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Realities of Post-Disaster Data Recovery

The construction industry’s dependence on information technology systems continues to expand with the dramatic shift from document management to data management. With this reliance comes an increased vulnerability to business disruption. Data management, business continuity and post-disaster data recovery requires a shift in mindset from firefighting to fire prevention. Zero disruptions is a bold strategic imperative that provides a competitive advantage by enhancing field productivity, increasing office efficiency, reducing downtime and preventing data losses. Effective data backup and post-disaster recovery protocols are the essential steps to minimize business disruptions.

Data management today requires an enterprise view integrating a company’s increasingly complex networks. Data must be construed to encompass all information generated, received, transmitted, stored and retrieved throughout the organization. Additionally, data must be incorporated from its various physical and virtual locations, including mobile devices. Following are IT trends affecting AEC companies:

  • expansion of email as the predominant form of intra- and inter-company communication;
  • growth of online data mobility project management tools using smartphones and tablets to access and transmit data;
  • increased adoption of document imaging to replace paper recordkeeping files;
  • growth of enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform systems and integration with best-in-class specialty software programs;
  • estimators’ use of the same database to work from multiple locations on complex projects;
  • increased adoption of, and massive data files generated by, BIM;
  • emergence of hosted and cloud-based data recovery systems;
  • expansion of e-discovery in litigation, which raises expectations for (and increases the risks of ) record retention; and
  • proliferation of social media networks combined with bring-your-own-device policies, which creates new portals for hacking, malware and viruses.

The severity of natural disasters and the escalating number of man-made emergencies and technological disruptions compounds the construction industry’s dependence on IT systems. Many of these disruptions “only” result in temporary IT system shutdowns, while others pose a threat to the viability of the business.

A company’s vulnerability to data loss can be increased or decreased by the actions taken (or not taken) with regard to data backup and recovery. A robust business continuity plan is the first step. Companies have many choices when selecting the best way to back up their vital information and mission-critical data.

The Need for a Comprehensive Business Continuity Strategy

Automatic offsite (hosted or cloud-based) data backup protocols at regular intervals are the best prevention for data loss. These backups must be set for every type of data and for every type of device accessing, transmitting or storing information.

Another data recovery strategy is imaging the company’s server and running the restored replica image from a new server in a remote location. However, this strategy requires pre-planning. In a large-scale disaster, obtaining replacement servers may not be possible.

Causes, Costs and Consequences of Data Loss

Data disruption is a reality of the modern work environment. Causes of data loss include:

  • failure to initiate or maintain regular data backups;
  • hardware failure;
  • human error resulting in accidental deletion, overwriting of data or forgetting to add new IT systems/devices to backup protocols;
  • failure to test the backup and data recovery restoration process to determine adequacy;
  • software or application corruption;
  • power surges, brownouts and outages;
  • computer viruses, malware or hacking;
  • theft of IT equipment; and
  • hardware damage or destruction from vandalism, fire and water (rain, flood or sprinkler system discharge).

The consequences of lost data include direct loss of revenue from missing bid submissions or customer orders, direct expenses to pay for technical specialists to help recover data, decreased productivity during the shutdown and costs to re-key or obtain replacement data. For contractors selling directly to consumers, the loss of Internet connection for any extended time could prove costly. Lost data also can result in litigation for breach of confidential information plus adverse publicity.

A 2012 study commissioned by cloud-based data backup company Carbonite revealed 45% of small businesses (defined as fewer than 1,000 employees) had suffered a data loss. Fifty-four percent of the data losses were attributed to hardware failure, and the average cost for data recovery was $9,000.

Real-World Data Loss Scenarios

  • Laptop motherboard failure. A project estimator was working offline when the motherboard crashed. Because of a tight deadline, he had to restart the estimate from scratch. Although the bid was successfully submitted on time, the estimator fell behind on pricing other jobs that the company failed to win.
  • Lost iPhone. Pictures of a project safety incident with documentation of a mismarked “one-call system” utility spot were lost. The photo documentation had not been transmitted to the office, and the contractor lost the request for damages against the utility locating service. Moreover, the smartphone was not properly password-secured, allowing unauthorized access to contacts, client information and company data.
  • Desktop computer backup location not properly mapped to server. When a workstation was upgraded with a new desktop computer, it was not mapped to the server for automatic backup. The computer hard drive crashed, and no files were backed up. Recovery using the old desktop computer was slow, and data created on the new computer was lost.
  • New database not added to the nightly backup protocol. A company purchased a new customer relationship management database and, after a power outage, realized it had not been added to the nightly data backup protocol.
  • Onsite data backup location destroyed. The building housing an onsite backup server was struck by lightning, which started a fire and resulted in a total loss of all current and historical data.
  • Disaster recovery software not properly configured. While conducting a test of a company’s disaster recovery plan, it was discovered that some critical data was not being captured in the backup files.
  • Laptop and tablet stolen from a jobsite trailer. The field equipment had not been backed up for several weeks, resulting in the loss of key project documentation.

