Safety: Partners in Productivity

It's important to think of safety as an important aspect of both product and process quality in the workplace. In this course, we'll address those concepts and principles that apply safety specifically to process safety. Let's take a brief look at how product and process safety differ.

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 to 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. As we all know, customer perceptions about product safety are very important these days. Unfortunately, some companies do not take safety into consideration when designing their products. Consequently, they may unintentionally design unsafe or unhealthful features into their products.

Process quality and safety are very closely related. Process quality may be considered error-free work, and safety, as one element of process, can be thought of as injury-free work. When an injury occurs, the "event" increases the number of unnecessary and wasted steps in the production process. How does safety fit into the continuous quality improvement philosophy?

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

The Shewhart/Deming Cycle

After asking the questions above, you may discover that one or more improvements to your training program is necessary, it's important to carefully develop and implement the change through effective change management principles.

One simple change management technique is to use the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle, first developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart, and later applied by W. Edwards Deming, who is considered the father of total quality management, to transform the industry of Japan after World War II. He promoted the PDSA Cycle that was partly responsible for Japan's meteoric rise in manufacturing. He believed that statistics hold the key to improving processes, and that management must take responsibility for quality in the workplace because management controls the processes.

plan cycle

This module will take a look at his 14 Points of Total Quality Safety Management as they relate to safety.

Deming's Fourteen Points Applied to Total Quality Safety Management

Management must communicate clearly, and consistenly.
Management must communicate clearly, and consistenly.

Deming's 14 Points form some of the most important concepts and approaches to continuous quality improvement philosophy. The focus of this module is to better understand and apply each of Deming's 14 points to workplace safety. So, let's examine what he says about quality, and how it can be applied to safety.

Point 1: Create a constant purpose to improve the product and service, with the aim to be competitive, stay in business, and provide jobs.

Management should be focused constantly on improving the safety of materials, equipment, workplace environment, and work practices today so that it can remain successful tomorrow. If management successfully communicates the clear, consistent message over the years that workplace safety is a core value (as stated in the mission statement), and if there are "no excuses" for accidents, the company can be successful in developing a world-class safety culture. If a company considers safety only a priority that may be changed when convenient, constancy of purpose is not communicated to the workforce.

Point 2: Adopt a new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for a change.

Safety can never be understood or properly appreciated if only the short term view is taken by management. Quick fix programs to "impose" change will not work. Only understanding of the long term benefits will give management the vision to properly and consistently send and act on the message of workplace safety.

Accidents should never be an acceptable cost of doing business.
Accidents should never be an acceptable cost of doing business.

The old philosophy accepts as fact that a certain level of injury and illness will result from a given process, and that the associated costs should represent one of many costs of doing business.

The new safety philosophy strives to:

  • Prevent injuries and illnesses by continually analyzing and improving upstream factors such as work practices, equipment design, materials, and the workplace physical and cultural environment through education, training and recognition.
  • Improve product safety for the benefit of the customer.

Point 3: Cease dependence on mass inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

When we apply this principle to safety, Deming might consider relying on the results (defects) as measuring our success solely by counting the number of accidents (also defects) that occur. No consideration is given to measuring employee and management-level safety activities. In safety, evaluating only results (lagging indicators) is like driving a car down the road and trying to stay in your lane by looking through a rear-view mirror. All you can do is react after the fact. When we only analyze accident rates, we can only react to the number. Accident rates tell us nothing about why the accidents are happening. The old safety philosophy we discussed above primarily measures injury and illness rates (defects) which represent the end results of the safety component of the process. Incident rates, accident rates, MOD rates, etc. all measure the end point, and since these measures are inherently not predictive, these statistics provide little useful information about the surface and root causes (upstream) for injuries and illnesses.

The new philosophy emphasizes measurement along the entire production process, primarily:

  • measurement of management/supervisor safety activities;
  • employee safety education and training;
  • individual worker behaviors; and
  • materials and equipment design prior to purchase.

