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How to Implement an Effective Construction Disciplinary Program

As a responsible construction company, you have done all the right things; you’ve created procedures, outlined rules and taught your employees how to work safely.

Your workers know what is expected of them, and most of them are compliant, but there are a few that you know, the minute you turn your back, are breaking the rules.

You don’t want to fire them because qualified workers are rare these days, but you can’t afford to babysit them either; you have a business to run. You also can’t go on like this because you know an OSHA fine or an accident is imminent.

You may have already tried to implement some repercussions but found that enforcement was inconsistent from one supervisor to another and from site to site.

Informal programs such as these—that aren’t properly defined and documented—lead to confusion for your workers and cause more problems than they fix.

What is the Answer Then?

What you need is a fair and simple disciplinary program that gets progressively tougher and is consistently enforced. When you run a program like this, two things happen:

1. You’ll reduce the number of infractions on your sites

The instances when a worker didn’t know any better can be corrected through training. The instances of defiance should be punished with varying degrees of severity.

2. The infractions by workers against safety policy that do occur are documented

If an accident happens or an OSHA citation is received, you will have the documented paperwork to reduce the liability placed on your company.

For example, if you have written proof you wrote up Johnny three times (and even suspended him once) for not wearing his fall protection, and then he gets caught by OSHA, or worst case, he dies, you can use those documents to prove you did everything possible to protect him.

What you’ll find below is a program that will help protect you when your workers make stupid or careless mistakes.

What is a Construction Disciplinary Program Comprised of?

There are three components to a strong but fair disciplinary program:

1. A Policy

This is an overview of the whole disciplinary program that explains the reasons why it is in place, the rules you’ll enforce, and what happens if you break one.
At the end of this article, you will have an opportunity to download a workbook which includes a sample policy that you are welcome to modify for your own use.

2. The Rules

This section needs to outline what is covered under the policy. You will definitely want to include rules in regards to safety, such as wearing proper PPE and utilizing safe work procedures.

You may also want to add in performance standards, such as their level of workmanship, their attitude and their readiness to work.

Finally, you should consider including general company policies, such as unauthorized absences, cell phone usage and smoking policies.

Although we cannot create all the rules for you, we have included a list of areas to consider in the downloadable workbook at the end of this article.

3. Progressive Disciplinary Actions

This section includes the results of breaking one of the rules included in the policy. It is important that the resulting actions of an infraction progress in severity based on the seriousness of the rule and the number of occurrences.

The stages of disciplinary action usually look something like this:

  • Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Suspension
  • Termination

An infraction such as not wearing a hard hat would likely start at a verbal warning and move through each stage, possibly even repeating one or two stages.

However, you may decide that an infraction such as not wearing a personal fall arrest system when required will begin with a written warning or that violence in the workplace results in immediate termination.

The most important part of any of the disciplinary actions or stages (other than termination) is that it is always paired with some sort of training or counselling.

The type of training is up to you and will be dependent on the type of infraction and the reasoning for it. The point is that you need to show your company’s due diligence and not that you just handed out a slap on the wrist.

When you caught Johnny not wearing proper fall protection, if he said it was because he didn’t know he had to wear it when he was working on the porch, you may decide to send him for formal re-training on working at heights.

However, if he says he knew but was in a rush, you may choose to have a conversation with him and then sign a written warning confirming his knowledge that safety always comes before speed of production.

The final part of each disciplinary stage is always documentation. Even a verbal warning needs to be documented that it occurred.

If we don’t document, we will likely forget which worker is at which stage for which reason. Mostly though, we document because in the eyes of OSHA, the law and your insurance company, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.

Don’t worry, in the downloadable document at the end of this article, we have included an Infraction Notice Form that you can print, photocopy and begin using to document your workers missteps.

Disciplinary Programs Sound Like a lot of Paperwork

Depending on the number of hooligans you employ, you may be right. It can also be difficult to track the level and number of occurrences for an employee if you have a large staff.

For example, our friend Johnny could fly under the radar, racking up personal fall protection infractions on multiple sites from multiple supervisors before someone in the office collects all the paperwork and realizes what is happening.

It also can be difficult to produce this paperwork in the event that something does happen. If you receive an OSHA citation because of Johnny, the work you put into tracking his infractions is worthless unless you can put your hands on the reports, and they could span over multiple years.

What’s the Solution Then?

The answer to the paperwork problem is simple – technology. A safety management system such as Harness is designed to eliminate paperwork, which in turn eliminates the bottleneck of paperwork collection and the accessibility of the paperwork once it’s filed.

When an infraction occurs for our clients, they are able to look up the employee from their mobile device, view their past offences, and hand out the correct level of discipline.

To get started with a paper program today, simply download our Disciplinary Program Workbook by clicking the button below.

If you are ready to skip right to the technology solution, book a demo and we’ll show you how Harness can make your company safer and more efficient.

By Sue Drummond

Sue Drummond knows that learning new technology can be intimidating and overwhelming sometimes. That's exactly why her role at Harness Software is to teach, guide and customize that fear away. Together with our clients, she sets project priorities, exchanges resources and shares best practices, all in an effort to achieve happier and healthier employees and safer job sites.