Expanding the Meaning of Zero Harm

When you see a person harassing someone else or when you feel like you are being bullied, do you say something? Do you even recognize it?

According to various studies, almost half of all American workers report that they have been affected by workplace bullying or harassment—becoming a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker. Workplace harassment and bullying are safety concerns that Balfour Beatty is taking proactive steps to combat.

In 2018, Engineering News-Record (ENR) conducted its first-ever survey on sexual harassment in construction. Of the 1,248 respondents, 66% said that they had been a victim of sexual harassment or gender bias and nearly 60% said that they have witnessed a gender-based harassment incident.

In a recent article on the impact of harassment in the industry, ENR explains “the ‘dangerous domino effect’ jobsite harassment—gender-based or any other—has on an entire project. The harasser is focused on the target, the victim is focused on the harasser, witnesses are uncomfortable and distracted, with fear and safety risk escalating for all.”

Because workplace bullying is often ingrained in the industry culture, many do not immediately identify it as something wrong. When people are intimidated or harassed, they don’t feel comfortable speaking up about these unacceptable behaviors or other important safety issues, especially on the jobsite.

Eric Stenman, president of Balfour Beatty - US Buildings, discussed the impact safety culture has on the workplace. “From a safety standpoint, we are conditioned to look for physical and perceptible safety aspects of the jobsite—like identifying risks and taking precautions regarding the Fatal Four, utilizing the right tool for the job or wearing the correct personal protective equipment.”

He continues, “However, I don’t think we are conditioned or trained to be aware how the less perceptible conditions can impact safety on a jobsite. If we expand the meaning of safety culture to include the mental wellbeing of the workforce of men and women, a workplace free of bullying and harassment, we are putting people (and their safety) first. Bullying and harassment are real safety concerns and thus should be recognized and affirmed as part of Zero Harm.”

As leaders in our industry, we believe it is our responsibility to work to eradicate these behaviors and ensure that everyone who works with our company is provided a safe work environment free of bullying or harassment.

Moreover, our trade partners and suppliers are tied to the same principles when they agree to work with us. By working with business partners whose standards are consistent with our own, we respect our company values.

Together, we can work to eradicate bullying and harassment. By upholding our core values, we create a great place to work, attract the best qualified people to be part of our work family and improve our entire industry.