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Zero Tolerance



Begin Using Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance systems on-site work everywhere we try them. The key is to not tolerate bad behaviors on-site, and to keep people safe and making money. The following brief outline will demonstrate how this is most effectively done on the project site.


The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.


Every time we try Zero Tolerance it works. The key is to establish common standards, orient everyone to the standards, and decide as a team on a collective form of consequences. After that, it works only if every member of the team is committed to implementing and enforcing the rules. For the first couple of days, people will be upset and you will have to remove people from the project site. After that, everyone will get used to the system as long as you are consistent. After approximately six weeks of effort, and only then, will the trade partners begin to notice the difference in safety and advocate for the system.


What should we remember on every project?

Respect for people! That’s it. That’s why we do everything. We take care of the customer because we respect them, their staff, and their end users. We take care of our people because we respect them. We treat trades well because we respect them. We are safe because we respect our people and their families. We provide adequate facilities, bathrooms, lunchrooms, and treat people fairly because we respect them. We keep perfectly clean job sites because we respect the productivity of other trades. We bring materials on time, and just in time, because we respect other trades. We do not tolerate safety violations because we respect people’s lives and the well-being of their families.


Why do we do it?

  • Our contracts say we should.

  • OSHA requires us to educate and control the safety on-site.

  • Trade partners expect us to keep people safe and enable their productivity.

  • We have the responsibility of making sure everyone on-site knows expectations and follows them.

  • Each trade partner has their own rules for safety which we need to respect.

  • It’s the right thing to do.

  • If it's wrong, why would we tolerate it?

If we believe everyone has equal opportunity, reasonable intelligence, and the ability to work on our sites, they can follow the rules. When we don’t enforce the rules, we are effectively saying, “We don’t care. You can’t, won't, or are not intellectually able to follow the rules because you are not as good as me.” That is not a respectful or true message.


How do we do it?

Decide on zero tolerance items:

  • Any violation of safety that is contrary to the company standards, orientation, and OSHA 10 training.

  • Anything that is indicative of bad behavior, bad attitudes, not paying attention, or not being trained for the task.

  • Anything that is high risk like ladder use, electrical, fall protection, confined space, excavations, etc.

  • If it is an honest mistake that could not have been prevented by being mentally present, having a good attitude, and typical training, I would remind them.

  • Starting with safety glasses is my preference. It has a psychological effect. It sets the standard of behavior onsite. If someone will not wear their safety glasses, they will not wear their fall protection properly. The important standards will be kept like the minimum standards are. It is a mental and behavioral trigger.

Enforcement of:

  • On time deliveries

  • Organization

  • Just in time deliveries and intentional staging of materials

  • Perfect cleanliness

  • Not covering or leaving non-quality work

  • Everyone on-site must set the example and enforce the policy.

  • The orientation should explain the approach to everyone.

  • Daily safety huddles should remind people and train them on standards.

  • If someone is observed, you say to them, “Because I care about your safety, we need to give you time to focus, re-train, or plan the work. So, let's have you go home for the day, and you can come back tomorrow for orientation” --unless it is a major violation.

  • Send an email to that person’s company explaining why that person was allowed to go home for their own safety and the benefit of their family. Ask that the person is re-trained and offer for them to come back through orientation--if not a major violation.

  • Log the name and violation on a log to track repeat offenders or folks who cannot come back.

  • If it is minor, they come back through orientation; if they do it again, they cannot come back; if it is a serious violation that could have killed them, they cannot come back.

  • Hold the line, don’t budge, be strict, calm trade partners, and in weeks the site will uphold the standard without a lot of oversight. Every new wave of contractors will have to be trained.

  • If you implement Zero Tolerance on-site, you can have a remarkably well-run project. You will have fewer safety incidents and have less need for babysitting in the field.

We get what we tolerate. Have you found your method of not tolerating bad behaviors and cultures?

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