Two Birds With One Stone
About this time last year I recommended using a Safe Plan of Action (SPA) meeting with each foreman and his crew. This was being used on a large project in Florida, and I could see the SPA meeting’s tremendous potential for preventing jobsite accidents.
One of my clients in Ohio read the article and immediately replaced an old idea of mine with the SPA meeting. About 15 years ago, when I first came to their company, I recommended conducting a safety “toolbox talk” for much the same purpose. It was a great idea at the time.
Unfortunately over the years, my Ohio client’s toolbox talk subjects were being sent out from the office and usually did not even relate to the conditions or dangers that their crews were exposed to on each job. They could have a crew working in a dangerous excavation that would sit for 15 minutes and hear a safety talk about scaffold and railings. Likewise a crew working on a high scaffold would get a toolbox talk about excavation, shoring and proper angle of repose. One foreman joked about his lead plumber who always wore his sunglasses through those talks so that no one could tell that he was sleeping.
All of their foremen agreed with me that these daily SPA meetings have two big advantages over the toolbox talks:
- You’re dealing only with actual specific dangers that a particular crew will be exposed to during that day. There is no one wearing sunglasses or worrying about falling asleep because they each have to sign off in writing that it is completely safe for them to work there. If something should go wrong, you can see how that would put them on the spot.
- These meetings create a very desirable upward flow of ideas from the crew. In Total Quality Management, they call this empowerment. I call it profit! Everybody wins!
The foreman also gave me another good idea to pass on to you.“We are now killing two birds with one stone,” the general superintendent explained to me. “You know that we have been establishing a daily 8 for 8 goal or target for each crew every morning so that our foremen can measure their productivity and keep score. This one short meeting accomplishes both tasks. We also have a blank space on the SPA report to write in that 8 for 8 goal. We struggled a little bit when we first started writing in those 6-8-10 ratings, but our crews really look forward to those end-of-the-day evaluations. What they really enjoy is the feedback they get from our office on their paychecks. You were 100 percent right! Good people want to be measured.”
For the benefit of any readers who did not initiate a SPA last year, here’s a quick review:
- Before each crew begins work in the morning, their foreman simply asks, “What could possibly cause an accident or injury right here today?”
Any comments or questions are noted on that SPA report and naturally any necessary remedial action is taken before work begins.
- Each member of the crew signs his confirmation of that meeting.
- The SPA report is shared with the general contractor, construction manager and owner, and a copy of each day’s report is sent to the main office and maintained in that job file.
You can easily see why this system is so effective. In the unlikely event that any of you are not measuring productivity or keeping score on your employees, we will take a quick look at how that second bird is taken care of with one stone.
Measured And Rewarded: Good employees definitely want to be measured, and they want that scorecard reflected on their paycheck. But they also want to be measured in a fair way. You cannot accomplish this by simply comparing their daily production to an estimate that does not include specific conditions encountered on each jobsite.
You can easily see how you could combine your daily goal-setting procedure with those morning SPA meetings. Your foreman and his crew are meticulously considering every task and tool they will need to safely perform one day’s work. This requires the exact same consideration needed to establish how much work they should produce during that day. What makes both of these procedures so effective is that the entire crew is involved and they are dealing with specifics rather than estimates.
When the foreman and his crew agree on how much work they should produce to earn an eight-hour paycheck, that goal or target is written on the SPA report. At the end of the day, they simply compare what they actually got done to that morning’s agreed-upon target. Your foreman then discusses each score with that individual and puts a small “8” by those hours on the timesheet if they reached their 8 for 8 goal.
Naturally they would earn a “9” or “10” if they exceeded their goal and only a “6” or “7” if they failed to reach it. This becomes a simple and non-argumentative discussion due to their involvement and agreement with the goal they established that morning.
These daily scores are then accumulated and monitored every month. An employee whose monthly average is near “9,” has earned recognition and possibly an immediate increase in wages. If his monthly average nears “7,” their supervisor will discuss that lagging performance to prevent a decrease in wages or possible termination. What make all of this so effective is the realization that each employee is in total control of their own destiny, very much like a student controlling his grades in school. It’s hard to disagree or argue with your own score!
Granted, holding such meetings does cost the company something in terms of downtime, right? I asked my Ohio clients if they were keeping track of how long these meetings took to complete. They laughed and told me, “Less than half the time it took for a toolbox talk, but with 10 times the value!”
One foreman said that his meetings covering both SPA and goal setting were only lasting three to five minutes. His crew was always anxious to get started on reaching their daily ratings. “We are actually killing three birds with that one stone on my jobs, because those meetings have made me twice as efficient as a foreman. My men are now asking me questions that I never even dreamed of and they all make money.”
My last question was, “How are you all doing with reaching your ‘zero accident’ goal?”
“That’s the best part,” they answered. “We don’t have a full year yet, but we haven’t even had a cut finger. No one has had to go to a doctor and we are very proud of that record. We all realize that accidents can still happen even if you do everything right, but those positive SPA meetings surely lessen the odds.”