Crisis Management - Preparedness is Key

Unfortunately, the construction industry is no stranger to on-the-job accidents or injuries. In fact, the 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted 4,836 workplace casualties — the most recorded since 2008. Although many of our members have established effective safety programs that address issues from the design phase through completion, how many can confidently navigate those accidents that are simply unavoidable?

Traditional approaches to safety and health issues in the construction industry are often reactionary, meaning action is taken only after an injury or illness occurs. Promote a positive work environment — and reduce the risk of additional mistakes stemming from heat-of-the-moment decisions — by recognizing potential issues ahead of time, and implementing a crisis management plan to protect your workers.

“Several years ago, we developed a model Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity program,” said Mike McCullion, SMACNA director of market sectors and safety. “Members can go through it, fill in the blanks, so to speak, and take a management team approach to address serious incidents before they come up.”

Although it’s impossible to know what the future holds, it’s important to have a plan of action to handle both commonplace and unexpected issues in the workplace. Outlining a strategy in advance can help keep your employees safe, while maintaining credibility and returning to business as usual as quickly and safely as possible. After all, a strong investment in your employees’ safety is an investment in your bottom line.

Establish your company’s chain of command and clearly define all roles. From the project foreman all the way up to the president/owner, identify each person on your crisis management team and make sure each person knows his or her role. Ensure contact information for each person is readily available.

Communication is key.

In the age of smartphones and Facebook Live, damaging information can go public in an instant. So when a crisis strikes, it’s important to keep all audiences informed and updated as information becomes available. From employees and family members, to customers, clients and the media, establish who gets notified first, and designate a qualified spokesperson to provide statements. Have generic statements already written that can quickly be personalized for distribution, should the situation call for it.

Visualize various “what if” scenarios to identify what constitutes a crisis. Because of the nature of the construction industry, it’s important to identify any situations that could go wrong before they actually do. Big or small, every potential issue should have a documented plan. Some situations to consider include injury or death, equipment failure, fire, environmental emergencies, transportation accidents — even strikes.

According to the SMACNA model program introduction and foreword, “Leadership, staff, and suppliers must all be prepared for, and actively involved in, the planning for and resumption of your business activities. The scale of a disruption may be local to your office or affect an entire region. You must be prepared for such crises, large and small.

Participate in mock drills.

By practicing crisis situations, you can see what procedures work and what needs improvement. Train all employees, not just the crisis management team, on proper safety protocol and what to do in a crisis situation.

Review plans regularly.

As technology continues to advance, it’s important to revisit your crisis management plans regularly and update as necessary. Treat it as a “living” document that changes as the organization changes. Make sure each team member in the chain of command is up-to-date, and train all team members on their responsibilities.