Point 4: End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

Safe equipment, materials, and chemicals may cost a little more but will save money in the long-term through fewer injuries and illnesses. Management should write safety specifications that meet their requirements into pre-bid contracts. Even today, manufacturers of equipment and machinery sell equipment that does not meet NEC, NIOSH, ANSI, or other safety standards for product safety. Employers purchasing such equipment run increased risk of injury and illness to their employers.

Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.
Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business.

With respect to personal protective equipment (PPE), "cheap" is not better. Ensuring employees have high quality personal protective equipment is smart business when we realize that using quality PPE is actually a profit-center activity. How's that? If you spend $5,000 in various types of PPE in a given year and any one piece of PPE prevents a serious injury, your company has just paid for all the PPE they’ll need for that year and probably for many years into the future. The money spent on quality PPE should be thought of as an investment that may result in substantial returns (reduced direct and indirect accident costs) to the company. Unfortunately, many employers consider only the initial cost of PPE. They don't see the big picture benefits.

Relying on a single supplier for safety equipment, such as personal protective equipment, may have many benefits. Supplier representatives, calling on an employer over a period of years, will become familiar with the particular safety equipment needs of the employer. The employer who establishes a long-term close relationship with the supplier is more likely to receive the attention and higher quality equipment when requested. Developing a close, cooperative partnership between the employer and the supplier of safety equipment is extremely important for the success of both parties, and is possible by applying the single supplier principle.

Point 5: Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

A system refers to a number of processes or procedures that have been standardized. Everyone does something the same way. It's important to have an effective safety and health management system. What safety process or procedure might be standardized to improve your company's safety and health management system?

Jeffrey Castillo, CSP, states that:

"Traditionally, safety functions have been under the direction of the human resource department, which places safety and health at odds with the organization's primary goals: to produce and sell goods/services. Too often, managers in other departments feel the safety manager (alone) should contain costs, solve safety problems via training or committees, and reduce injury costs. Yet, in most cases, the safety manager must accomplish such tasks while other managers increase production goals."

Jeffrey E. Castillo, CSP, IHIT, "Safety Management: The Winds of Change." Professional Safety, Feb 95.

Management must integrate safety as an element of quality into operations so completely that it disappears as a separate function. It must be viewed by each employee, supervisor and manager as his or her personal responsibility; one that is important in not only improving the production process, but in saving lives.

Point 6: Institute training on the job.

Some companies today consider training a cost, not a benefit. How many workers are properly educated and trained in supervisory, management, and leadership principles as they move up the corporate ladder? Have you ever been in a situation where the worker who "makes the most widgets" gets promoted? Does management assume new supervisors and managers know what they're doing?

Supervisor training employees.
Supervisor training employees.

Currently many companies rely on the safety director or the human resources department to train safety. The new employee receives a safety overview when hired, and a safety "expert," conducts more specific training related to the employee's job exercise. The supervisor, in many instances, does not think he or she is getting paid to train safety. But, who is better suited to do the training than the person responsible for the safety and health of his or her employees? If the supervisor cannot train safety, how can he or she have the knowledge to effectively oversee safe work practices? How can the supervisor provide effective safety feedback? How can the supervisor, when needed, properly enforce safety rules?

The supervisor cannot perform any of these responsibilities unless he or she thoroughly understands safety concepts and principles, the hazards in the workplace, and is competent to train those subjects specifically related to the workspace he or she controls. The human resources department or the safety director can't provide that quality of training for a couple of reasons: They don't work in the area, and they're "not the boss."

Point 7: Adopt and institute leadership. 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.

Management must lead by example.  In this image an executive is wearing a hard hat and setting a good example.
Management must lead by example. In this image an executive is wearing a hard hat and setting a good example.

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 leader's success is tied to the success of his or her workers. The "servant leadership" model fits well into the ideas expressed by Deming and others.

There is no better way to demonstrate these principles of leadership than in making sure employees use safe work procedures in a workplace that is, itself, safe from hazards. Ensuring safety is one of the most visible undertakings that management can take to show employees that they are not merely hired hands who can be replaced, but are valued human resources... part of the family.