Best Practices for Data Management

Data management and IT network administration is a strategic, unique function for all companies. It is not possible to delineate all data management best practices, but the following guidelines should help enhance most companies’ post-disaster data recovery efforts:

  • Determine the company’s recovery-time objectives, and plan and budget accordingly. Identify which functions and systems must remain operational at the time of a disruption or disaster. This requires advance planning and budgeting for necessary systems and technical support services. It also helps prioritize risk-reduction strategies, including investments in data management backup system and security upgrades.
  • Develop a written business continuity plan that outlines specific responsibilities for protecting vital information and mission-critical data. The business continuity plan should include protocols for backup and synchronization of all office systems and virtual/mobile devices. It also should address the frequency and format for testing data management integrity and security, as well as how gaps will be identified and addressed.
  • Inventory the company’s vital information and mission-critical data, and verify it is being backed up. Key considerations include how the data is being backed up, by whom and how frequently, as well as where the backup data is stored. It is important to ensure the data backup and restoration process work as designed.
  • Initiate automatic scheduled backups, ensure the backup data is stored offsite, and test the adequacy of the data backup and restoration methods. Consider the added benefits of imaging the company’s servers to achieve a complete restoration of the data management system
  • Develop a comprehensive diagram of the company’s integrated data management network, including all physical and virtual/mobile subsystems. Ideally, this will be an “as built” blueprint of the company’s configuration consisting of the hardware, operating systems, software and applications that make up the data management network.
  • Institute policies regarding the use of the company’s Internet, including security protocols. Implement policies for user authentication, password verification, unacceptable personal devices and reporting of lost equipment. It is essential to communicate these policies and security protocols to all users and to train new employees.
  • Establish proactive management of the company’s data and IT network. Ensure the company’s network administrator has state-of-the-art tools, including remote access, help desk diagnostics and anti-spam and malware protection. Request periodic updates on all software licensing audits and verification that all security patch updates have been installed on a timely basis. Establish a fixed replacement schedule for hardware and software.

There is good news and bad news regarding business data management and recovery. The bad news is that the need for post-disaster data recovery can no longer be ignored. The increasingly complex and connected business world demands pre-planning for business continuity. The good news is that data management and recovery services are scalable to meet the custom needs of every business regardless of the size and scope of the operation and its degree of data dependence.

Reprinted with permission from Construction Executive, January 2014, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors Services Corp. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Zero Injury: A Cultural Imperative for the Construction Industry

If there is a silver lining in the protracted downturn and delayed recovery in the construction economy, it is that “fatal construction injuries are down nearly 42% since 2006,” according to the BLS National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2011.

That same report observed that “fatal work injuries in the private construction sector declined to 721 in 2011 from 774 in 2010, a decline of 7% and the fifth consecutive year of lower fatality counts.”

However, as the general economy stabilizes and construction spending and project volumes increase, it will not be long before hiring pressures mount throughout the industry.

With an increase in hiring comes an opportunity to institute increased emphasis on safety through employee selection standards, substance abuse testing, new employee orientation and training processes, as well as job safety analyses and daily “huddles” to address project safety requirements.

There is no better time than now for construction company owners and construction financial managers to focus on systematic injury prevention by adopting a zero injury vision and strategy and begin a transformation into a zero injury culture.

Reality Check: Stop Rationalizing Construction Injuries & Fatalities As A Cost Of Doing Business

Stop for a moment and reflect on the hard fact that many construction workers are injured, disabled, and killed at work each year. It is widely recognized (or rationalized) that construction is a hazardous industry, accidents happen, and jobsite conditions are constantly changing and difficult to control.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of injuries and fatalities are preventable. A common trait we’ve observed among companies that have adopted a zero injury culture is an underlying philosophy and belief that all injuries and fatalities can be eliminated.

