More construction companies are stressing the relationship between workplace safety and employee wellness initiatives, Says Rik Kunnath, executive chairman of Pankow Management Inc. (San Francisco), “Among a lot of companies, there’s a growing awareness that for workplace safety programs to really affect behaviors, there needs to be a culture of deep concern for the well-being of employees.
Unfortunately, Pankow came to this awareness only after several on-site fatalities in the early 1980s forced the company to re-evaluate its workplace safety priorities. According to Kunnath, “That led to some soul searching as to whether we were really doing all that we could to work safely, and whether our drive towards high rates of production were overwhelming the safety message. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes having a deep personal commitment to safety is triggered by an accident or an incident.”
Over time, Pankow’s commitment to protecting its workers has expanded to include a far broader view of their overall health, and the role of workplace wellness programs in reducing on-site injuries. “In the beginning”, notes Kunnath,” there was some concern that by taking this view of our values, our safety programs could get watered down as they compete with other wellness initiatives, but if anything, the opposite has occurred.
“Everyone knows that nothing we do as an industry has a higher potential for injury than field operations, and that always has to be our most important focus,” he adds. “It’s just that it’s a lot easier for employees to accept your safety message when everything else you do in your interactions with them says that your concern for their well-being is real.”
Words of wisdom.