Jobsite Safety: 21 Ways to Reduce Your Reportables
Four safety directors share a wealth of ideas to help you run safer job sites.
Mark L. Johnson / June 2018
In April and May, AWCI’s Construction Dimensions reached out to some of the industry’s most successful safety directors to learn how they put together their programs and maintain strong safety cultures. Lo and behold, we gleaned so many ideas that we decided to package them for you in our own kind of Safety Control Plan.
Do your crews begin work with stretching exercises? Do you have a logo to brand your safety program? Do you hold weekly toolbox talks? These are just some of the ideas to operate safely that we found at four industry firms. We recommend that you try them. Go ahead and rip this article out of the magazine and hand it to your company’s safety coordinator. The four safety directors mentioned below believe we’re in this together.
And now, here are 21 great safety ideas:
1. Safety orientation video. Precision Walls Inc., Cary, N.C., has a strong safety culture and is a back-to-back winner of AWCI’s Excellence in Construction Safety Award in 2017 and 2018. Stephen Cain, safety quality manager at Precision Walls, says each new employee is required to watch a 35-minute safety video.
“We have representatives from each branch speak on scaffolding, housekeeping, ladder safety, lift safety and more,” Cain says. “The employees put faces to our management, and this becomes motivating to them.”
2. Silica talk for new hires. In addition to the orientation video mentioned above, Precision Walls’ designated safety representatives at its 10 branches meet with new hires for a “tailgate talk” focused, in part, on the new OSHA respirable crystalline silica standard. They discuss Table 1 and Appendix D of the ruling and document that new hires have completed the training.
3. Color-coded gang boxes. Precision Walls has labeled its gang boxes and tool cribs with color codes—a green circle for boxes containing fall arrest devices, a yellow triangle to identify power tools and a pink rectangle for screws, pins and shot. So, when an employee is tasked to work on scaffolding, he knows precisely where to find the fall protection gang box and scaffolding components. Without the color codes, workers would be less efficient and would waste time “having to search for the quarter under the coconut shell,” Cain says.
4. Train the trainers. Precision Walls maintains its strong safety culture through its branch safety trainers (BSTs). As a safety quality manager (SQM), Cain is credentialed to “train the trainer.” He and two other SQMs at Precision Walls, Carlos Olivas and and Mario Castillo, train trainers for area working platforms (scissor lifts and beam lifts), powder actuated tools, scaffolding and more. The SQMs and BSTs provide training and document proof of training for the company.
5. Safety training cards. Precision Walls employees are each given a safety training card. Once the BSTs provide hands-on skills and skills assessment training, the card is punched to show what training has been completed. The company has one card for employees, and another for subcontractors.
“If we need to share employees from one location to another, then we have proof of their training for the next job site,” Cain says.
6. Daily huddle meeting. In May 2014, Precision Walls rolled out a companywide safety program called the daily huddle meeting. Before work, employees gather around the toolbox, and the foremen lead the group in a five-minute discussion of the day’s work goals and talk about safety. They ask: “What have you seen? Is your area safe? Is there anything you need?”
7. Stretch and flex. After the safety discussion, and as part of the daily huddle meeting, Precision Walls crews take part in a stretching program. The company has identified eight stretching exercises that can reduce strains and sprains—and workers’ compensation claims. The company has printed job site posters featuring the exercises, which include neck, thigh, calf, lower back, upper and lower arm stretches as well as a groin stretch.
“The stretching takes inside of five minutes,” Cain says. “It is highly encouraged.”
8. Preach “safety makes money.” The Raymond Group, Orange, Calif., has one of the most successful safety programs in the country. What accounts for it? “We get a buy-in from top executives and area managers and superintendents,” says Raymond Safety Director Edward Hanley Jr., who adds, “We tell our field employees, ‘We are paying you to be safe.’”
While Raymond foremen value productivity, they see safety as contributing to the bottom line. “The safest projects have the highest returns,” Hanley says. This view enables Raymond workers to cultivate a sense of pride in working safely and in reporting unsafe behavior. “It’s not viewed as a negative,” Hanley says.
9. Track your data. The Raymond Group regularly polls its field workers and has discussions with area safety managers. The information is compiled into a document called, The Raymond Trending Report. The report tracks not just reportable injuries, but all close calls, including those created by other subcontractors working near Raymond crews.
“We track every ‘first aid’ [abrasions or lacerations of a minor nature], potential property damage and the time of day that close calls and reportables happen,” Hanley says. He adds, “For whatever reason, there are more distractions at work on Fridays before 1 p.m.”
10. Use lean principles. Since arriving at Raymond in 2015, Hanley has streamlined the company’s safety program to make it less confusing for all. “Lean management works in the area of safety communication,” he says.
For example, Hanley cut the company’s safety manual from 25 pages to 16. He tailored the company’s safety matrix by producing a matrix for each trade. Now tapers, plasterers, fireproofers and carpenters can easily zero in on the safety rules relevant to their respective tasks.
