New research highlights need to re-prioritise safety, wellbeing in construction
Procore Technologies has released new industry research that reveals low rates of safety training and mental healthy initiatives within Australian construction organisations.
The survey also showed that larger businesses (100+ employees) are more likely to be using specialist software, data and leading indicators to manage safety, with room for smaller companies to increase technology use.
Conducted by ACA Research on behalf of Procore, the survey of 161 construction leaders across Australia found that, while work health and safety (WH&S) issues are most commonly attributed to the actions of individual workers, less than half of the businesses surveyed conduct safety training at key moments or regular intervals. Meanwhile, at a time of heightened stress and pressure on the construction industry, just 36% of local construction businesses have a mental health strategy in place.
2021 has been a disruptive year for the construction industry, with not only the pandemic to contend with, but also new building reforms driving a focus on quality assurance in New South Wales and prolonged restrictions and instability leading to heightened tension and protests in Victoria.
It is perhaps unsurprising then, that safety and wellbeing has slipped down the priority list. Project viability exceeds safety for more than a quarter of respondents, with 30% saying budget and 26% saying time considerations are more important.
However, it is encouraging to see 75% of respondents agree that achieving an accident-free workplace is still one of their top priorities. Initiatives such as the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce are driving renewed focus on improving safety and wellbeing outcomes for construction workers. Procore is committed to improving safety and mental health for construction workers across the globe with education, training and access to technology through Procore.org.
“At Mono Constructions, our people are the most important asset to our organisation. We have a responsibility to prioritise the care of our people to ensure they get to go home safe to their loved ones each day,” Mono Constructions HSE manager Frances Khattar says.
“Safety is one of the six success criteria we use to measure ourselves against, across all our projects and position descriptions. Investing in the right safety systems and procedures has helped Mono achieve greater visibility and awareness of safety and wellbeing across the business.”
Measures to manage COVID safely
Procore says the industry saw a greater focus on COVID-19 safety measures during the early stages of the pandemic, with initiatives declining in 2021. This is likely due to state governments introducing standardised systems and processes, such as QR code check-in apps for contact tracing.
- Of all measures, construction companies are most likely to have increased personal safety equipment requirements (63%, down from 70% in 2020).
- 30% of organisations have introduced software that assists with contact tracing, improved systems to capture and analyse site safety data and identify risks, and new mental health resources and initiatives.
- Medium (10-99 employees) and large businesses are more effectively using technology to manage COVID-19, with 48% using software to better communicate with staff.
Larger businesses lead on mental health
As mental health concerns increased across all industries during the pandemic, large construction companies are more likely to have implemented new or improved mental health initiatives, programs and resources (55% compared with 30% on average).
- Large businesses are also more likely to have strategies for other elements of mental health, such as stress management (52% compared with 34%) and working time reduction (38% compared with 28%).
- Medium companies are considering a range of mental health policies, but are less likely to have taken action.
- Less than 20% of small businesses (>10 employees) have any mental health initiatives in place.
WH&S policies, incidents and training
Australia continues to set a high bar for construction site safety, however, the frequency of WH&S training leaves room for improvement.
- 71% currently have a workplace health and safety policy in place, with 88% of those companies updating their policies at least every 2 years.
- 72% agree that WH&S needs to be an integral part of everyone’s job.
- Respondents cited lack of care (74%) and unnecessary risks being taken by the worker (71%) as the highest contributing factors to WH&S incidents.
- Organisations conduct WH&S training intermittently and inconsistently, with some opting for regular sessions (47%), and others offering refresher courses after an incident (21%).