What is required to make this philosophy a reality? Leadership resolve to change the prevailing attitude that rationalizes fatalities and injuries as an unfortunate aspect of the construction industry and a cost of doing business and a culture shift that changes the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of all industry stakeholders.

This shift to a zero injury culture instills a true belief that injuries and fatalities are not acceptable, should not be condoned, and cannot only be reduced, but actually prevented. This culture shift is necessary at the project, company, and industry levels, as well as in the thoughts and actions of each construction employee.

Zero Injury Culture Is For All Companies

Culture shapes the performance expectations of such key workplace attitudes as the importance of punctuality, wearing proper attire, and how hard to work (or not to work). It directly influences safety attitudes and behaviors, including whether employees wear protective equipment, ignore training instructions, and/or take safety shortcuts to finish work faster.

Therefore, culture determines if a company or work crew will act with a safety-conscious and risk-averse set of values or accept “at-risk” attitudes and behaviors as the prevailing norm.

With the emphasis on zero injury or zero incident culture by large contractors, many small- and medium-sized contractors are wondering if this is a suitable strategy for them as well. We believe all companies can benefit from adopting a zero injury vision and strategy.

The success of a company’s drive to attain a zero injury culture hinges on a company’s owners and senior leaders who must instill, reinforce, and sustain the core building blocks of a zero injury safety culture shown in Exhibit 1 below.

Exhibit 1: Zero Injury Safety Culture Building Blocks
Representative Examples

Zero Injury is attainable on every shift and every project.

Zero injury culture needs to permeate all company activities and not be viewed as a separate process.


All levels of the organization believe that zero injury is achievable — from company executives to all craft/trade employees.


All employees accept personal responsibility and accountability for zero injury.



The company values the health and safety of all employees.

The company is committed to employees going home safe at the end of every work day.


Employees are not taking unnecessary risk.

New employees accept safe work practices as the expectation.


Employee behavior on projects rejects shortcuts and recognizes that unnecessary risk-taking is not acceptable.

Zero injury is ingrained in the way the company builds every construction project — regardless of size, location, company division, manager/supervisor, and/or schedule.

How To Institute A Zero Injury Culture

Companies that have adopted a zero injury culture generally have instituted the measurement of leading indicators in addition to traditional lagging indicators (which are discussed in Risk Performance Metrics). Leading indicators focus on the prevention-based activities that drive improved safety expectations and performance outcomes.

Exhibit 2 outlines a life cycle process for the development of a zero injury safety culture. We have high-lighted five distinct phases and delineated key steps and milestones for each phase. The five-phase model is presented to provide a useful framework for monitoring the progress of the evolving process.

For simplicity, Exhibit 2 summarizes key challenges, major milestones, and process outcomes in each of the five phases of the zero injury culture development life cycle. Similar to safety culture development, rarely is a one-size-fits-all approach appropriate for any organizational process or practice. Company culture is unique and will grow and change in its own way.

Building an organizational safety culture can be a slow and messy process, and it does not necessarily follow a linear progression. Sometimes the adage of “one step backward to go two steps forward” is necessary advice.

A model of organizational transformation that we found relevant and realistic to instituting zero injury culture is “Journey of Transformation: The CFO’s Perspective” (by Renee Beaulieu, Skip Perley, Dr. Perry Daneshgari, and Heather Moore in the May/June 2012 issue of CFMA Building Profits), which describes the Strategic Breakthrough Process Improvement.

Many of the companies adopting a zero incident or zero injury culture often describe their process of doing so as a journey.

Safety Culture Development Challenges

The 10-question Safety Culture Health Check in Exhibit 3 can provide your company’s leadership with an assessment of their personal and organizational readiness for instituting a zero injury culture.

Exhibit 3: Safety Culture Health Check

The following 10 questions are designed to provide a quick assessment of your company’s current safety culture. Even though this health check cannot provide insight as deep as a comprehensive, systematic safety perception survey, it is a useful tool for gauging the need to expand safety awareness and accountability.