11. “Safety thought” emails. The goal of Raymond’s safety program is to keep safety awareness top of mind. So every Monday, the company emails a tailgate meeting topic. Every Wednesday, the company emails a “Safety Thought of the Week.”
12. Brand your safety program. Raymond Group has branded a designation called the “Raymond Safety Warrior.” The program uses the logo of a clenched fist to emphasize company pride in working safely. Raymond Safety Warriors receive recognition, T-shirts and hats, and are entered into raffles for barbecue grills, TVs and other prizes.
“Our Raymond Safety Warriors get people talking,” Hanley says.
13. Rely on the union. Ronsco Inc., New York, N.Y., is a 100 percent union shop. Its carpenters are trained by and receive safety certificates through the New York City District Council of Carpenters Labor Technical College. Thus, its new hires are up to speed on safety when they arrive on the job, says Anthony Berardo, director of construction and safety coordinator at Ronsco. However, the company provides its own training, and it does so right away with new hires.
14. Start on day one, literally. Ronsco integrates new employees into its safety culture in the first half hour of their first day of work. Berardo conducts this safety training meeting, or calls upon his assistant if he can’t personally do it himself. He reviews OSHA’s safety requirements, the New York City Fire Department’s safety rules for construction workers and Ronsco’s 24/7 requirement of gloves, hard hats, safety glasses and hearing protection.
15. Quarterly jobsite safety meetings. Ronsco holds safety meetings with its foremen once every three months. Berardo and his team review all safety incidents and near misses and discuss solutions to reducing future problems. The meeting covers new tools, equipment and technology, new laws and new research findings related to safety. Key safety learnings from the meeting are shared with foremen throughout the company.
16. Classroom training. Ronsco regularly sends workers to safety classes, which are usually held at the New York City District Council of Carpenters Labor Technical College. Berardo typically invites union instructors and other guest speakers to talk to the crews. The classes help employees maintain their safety certifications. Most Ronsco employees have earned OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 certificates. Since the company organizes certification training in groups, the employees can easily be re-certified together.
17. Be on guard 24/7. Ronsco has developed an “Off the Job Safety Program” that keeps employees apprised of potential hazards while away from work.
“We’ve had more of our people get hurt doing things at home than on the job,” Berardo says. “We want safety to be 24/7, 365, so we send out articles on as many different safety topics as we can, even if they do not have to do directly with construction safety.”
18. Weekly toolbox talks. Ronsco holds toolbox talks every week. Berardo picks the topics, which he sends out with the Friday morning payroll. “That morning, everyone breaks for five to 10 minutes,” Berardo says. “The foremen share the safety report and the safety topic for that week.” Having weekly talks help maintain safety awareness among Ronsco’s employees.
“Safety excellence is never achieved by accident,” says Lee Zaretzky, Ronsco president.
19. Site specific safety planning. How does Ronsco get its foremen to believe in the company’s safety protocols and ensure that all safety equipment is on site?
“That’s a great question,” Berardo says. “If you have a good safety plan in place at the beginning of a job and it becomes part of your plan to produce, it actually helps more than it hinders.” So, Berardo holds a project safety meeting as a job begins. He meets with the project manager, the estimator and the job foreman. “We develop a ‘Site Specific Safety Plan’ with specific procedures for that job,” Berardo says.
20. Disciplinary action. Sarah Aird, safety coordinator at Robert A. Aird Inc., Frederick, Md., says her company has instituted a “Safety Disciplinary Action System,” which includes verbal correction for, say, talking on a cellphone at work and monetary fines for more serious infractions, such as not wearing harnesses, not using power tool guards and not wearing proper respiratory equipment. “We find if we hit them in the pockets, they remember,” Aird says. Aird researched the subject and found that a fine range of between $5 and $120 works best.
21. Safety inspector checklist. At press time, Aird was completing a seven-page “Random Safety Inspector Checklist.” She has designed it for herself and for company project managers to use as a daily walk-through checklist. It’s customizable to match the scope of work for each project.
Share Your Story
The key to effective safety, sources say, is to communicate the message of why working safely is important. Employees need to believe in the merits of safe job sites.
At the same time, your safety directors need input. AWCI’s new Safety Directors’ Forum may be just what they need to stay abreast of the latest safety issues and solutions.
“We need people from all over the country to share their experiences on safety and not be afraid to talk about their near misses and incidents with others,” says Berardo about AWCI’s Safety Directors’ Forum. “You may think you’re the safest company, but there will always be a situation that comes up that you’ve never dealt with. So, gaining knowledge from people who have experience would be invaluable.”
Mark L. Johnson writes regularly about wall and ceilings industry. Reach out to him at @markjohnsoncomm, and at linkedin.com/in/markjohnsoncommunications.