If you ever come and spend some time with us at Sheriff Construction, you’ll soon find out that job site safety is something we talk about… a lot!
We’re of the firm belief that, when it comes to accidents or mishaps, prevention is better than the cure.
The good news is it’s not all that hard to put in controls that reduce the risks. Often, it’s simply a case of adopting the right mindset and attitude while recognising where and how things could potentially go wrong.
What’s one of the most common errors that open the door to injury?
People often feel under pressure to complete tasks as quickly as possible so that they can move onto whatever’s next on the list or finish the day early. However, rushing not only reduces the quality of workmanship but can also lead to people failing to follow the necessary safety steps and therefore increasing the chances of a mishap.
Accidents increase on Fridays, holiday weekends or when jobs are behind schedule.
REMEMBER: Working safely is the first priority, even if it means finishing the job later!
Rethink the rush
Another big problem with rushing is that it actually stresses you out far more than you need to be.
The pressure of being ‘on the clock’ can become really intense but, in many cases, people add to this by layering on further pressure related to their own expectations of what they should be achieving and by when. It’s very easy to get to a point where you feel as if there’s no way out.
But, as you rush to get things done as fast as possible, you don’t think as critically about the task, and that results in more mistakes.
So then what happens?
- Well, it could be that you wind up backtracking – having to go back and fix all the errors you made on the job the first time around.
- It might be that the mistakes get noted by your boss or colleagues, impacting on your success within your company.
- Or it could be that you, or a colleague, winds up with an injury due to those safety issues being rushed or forgotten about entirely.
Strategies to slow yourself down
It’s perfectly fine to prepare a ‘to do’ list that challenges you or gets you out of your comfort zone a little. There are even times when a bit of stress can be a positive thing – helping you to see the big picture and concentrate better, for example.
However, if you want to accomplish a lot on a construction site without skyrocketing your anxiety or increasing the risk of accidents, it’s time to get real.
Try following these four guidelines:
- Be thorough – If you ‘finish’ a task ahead of schedule, avoid the temptation to immediately start something new. Look again at the job you’ve been working on and be sure that you can say with all honesty that there’s nothing you need to double check or tie up. You should be able to say that the work meets all your quality standards and there are no loose ends before ploughing fully into the next task.
- Take a minute for yourself – When something really has been ticked off of the list, it’s okay to take a short breather. Stretch, get some coffee, take a walk or write up a few notes about what you’ve learnt from the task. You’ll come back feeling much more relaxed and that will help you to focus better on the next job.
- Draw boundaries from the start– We live in a culture that prizes the concept of immediacy. We’re used to making and receiving orders within hours or sending and receiving messages within seconds. Within this environment, we sometimes hesitate to tell our work colleagues or bosses that their expectations are unrealistic because we don’t want them to see us as incapable. However, aside from genuine emergency situations, immediacy is not always necessary or in fact possible. So, when you take on any task, be clear (to yourself and to others) about when you can fit it in. If necessary, explain to others what else you have already been asked to do and emphasise the need for quality (not rushing). By doing this, everyone can stay on the same page with realistic expectations of what can be achieved and by when.
- Check you’re tackling the real goals- We often rush through ‘to do’ lists not only because we want to impress others, but also because we have conflicting priorities and interests. Perhaps one project is more urgent but your interest lies in another task, making it difficult to stay on course. Don’t let your emotions throw you off guard. The more interesting project will still be there when you’ve finished your current one, so stick to tackling the tasks which are most important (without rushing them)!
Achieve a balance
Of course there are times when a deadline is approaching and it’s ‘all hands-on deck’ but, in many other cases, the pressure to finish things quickly is self-inflicted. We want to look like we can handle it all; we avoid tying up loose ends so we can juggle the next task; we fail to set out realistic expectations of what we can do within any given particular period of time; and we forget to take the occasional breather.
All of this can lead to problems around the quality of workmanship, wellbeing issues such as anxiety, and an increased risk of accident and injury at work.
The suggestions above can help you slow down a little, even when you feel a lot of pressure to pile on more. If you can pack up your tools or leave your workspace having achieved what you set out to do, while feeling balanced and comfortable with the next day’s plan, you’ll know you’re on the right track.
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