  1. Does your company’s senior management team operationalize safety commitment and show demonstrable involvement in managing the process by addressing safety as a core strategic discipline that positively impacts the execution of company and project performance?
  2. Do your company’s supervisors and employees fundamentally believe that all accidents and injuries are preventable, or do they believe that accidents and injuries are part of working in the hazardous construction industry?
  3. Is your company known for having a robust safety program with rigorous attention to safety, or is safety known to take a backseat to production pressures?
  4. Does your company’s prevailing attitude toward safety regard it as a necessary evil that decreases productivity or as a vital process that positively impacts productivity and profitability by maintaining a healthy workforce?
  5. Is safety performance viewed as the responsibility of a corporate safety officer, or is adhering to safe work practices the responsibility of every employee?
  6. Does your company have a culture that condones or eliminates safety shortcuts?
  7. Does your company engage all employees in safety processes, including conducting safety observations to identify and correct unsafe conditions and “at-risk” behaviors?
  8. What is your company’s reputation for safety among peer group companies and among the recognized industry leaders?
  9. Is safety an important aspect of your company’s brand image and reputation?
  10. Is your senior management team willing to go “all-in” for the safety and welfare of its employees by making it a core value of the company?

It is crucial that the zero injury culture process be well conceived with thoughtful consideration of how to communicate the company’s commitment, secure employee engagement, and implement functional support structures to reinforce and sustain the process.

It is important to recognize that employees will intuitively know if the company leadership sincerely wants to adopt a zero injury culture. Employee skepticism will run high if the company has a history of initiating and quickly abandoning “fad of the month” safety programs.

A final “gut-check” question is necessary to determine your company’s readiness and resolve for adopting a zero injury culture: Is your company ready and willing to commit to adopting, instituting, and sustaining a zero injury culture? In honestly evaluating this question and its implications, it is natural to consider the challenges in doing so and identify the obstacles to overcome for your company to be successful.

Benefits & Outcomes

Once implemented, the benefits of a zero injury safety culture will be realized through reduced claim severity and frequency, increased productivity, and improved profitability. Once a zero injury safety culture is achieved, your company will:

  • Become an employer of choice, reduce voluntary attrition, and improve morale among existing employees
  • Increase productivity by decreasing time spent investigating employee injuries and reducing idle equipment, thereby increasing potential for improved margins
  • Decrease direct and indirect costs associated with employee injuries, thereby reducing your company’s total cost of risk
  • Demonstrate improvement in project owners’ prequalification metrics (e.g., total recordable cases (TRC); days away from work, job restriction, or transfer (DART); Workers’ Compensation Experience Modification Rate (EMR), etc.), thereby remaining on eligible bidder lists and increasing opportunities to bid desirable projects
  • Align zero injury culture with other strategic zerobased risk management objectives: zero defects, zero crashes, zero equipment breakdowns, zero defaults, zero IT downtime, and zero disruptions (For more information, read “Zero Disruptions: Preparing for Unexpected Business Interruptions & Protecting Your Assets” by Calvin E. Beyer and Brian J. Cooney in the May/June 2011 issue.)
  • Attain respect among peer competitors and establish a positive reputation in the industry

Management Safety Culture Assessment

Various survey instruments have been developed to measure perceptions of safety management culture. The Management of Safety Culture Assessment is based on the Determinants of Safety Culture Model, which assesses the measurable capacity and performance ability of companies to minimize accidents, injuries, and related costs.

According to Dr. Christopher Garrabrant, the Management Safety Culture Assessment and Determinants of Safety Culture model are founded on Charles Perrow’s 1994 discussion of Normal Accident Theory and High Reliability Theory, both of which correlate to reducing losses.

Garrabrant asserts this Management Safety Culture Assessment identifies and measures 15 factors within five broad categories that contribute to the success of a company’s safety culture, as shown in Exhibit 4.

Exhibit 4: Management Safety Culture Assessment
  Assessment Category Assessment Factors
1. Organizational Leaders Operationalize Commitment

Demonstrable senior leadership participation and involvement

Resource allocation

Core processes and results measured

Accountability system for safety at all levels of the organization

2. Identify Safety and Reliability as Goals

Safety as a goal is consistently and clearly articulated

Multiple and independent channels of communication

Decentralized decision-making authority

3. High Levels of Redundancy in Personnel and Technical Safety Measures

Continuous operations and training

Job hazard analyses are owned, continuously reviewed, and updated

4. Organization Strives for a “High Reliability Culture”

Presents optimism toward a desired future state

Consistent communications

Adaptability to change

5. Sophisticated Forms of Trial and Error Organizational Learning

Capacity to learn and act

Accident investigations are blame-free and pursue systemic improvements

Hazard analysis occurs before accidents

A company demonstrates the necessary values within its culture to promote the health and well-being of its employees. The culture demonstrates behaviors that can be expected to result in fewer workplace accidents and achieve a more rapid return to work should an accident occur. The assessment is intended to validate a company’s ability to exceed industry expectations of safety performance.

