Consistent 100% Scores on Site Safety Inspections
– Good or Bad?
You have just had a site safety inspection and the inspector has scored your site as 100%, fully compliant, no issues found.
This is good news, isn’t it?
You remember that your site also scored 100% at the last visit.
Wow! Your company must be doing well with safe sites, etc.
But hang on a minute …..
Scoring 100% consistently is not always a good thing.
In fact, it could be quite dangerous.
Read on ………
Why you should be wary of consistently perfect scores:
Achieving high scores, even perfect 100% scores following a site safety inspection feels great and can instill a feeling of pride in a job well done. Perfect scores for well managed sites can certainly be achieved but they should not be considered the norm.
Why? Because it is difficult to ensure that construction sites are always completely free of hazards or issues. Construction sites by their very nature are complex, busy, dynamic environments with many activities happening simultaneously that change from day to day, even hour to hour. Some hazards may be hidden or intermittent when using certain items of plant and machinery. Site conditions can change quickly with the onset of inclement weather and there is the ‘human error element’ which can be unpredictable.
Even the most experienced safety advisors can only view a snapshot of the site at any one time so it is unrealistic to expect that all construction sites will be able to achieve a perfect score on every safety inspection.
Why it may be dangerous to keep getting 100% scores?
We will look into some of the possible reasons for getting these scores later in this article, but it is important to understand the potential dangers of getting consistent perfect scores.
These scores can create a false sense of security. If a site is consistently scoring 100% on safety inspections, it can lead workers and management to believe that the site is perfectly safe. This leads to complacency and reduced vigilance increasing the likelihood of an accident or incident.
Consistently high or perfect scores may have missed or ignored inherent hazards meaning these are likely to remain on site creating potential for accidents later on.
This can also create complacency in the inspection process. If safety advisors are consistently giving sites high scores, they may become complacent and less thorough in their inspections. This can lead to hazards being missed or overlooked and again increasing the risk of accidents.
In addition, consistently awarding perfect scores for construction site safety inspections can undermine the credibility of the inspection process. This can make it more difficult to identify and address hazards, and it can also make it more difficult to hold workers and management to account for safety violations.
If this is the case, you need to consider why this is happening.
Firstly, who is carrying out the inspections? Is it an internal directly employed safety advisor or an external consultant? There is a previous article on the use of internal safety advisors versus external consultants. This outlines some points to note on employing safety advisors and/or consultants.
Internal advisor or external consultant, whoever is doing your inspections it is crucial that they have the necessary experience and qualifications. Experience and qualifications on certain types of projects is essential if the inspector is to understand and identify hazards, poor working practices etc.
For example, inspecting a traditional housing development requires a different skillset to inspecting heavy civil engineering works such as tunnel or bridge construction.
Over the years, I’ve seen safety advisors’ step over trip hazards, walk past exposed holes, overlook the lack of edge protection, not challenging workers with incorrect/no PPE. I have even seen one so-called safety advisor do a ‘site inspection’ from the view of the elevated site office!
How do they carry out their inspections?
What are they actually inspecting?
Some standard checklists are quite poor and don’t consider the type, size, complexity, status of the project. A simple checklist makes it easier to achieve perfect scores even though there may be some quite significant hazards or issues present.
Some checklists are simply a tick box exercise rather than a comprehensive aide memoir that allows the inspector to engage properly with site workers and management.
A good starting point for site safety checklists is INDG344 available free from the HSE website
- The absolutely essential health and safety toolkit: https://www.hseni.gov.uk/sites/hseni.gov.uk/files/the-absolutely-essential-health-and-safety-toolkit-for-the-smaller-construction-contractor.pdf
- The CDM Regulations https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l153.pdf.
The culture of the company is important. Are inspectors pressurised to come up with excellent scores so that the company ‘looks good’? If senior management put too much emphasis on achieving perfect scores on inspections, it can create a culture where employees are more focused on scoring high on the inspection than on actually improving safety. Cutting corners, overlooking hazards, or even falsifying inspection results can result.
Are you allowing your inspectors sufficient time on site to carry out an effective inspection? Some safety advisors have a target of up to five sites a day. Two inspections a day should be the maximum or three if smaller sites. It is important that the inspectors have enough time to view the site and engage with the site management rather than just filling out inspection forms.
Sometimes inspectors can become too familiar with site management. This can lead to a reluctance in recording hazards and overlooking issues found on site. If workers and management realise that the safety advisor is too close to site management, they tend to be less likely to treat the inspection process with due respect. This scenario can lead to site workers being less inclined to report hazards and management less pressured to take appropriate and timely corrective action.
All the above can lead to a false sense of security so complacency sets in. The range of perfect scores give the illusion that the sites are safe, with no issues and that there is no need to be as attentive on safety. Such complacency leads to accidents as short cuts or ignorance of hazards becomes the norm.
You really do not want this to happen on your sites.
How do I address this issue?
If the company is serious about improving health and safety, the culture and approach towards site safety inspections needs to be one of openness, honesty and accountability. Site management and site workers need to be empowered to be honest about site hazards, issues without fear of reprimand from senior management. They should also understand the reasons for the site inspections and that they are not there to find fault but to improve safety standards for everyone.
Employees should be recognised for their efforts in improving safety. This will show leadership commitment from senior management and is a good way of demonstrating commitment to the health and safety of its workforce. Senior management should also be visible and visit sites on a regular basis and not only when things go wrong.
The site safety advisors and/or external consultants need to be appropriately qualified and experienced in the type of works your company carries out.
This means that they are more likely to identify and report hazards because they have the training and experience to recognise them.
This gives the company a more accurate understanding of the status of their sites and allows the company to take steps to address them.
If you have directly employed internal safety advisors, ensure that their focus is on improving safety performance, that employees know they have the backing of senior management, that they have the appropriate experience, and that their training is continually up to date.
If appointing external safety advisors, appoint them based on their experience, qualifications, and reputation rather than cheapest cost.
The inspections should be planned on the basis of quality and engagement. They should allow the inspector enough time to see the site and engage with the site workers and site management teams. The inspectors should be empowered and backed up by senior management so that inspectors are taken seriously when visiting sites.
It is important to set realistic expectations on site safety inspections. The focus needs to be on improving safety performance rather than achieving high scores.
If any hazards or issues are found, then it is essential that they are addressed and closed out in a timely manner. All findings on site safety inspection reports should be recorded, analysed for emerging trends, and evaluated. This will allow appropriate action plans to be developed and implemented to deal with any emerging trends etc.
What are the benefits of having an effective site safety inspection regime?
An effective site safety inspection regime will provide many benefits to your company and your employees.
This is especially true when a safe culture exists where company employees are empowered to raise safety issues without fear of recriminations from senior management.
At company level, the benefits are typically:
For employees, the benefits include:
Safety Inspections done properly:
“The key to a safer, happier, and more productive workplace”
Overall, an effective and properly implemented site safety inspection regime backed up by senior management commitment can help reduce accidents, improve employee morale and productivity.