Point 8: Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.

Driving out fear is the most important requirement when implementing a Total Quality Safety Management process. You must begin here. 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 safety and health management system.

In the TQM system, managers and supervisors drive out fear through a real commitment to fact-finding to improve the system, not fault-finding to punish someone. They emphasize uncovering the weaknesses in the system that allowed unsafe work practices and hazardous conditions to exist. They educate and train everyone so that those weaknesses are strengthened, thus helping to continually improve the production process. They recognize employees for appropriate safety behaviors; compliance with safety rules, reporting injuries immediately, and reporting hazards in the workplace. Trust increases. Morale and motivation improve because employees are not afraid to report safety concerns to management. Safety is never a complaint in a TQM organization.

Point 9: Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.

We should only compete with our competitors, not ourselves. Internal cooperation and external competition applies to safety as well. Cooperation among all internal functions is another key to effective safety.

A foreman is thanking an employee for reporting a worksite hazard.
A foreman is thanking an employee for reporting a worksite hazard.

Competitive safety incentive programs: Reactive safety incentive programs that challenge departments to compete against each other for rewards set up a system that may promote illegal behaviors by creating situations where peer pressure causes the withholding of injury reports. Consequently, the "walking wounded syndrome" develops that eventually results in increased injury costs and workers compensation premiums. The performance of one employee impacts the success of others in the department. Employees will do virtually anything, in some cases, to ensure the department gets their pizza parties, saving bonds, or safety mugs. The fix: Reward/recognize employees individually for appropriate behaviors: complying with safety rules, reporting injuries and reporting workplace hazards. Reward activities that enhance cooperation.

Bringing management and labor together: Cooperation at all levels of the company to identify and correct hazards is very important. Of course, the process designed to promote this kind of cooperation is called the safety committee (or safety improvement team). A world-class safety system will take advantage of the cross-functional makeup of safety committees to bring management and employees together in a non-adversarial forum to evaluate programs and make recommendations for improvement in workplace safety

If we set zero accidents as our goal, we may never reach it, but that's fine. We should never be content with safety.  We should always strive to improve the system.
If we set zero accidents as our goal, we may never reach it, but that's fine. We should never be content with safety. We should always strive to improve the system.

Point 10: Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.

What! Zero defects are not an appropriate goal? Does that apply to safety too? Remember, Deming is talking about product defects here. The related safety goal might be "zero accidents." Although this goal may be unachievable, it's the only morally appropriate goal to have because we are dealing with injuries and fatalities. If we set a goal of anything less than zero accidents, what's going to happen? If we reach the goal, we pat ourselves on our collective back, sit back with our feet up on the desk, and believe we "have arrived." When this occurs, you can bet your accident rate will start rising once again. Contentment is a dangerous condition in safety. If we set zero accidents as our goal, we may never reach it, but that's fine. We should never be content anyway. We should always be frustrated...never satisfied to make sure we continually improve the system.

If we set a goal to reduce accidents by 50%, we will design a less effective system to get us to the goal, but no farther. If we set a zero-accident goal, we will design the more effective system to reach that goal.

On another line of thought: In safety, the "happy poster syndrome" is a common occurrence. Managers think that by placing a safety poster every thirty feet on a wall, they have a successful safety awareness program. Employees, for the most part, ignore the posters, and may not believe the message that management is trying to convey. The Fix: Get rid of the posters and meaningless slogans. Replace them with action, example, and word. Each supervisor and manager becomes a walking safety slogan.

Point 11: Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce, and eliminate management by objectives. Eliminate numerical goals for people in management. Substitute leadership.

According to Krause, in the safety field, many reward systems and performance appraisals are based on numerical goals and measures, such as incident rates, that are untested for random variability... this could mean receiving an undeserved bad performance rating... On the other hand, ignorance of the concept of random variability also means that work groups often get good safety ratings when they do not deserve them.

Measure proactive safety activities not reactive.
Measure proactive safety activities not reactive.

