Zero Recordables in 2019

Mark L. Johnson / January 2019

How would you like to achieve the grand total of zero workplace injury and illness cases in 2018?
    
That’s a challenging goal to reach. Do you think you can do it?
    
Some in large companies might find it hard to do. Then again, Ronsco Inc., New York, N.Y., reported zero injuries in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017.
    
So, yeah, it’s doable. Your foremen should be shooting for zero recordables anyway.

Government Data
At press time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had just released its annual workplace injury and illness data. The latest numbers show that, for the second year in a row, workplace injuries and illnesses dropped as a percentage of all full-time workers. BLS’s “Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses” reported nearly 45,800 fewer nonfatal injuries and illness cases among private industry employers in 2017 compared to a year earlier.
    
That works out to nonfatal injuries and illnesses having occurred at a rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from 2.9 per 100 FTEs in 2016.
    
Of course, our industry has a higher rate of recordables than the national average. Drywall and insulation contractors (North American Industry Classification System code 23831) had 3.8 injuries and illnesses per 100 FTEs in 2017 versus 4.0 in 2016. In contrast, framing contractors (NAICS 23813) saw their incidence rate rise—from 6.8 to 7.4 per 100 FTEs during the year reported.
    
What is your company injury and illness rate per 100 workers? Is it below 7.4 per 100 framers? Less than 3.8 per 100 drywallers? Is your rate below the national average of 2.8? Could you lower your rate to zero?

Saved by Zero
In the 1980s, the new wave band The Fixx sang the song, “Saved by Zero.” A line from the song goes, “Maybe someday, saved by zero.”
    
Someday? I know The Fixx wasn’t singing about construction. But, we can borrow the line and make “someday” be today. Here are a few suggestions now on how to reduce your recordables—and work toward zero incidences.
    
1. Make safety part of your culture. Ronsco has made safety a core company value for decades. The company integrates new employees into its safety culture right from day one. Anthony Berardo, Ronsco’s safety coordinator, conducts a safety training meeting with new hires personally. If he can’t, he has his assistant handle it. The new hire safety meeting agenda includes reviewing OSHA requirements, the New York City Fire Department’s safety rules for construction workers and Ronsco’s requirement for wearing gloves, hard hats, safety glasses and hearing protection at all times.
    
Ronsco holds safety meetings with its foremen four times a year. Berardo and his team review all safety incidents, and any near misses, and work out solutions to reduce them from happening.
    
2. Hold daily toolbox talks. Precision Walls Inc., Cary, N.C., is a four-time winner of AWCI’s Excellence in Construction Safety Award and other industry safety awards. Since 2014, the company has been holding “daily huddle meetings.” The idea is to gather employees before they begin to work to talk about safety and to stretch together as a crew.
    
The foremen will ask: “What have you seen? Is your area safe? Is there anything you need to work safely?”
    
Next comes stretching exercises. Precision Walls has a produced an in-house poster showing how to stretch the neck, thigh, calf, lower back, upper, lower arm and groin. The exercises reduce strains and sprains.
    
3. Show them the money. At Raymond Group, Orange, Calif., workers understand that jobsite safety is profitable. “We tell our field employees, ‘We are paying you to be safe,’” says Edward Hanley Jr., Raymond’s safety director.
    
It’s dollars-and-cents education. Most foremen are wired to think in terms of production speed and efficient use of materials. Raymond crews are taught that safe projects have the highest returns, Hanley says. Crews take pride in reporting unsafe jobsite behavior, because doing so contributes directly to the bottom line.
    
The result? Raymond Group has seen total recordable incidents for its three California divisions and its Las Vegas division drop from 26 recordables in 2015, to 12 in 2016, to three in 2017, to only one in the first half of 2018, when I last spoke with Hanley.

Now Do It
January is the time to make resolutions. This year, why not make jobsite safety your No. 1 priority? Set your company goal for 2019 to not have a single work-related instance of illness or injury.

Mark L. Johnson, an industry writer and communications consultant, can be reached via markjohnsoncommunications.com.