Safety First

Donald E. Smith, CCS

March 2007

This month’s Wachuwannano is different from the usual Q-and-A format because I think you need to know about my trip to Chicago (in February ... brrr!) to attend the 17th Annual Construction Safety Conference. This is a three-day conference designed especially for the construction safety professional. It was two days of workshops covering many subjects of interest and, in some cases, areas of necessity for those involved in ensuring that our job sites are safe, along with exhibits from vendors specializing in safety products and information. I attended many of the workshops and found them to be right on in most cases. Since I work very closely with AWCI’s safety consultant, I felt very strongly that I needed to have a good handle on what is available in the marketplace for the members of AWCI. So I want to share with you some of the things that I learned over the past couple of days in the Windy City.

I found the safety professionals I encountered to be some of the most passionate people in our industry. They believe deeply in what they do and have a commitment unsurpassed by any other segment of our industry. Knowing and understanding this particular trait of safety professionals will help you in your daily dealings with the safety professionals that you encounter on the job site.

One of the benefits that you can take advantage of right away is the wealth of information available on the OSHA Web site, www.osha.org. It will be well worth your time to visit their site and spend some time "surfing” through the information the OSHA staff has compiled for your use. They have duplicated the site in Spanish for the benefit of those in our industry who do not speak and read English.

The OSHA Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Services, is focusing on OSHA-wide and OCS outreach activities directed toward health and safety situations and hazards in the construction industry involving Spanish-speaking employees. This includes printed materials available directly from OSHA as well as training activities offered at the local level. The most prevalent course offered is the OSHA 10 Hour program, but other programs are available. Contract your local OSHA office or go to www.osha.gov.

A workshop of interest came from Zurich Insurance; it was called "Construction Defects: What They Are and How to Prevent Them.” Interesting subject for a safety conference, but very timely and something I believe we are going to hear much about more in the coming months. Richard Andrews, PE, from Zurich, explained that the losses due directly to defective construction is causing companies like Zurich to start implementing quality control programs for contractors that are insured by Zurich. If any of you have worked on projects for the Corps of Engineers or Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the program envisioned by Zurich is not much different. The first step is to conduct a quality management self-survey. Based on this you can then determine the steps required to bring your organization into line with the expectations of your insurance carrier.

Bear in mind Zurich is at the present time the only insurance company requiring a quality control plan be implemented by their insureds. However, if it works for Zurich, you can rest assured that others insurance carriers will not be far behind in jumping on the bandwagon. If you would like a copy of the presentation by Andrews as well as a copy of the quality management self-survey, drop me an e-mail at smith@awci.org and put "quality survey” in the subject line. The survey is an Excel spread and will automatically calculate your score. AWCI’s Technical Services Department is developing more information on this subject for use by AWCI members in establishing a Quality Control Program.

About the Author
Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI’s director of technical services. He can be reached at (703) 538.1611 or smith@awci.org.