Safety Performance through Operational Discipline

RT-317 Topic Summary
RT 317


RT-317 defined the term "operational excellence" for construction project safety as “doing the right thing, the right way, every time – even when no one is watching.” Using that guiding philosophy, the team reviewed existing literature and met with subject matter experts, both within the research team and external to it. Using that knowledge and an external validation survey, Rt-317 developed a rigorous model for operational excellence in regards to construction project safety.

The operational excellence model breaks down into several layers of detail. At the highest, most aggregate level of 13 safety drivers. These are broad categories, several based on CII Zero Accident Techniques, that outline policies to improve construction safety. They include employee engagement, rewards and recognition, human performance, leadership development, and subcontractor management, among others. The accompanying assessment tool allows members to evaluate safety at the corporate level, project level, and site level of a project.

RS317-1, Safety Performance through Operational Excellence, provides a summary of the efforts in outlining the model framework, and creating, revising, and validating the model. For additional details, please refer to RR317-11, Improving Site Safety Performance through Operational Excellence, which discusses in extensive detail the model framework and development process. It also includes a full visualition of the model.

RT-317 continued its effort in Phase II of this research to collect data against the model that it had developed. These findings will be reported after the research is completed.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Operational Excellence

Operational excellence is a term that is relatively new and poorly defined in the construction industry. Fundamentally, operational excellence in construction can be defined as “doing the right thing, the right way, every time – even when no one is watching.”

RT-317 utilized a “Critical to Quality (CTQ)” tree as the framework for the operational excellence model. Drawing upon literature, expert interviews, and a validation survey, the team developed and presented a rigorous model.

Reference: (RS317-1)

2 : Drivers of an Operational Excellence Model of Construction Project Safety

Safety experts within CII and in the outside contracting and consulting world believe that 13 drivers are significant towards an Operational Excellence model of construction project safety. Those drivers are:
  1. Recognition and Reward
  2. Employee Engagement
  3. Subcontractor Management
  4. Training and Competence
  5. Risk Awareness, Management, and Tolerance
  6. Learning Organization
  7. Human Performance
  8. Transformational Leadership
  9. Shared Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions
  10. Strategic Safety Communication
  11. Just and Fair Practices and Procedures
  12. Worksite Organization
  13. Owner’s Role
Reference: (RS317-1a)

3 : Model of Operational Excellence Broken down into Multiple Layers of Detail

Operational Excellence in regards to safety seeks to formalize and professionalize the concept of safety on construction projects. This requires holistic and significant dedication. Thus, the model of operational excellence is significant and broken down into multiple layers of detail as seen below. OED are operational excellence drivers as outlined in Key Finding #2. CTS (Critical to Safety) are more detailed procedural elements at the project level. CTX (Critical to Expectations) are even more detailed practices at the site level. S/M are specification/measurements or the actual measurable results of your safety policies. The table below provides a count of each layer of the model underneath a specific OE driver.
OE Driver # of CTSs # of CTXs # of S/Ms
    1. Recognition and Reward 5 8 9
    2. Employee Engagement 8 28 30
    3. Subcontractor Management 7 26 33
    4. Training and Competence 7 13 14
    5. Risk Awareness, Management, and Tolerance 6 31 33
    6. Learning Organization 2 9 9
    7. Human Performance 2 23 26
    8. Transformational Leadership 6 36 36
    9. Shared Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions 8 8 8
  10. Strategic Safety Communication 7 13 16
  11. Just and Fair Practices and Procedures 8 17 17
  12. Worksite Organization 5 5 10
  13. Owner’s Role 10 61 72
Total 81 278 313
Reference: (RS317-1a)

4 : A Quantifiable Decrease in the Awareness of Safety Policies, Procedures, and Practices from the Corporate Level to the Site Level of an Organization

RT-317 examined more than 70 actual assessments to document a quantifiable decrease in the awareness of safety policies, procedures, and practices from the corporate level to the site level of an organization. The figure below outlines the existence of safety programs in the safety drivers around the perimeter. Higher scores indicate that the respondents believe that those programs are strong. The red line indicates the corporate responses, the blue line is the project responses, and the green line is the site responses.This divergence from corporate to site is especially pronounced in a leadership development program, and just and fair practices and procedures.

Reference: (RS317-1a)

5 : Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)

Developing and/or refining a holistic safety management system is a daunting task. By drawing on a prioritization exercise, RT-317 made this task more manageable. The results of an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) indicate which areas of a safety program can have the most immediate impact. This is not to say that items at the bottom of the table are unimportant but, rather, that the areas at the top should receive the first investigation.
  Safety Driver Weight Relative Weight
  Owner’s Role 0.138 4.20
  Worksite Organization 0.110 3.35
  Shared Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions 0.101 3.09
  Transformational Leadership 0.101 3.08
  Strategic Safety Communication 0.090 2.76
  Training and Competence 0.083 2.54
  Risk Awareness, Management, and Tolerance 0.082 2.49
  Human Performance and Factors 0.075 2.30
  Learning Organization 0.070 2.13
  Employee Engagement 0.061 1.86
  Subcontractor Management 0.055 1.69
  Recognition and Rewards 0.033 1.00
Reference: (RS317-1a)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved safety performance; Improved operational excellence regarding safety; Increased commitment towards project safety

Research Publications

Safety Performance through Operational Excellence • Phase I - RS317-1

Publication Date: 11/2016 Type: Research Summary Pages: 21 Status: Supporting Product

Improving Site Safety Performance through Operational Excellence - RR317-11

Publication Date: 08/2016 Type: Research Report Pages: 220 Status: Reference

Supporting Resources

Presentations (CII Annual Conference & Workshops)

Session - Improving Safety Performance through Operational Excellence

Publication Date: 08/2017 Presenter: Number of Slides: 35 Event Code: AC2017