Importance Of A Zero Injury Mind Shift In The Construction Industry

We recognize that for a true zero injury culture to occur, the mindset of zero injury needs to reach beyond the individual company culture and become the norm for the construction industry as a whole, since many contractors use the same subcontractors, vendors, and workforce. Therefore, until the industry – including all owners, contractors, and employees – takes a unified stance against unsafe behaviors and acts, each individual company will obtain limited success as a zero injury culture.

We envision a construction industry with the shared culture where workers have the same positive experience at every project where they are asked to put in an honest day’s work without taking any unnecessary risk and where they safely complete their work each day.

In order to do that, we are encouraged to see general contractors and subcontractors band together with insurers to start working as an industry to change the norm for all workers to complete each work day safely.

Please take a moment to think about whether you are willing to do what is necessary to help make zero incidents, injuries, and fatalities a reality in your company and the construction industry.

Challenge the conventional thinking about the construction industry being hazardous and help make the vision of a zero injury culture within this industry a reality.

We appeal to every stakeholder of the construction industry to join the cause of making zero injuries a reality. There really is no higher calling for the construction industry – the time is now for zero injuries to be the expectation, the norm, and reality.

Web Resources

1. BLS Economic News Release: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2011.

2. Zero Injury Techniques, University of Texas at Austin, Construction Industry Institute.

3. Safety Plus: Making Zero Accidents a Reality. University of Texas at Austin, Construction Industry Institute.

A Brief History of Zero Injury Culture in Construction

The concept of zero injury in construction has existed at least since 1993 with the publication of the Construction Industry Institute’s (CII) Zero Injury Techniques. The 1993 study highlighted 170 techniques that construction companies used for injury prevention. The CII’s follow-up study in 2003, Safety Plus: Making Zero Accidents a Reality, further popularized the term and increased awareness of the benefits of a zero injury culture.

The 2003 study quantified a significant demonstrable improvement in safety performance of companies adopting nine high-impact, zero injury techniques:

  1. Demonstrated management commitment
  2. Staffing for safety
  3. Planning (pre-project and pre-task)
  4. Safety education: orientation and specialized training
  5. Worker involvement
  6. Evaluation and recognition/reward
  7. Subcontractor management
  8. Accident/incident investigations
  9. Drug and alcohol testing

Since the two CII studies, a growing number of construction companies, many of which have more than $250 million in annual revenues, have adopted the vision of creating a zero injury culture. In the past couple of years, a cadre of such companies (known as The Incident & Injury Free CEO Forum) emerged to provide leadership by example on the benefits of zero injury culture.

Members of this group include American Infrastructure; Baker Concrete Construction; BMW Constructors, Inc.; Cal Dive International; Gilbane Company; Great Lakes Dredge & Dock; Hunter Roberts Construction Group; Jacobs; JMJ Associates; Lend Lease; Limbach Facility Services, LLC; Manson Construction Co.; Nicholson Construction Company; Skanska; Terracon; and Weeks Marine.

These companies are collaborating to expand awareness of zero injury techniques and have been engaging with representatives from major construction insurance carriers and brokers to foster greater adoption of zero injury culture throughout the construction industry.

Zero Incident
Many large companies have adopted programs with a more stringent focus of attaining zero incidents instead of merely zero accidents. The rationale is that incidents are “near hits” that could have resulted in injuries or fatalities and near hits are early warning signals of an underlying hazard that warrants attention and correction.

One of these companies distributed Safety 24/7: Building an Incident Free Culture to all its subcontractors. This book is recommended for any owner or strategic leader seriously interested in instituting a safety cultural change.

Cal Beyer collaborated with Eric Lambert in the writing of this article. Eric Lambert, CRIS, ARM, CHST, is National Director of Construction Quality and Safety for Zurich North America Commercial in its Boston, MA office. Eric has worked in the construction industry for the past 20 years to save lives, reduce loss, and make companies better. For the past 11 years, Eric has worked to make a zero injury culture a reality. Eric has participated in many construction industry roundtables and committees to learn from and provide input to improve the industry’s safety culture and practices.

© 2013 by the Construction Financial Management Association. All right reserved. This article first appeared in CFMA Building Profits. Used with permission.