Safety: It ain’t sexy, but does it still count for successful construction marketing?

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The session about the business case for implementing the Certificate of Recognition (CoR) safety management program at Construct Canada attracted little interest. Why?

Construction Canada show organizers certainly didn’t need to book a large meeting room for the session dedicated to the business reasons for implementing the Certificate of Recognition (COR) safety management program. The audience in the room only slightly outnumbered the five speakers representing the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and safety compliance software management business.

You would be tarred and feathered to say safety is unimportant, but it seems only a few people were ready to pay the $50 seminar fee to attend this program. (I don’t count, because with a media pass, I attended without charge.)

Of course, solid safety management systems may seem to be at best “motherhood” and a worst irrelevant — or a regulatory nightmare if required — but the speakers pointed out two rather significant marketing reasons for listening to their perspectives.

An increasing number of major purchasers, especially in the public sector, are requiring safety certification as a condition for bidding work

This is certainly the case with Infrastructure Ontario (IO), the province’s main procurement agency for larger public jobs including hospitals, transit systems, courthouses and provincial police stations. General contractors — and soon larger subcontractors — will need the CoR certification to bid the work.

When things go wrong, they get very expensive

Undoubtedly the cost in legal, emotional, and time for dealing with the consequences of a significant safety failure will be huge. Even preparing (from a marketing perspective) is expensive, because you will need solid crisis management systems to ensure your staff don’t put their foots in their mouths when the media descend on your business after a tragedy.

However, there is a third message behind well-executed safety systems and audit compliance processes. If you take the time and energy to set these processes up, you’ll have a much more effective, structured, and connected business — and you’ll see this in improved efficiency and employee morale, all good for the bottom line.

Then why the lack of interest? On the obvious level, compliance has cost. The speakers acknowledged that CoR certification can take a year or more, and rarely is successfully implemented unless the business has an equivalent full-time Person Year available for the work. How can a smaller business fund that overhead cost, especially if it doesn’t have any immediate cost recovery? I suppose that reason explains the lack of attendance at the safety program — how many businesses will have the dedicated staff/resources to pay even the $50 to attend; unless they are dragged into the picture?

This happens when clients insist.

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