A Culture of Safety

Laura M. Porinchak / January 2016

Many words have been said in these pages about safety on the construction jobsite. We just can’t seem to stress it enough, and as long as people keep falling from ladders, we’re going to keep on doing it.
    
It’s not enough to have standards and rules and regulations and guidelines; you have to have a culture of safety. It has to be something you and your employees live and breathe whether it’s on site or at home. It has to be intertwined into the persona, it has to be a way of life.
    
One of the jobsite tours I will always remember is the one to New York City as construction of One World Trade Center was approaching the 80th floor. (Thanks again to all my friends at Component Assembly Systems, Inc.) I could never do what many of you do or have done because I am terribly afraid of heights. My head starts spinning and my kneecaps start to spasm when I’m faced with this fear.
    
And in all the excitement of being on revered ground and witnessing a new symbol of America rise from the rubble, I never considered that part of the tour would include having to walk up several flights of scaffolding—on the building’s exterior, of course. Because, you know, the temporary elevator didn’t go all the way up to the top yet. I was scared, but I couldn’t let it show too much because I had a job to do.
    
As I stepped out on the first platform, I looked down on a very small Lady Liberty, then focused on my steel-toed work boots, which now looked incredibly huge for a size 7. But I considered that I was walking among reputable, knowledgeable construction people who know what they’re doing. There is no way they would let me have an accident. (Not only would that be bad for their EMR, it would be very bad press.) So I figured that since they do this kind of thing all the time, I should be able to do it once. And I did—but only because I felt safe.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the construction industry lost nearly 2.3 million jobs between 2006 and 2011. Since then, not even half of them have come back. New employees in your company may be entirely new to the wall and ceiling industry, and they may not embrace the safety culture as much as you’d like. Safety, which should always be a top priority, is now more important than ever. That’s why we asked AWCI member contractors what they’re seeing on the site and what they’re doing to combat serious incidents and accidents. That article begins on page 34.
    
Safety is complemented by wellness, a word you will be hearing more frequently in 2016. Wellness goes beyond safety and ergonomics; it’s more about overall health, and that includes your mental health. The article on page 48 gives advice on keeping your brain sharp and your heart beating even if you sit at a desk all day.
    
Our third feature article (page 42) also keeps you safe. It wraps up Doug Bellamy’s advice for protecting yourself against greedy general contractors and unscrupulous contracts. If for some reason you weren’t able to read the first two parts of this article, you can find them at www.awci.org/cd.
    
Before I finish, I want to give a shoutout to Travis Vap of South Valley Drywall in Colorado. He submitted a great idea for a future story and a Problem Solved question, and I greatly appreciate it. I encourage all of you to do the same. Let you voices be heard! This is your magazine! Write me at porinchak@awci.org.