The problem with measuring the success of a company's safety effort using incident rates is that once the rate has been reduced to what management feels is an acceptable level, complacency sets in, the effort to reduce incident rates relaxes, and incident rates begin the inevitable rise to previous unacceptable levels. Management reacts to the increase in incident rate with a renewed safety emphasis. This reactive management approach to loss control, based on end results (defects), creates an endless cycle of rising and falling incident rates. Deming would look upon such a situation with dissatisfaction (and wonder). He would probably encourage management to do away with any numerical quotas or goals based solely on unpredictable measures such as incident frequency rates. He would stress the need to measure upstream activities such as the degree of safety education and training, number of safety meetings, individual safe work behaviors, and the safety of materials, chemicals, and equipment purchased by the company.

In emphasizing TQM principles, the company may never realize sustained zero accident rates, but the critically important ingredient in a successful process, that of continually journeying closer to that end state would be realized. Focus on the journey, not the result. If management relies only on quotas in the "production" system, it causes them to look the other way when unsafe work practices and hazardous conditions exist. A “macho” (it is part of the job) attitude by management, under pressure to produce the numbers, results in higher rates of injury and illness. Very little thought is given to the human tragedy involved with serious injuries or fatalities. Even less thought to the indirect and 'unknown and unknowable' losses to the company. Management must understand the danger of the pressure ever-increasing quotas place on supervisors and employees. Short cuts in work practices are inevitable, and along with them, injuries and illnesses.

Remember, managers and employees should be held accountable only for what they can control. It's difficult to control statistical results. However, as we learned earlier, they can control activities.

Point 12: Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship.

According to Deming, the responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. Abolish the annual merit rating and adopt continual feedback processes. Deming offers some interesting ideas here, but they are crucial to success in safety as well as production.

Supervisors must ensure their workers receive equipment and materials that are as safe as possible. Employees should work at stations that have been ergonomically designed for them to decrease the possibility of strains and sprains, and repetitive motions disease which represent the greatest category of workplace injury and illness in the workforce today. Workers require and deserve the highest quality personal protective equipment to protect them from workplace hazards. The highest quality safety equipment, materials and environment all contribute to pride of workmanship.

Point 13: Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.

Continual learning is an important concept. It's important that employees be educated in personal and professional skills. Safety certainly applies here as well. Return on the investment made in education is well worth the money.

Weekly or monthly safety education and training sessions, when conducted properly by supervisors, can go far in improving the performance of employees, and would send a strong message to all that safety is a core value in the company. Unfortunately, most companies do not see the wisdom in adopting the principle that to be successful today, each manager and employee in the company must be continually learning. Currently, most employees receive very little safety training, internal or external, on safety related topics.

Everyone in the company must see top management take action.
Everyone in the company must see top management take action.

Point 14: Take action to accomplish the transformation.

Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job. What a concept! Put everybody to work to accomplish the transformation. How can we do this when it comes to safety and health?

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 blessing of the CEO (with action); the transformation may never be successful. The safety committee may serve as the catalyst to initially begin the planning for the transformation. Expanding the size of the committee, then breaking it into "safety teams" specializing in various process functions in the company might be a way to go. However, educating up is crucial if top management balks at the need for the transformation. The safety committee must provide the education (usual data... sorted... objective... bottom line) to influence the perceptions that ultimately shape the transformation.

Taking on the goals of TQSM is not an easy task. If you decide to begin the TQSM journey, be sure to continue your study of the concepts. Go slowly and don't expect big changes overnight. Ultimately, you are attempting to change culture and that process can, and probably will, take years.

Final Words

Well, that’s it. We haven’t covered everything there is related to developing a world-class CSMS, but we did a pretty good job covering most of it. Be sure to continue your education on this topic as well as the other construction topics to help improve your competency as a safety professional in the construction industry!


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. Which person is considered by most 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 a Total Quality Safety Management process?

5. According to Total Quality Safety Management how often should improvement occur?

Have a safe day!

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