Discipline can be accomplished without resentment if you initiate proper procedures.

Every time I walk on a jobsite and see the blatant lack of discipline, I can't help wondering:

1. Who do those people work for?

2. Don't they have company rules or policies?

3. Why aren't those policies enforced?

4. How can the company afford that kind of waste?

5. What will happen if they have or cause an accident?

6. What would an OSHA visit cost the company right now?

You can begin with "8 for 8." That's what we used as a reminder for our employees and it worked. None of them wanted 6 1/2-, 7- or 7 1/2-hour days reflected in their weekly paychecks. All that we were asking for was what we bought, which was eight hours of work for each eight-hour day. Isn't that fair?

Most of the contractors I talk with agree that their employees average only about seven hours of work each day. They start late. Their coffee breaks are too long. Their lunch period is supposed to be 30 minutes but it's usually longer. Pick-up time was initiated to allow employees to put away company tools before quitting time; somehow that got translated into time to get in your "pickup" and head for the bar.

Although most of these employees are actually closer to a six-hour day, I'd like you to stop reading now and figure out what it costs you each week if you are losing one hour of work from each employee.

Multiply the number of employees by the number of days (five) and then by your hourly labor rate (including burden). You can then multiply that weekly dollar waste factor by 50 to show you what you could have had on your bottom line last year.

This is only the beginning.

Material Losses

Lost labor dollars are quite easy to compute but your losses with wasted fittings, pipe, hangers, fasteners, and parts and pieces is only a guess. You can look at your overrun from the estimate and buy out, but that issue is very complicated. When you walk your jobsites, look at the clutter scattered on the ground and check the dumpsters to see what else is being wasted.

Possibly the biggest waste of material dollars occurs with extra material that is not returned to the supply house. Some of this is stolen from the jobsite by employees who knew it was not going to be installed. The balance is returned to your shop at the end of the project in such a beat-up condition, it's not returnable to the supplier.

Many of you actually keep a close watch on company tools that are sent to each jobsite and never returned. What is even worse are the rental tools that have not been used for the last two months but are still on that job, or maybe stolen. You need to walk your jobsite after quitting time to see how many of your expensive tools were not picked up and locked in your trailer.

If you furnish a company truck, I hope you have a written set of rules for your employees to properly use and maintain your vehicle. Likewise with company-owned backhoes, ditch witches, pumps, compressors, welding machines, fork lifts, scissor lifts and snorkels. All of these are expensive to own and repair and need timely maintenance.

OSHA Is Watching: All of this lack of discipline can be quite costly, but that waste is only peanuts compared to your potential losses from:

1) A jobsite fatality or serious accident caused by your lack of discipline with OSHA regulations.

2) An OSHA visit and jobsite inspection.

In this industry, the most frequent OSHA violation is not wearing hard hats. Your employees are not even permitted to work beneath the ironworkers erecting steel, yet we see them exposed to that danger without hard hats. Just imagine a bolt or nut dropped from that height, let alone a wrench or hammer.

We even see project managers, contractors or other office personnel visiting jobsites without head protection. Monkey see, monkey do!

In my opinion, the most stupid violation is using a cutting torch or grinder or chipping concrete without eye protection. Can you imagine being blind for the rest of your life?

And then there's the lack of fall protection. In addition to being our No. 1 cause of jobsite fatalities, this is the No. 1 invitation for an OSHA drive-by site inspection.

Employees must wear a harness and lanyard tie-off when working near a 6-foot leading edge, in a snorkle lift, or when standing on the railing of a scissor lift for extra reach. All scaffolding above 10-feet high must have guardrails and be fully planked. But this is not always the case.

If you do underground utility work, you need proper shoring, proper slope and all spoil to be placed more than 2 feet back from the edge of your excavation. You must also provide two ladders not more than 25 feet in each direction for your employees to escape a cave-in. Naturally all of those employees working near that trench need hard hats.

Last is a cluttered work site. It is cheaper to clean up a site than it is to work inefficiently, as well as the danger of tripping and falling.

Lackluster Documentation

I'm sure all of you who visit jobsites see this very same lack of discipline not only with your employees but with the other trades as well. What you don't see that falls in the same "dollar-wasting" category is the lack of discipline with jobsite documentation and paperwork:

  • We have foremen who do not read their plans, specs, subcontract scope of work included and not included, code book, and shop drawings.

  • Many foremen do not accurately fill out their time sheets and cost codes nor get them into your office on time.

  • Too many job logs do not contain enough information to help you win in arbitration or litigation.

  • Your employees sign delivery tickets without counting or checking for damage.

  • You do extra work without getting signed authorization.

    The saddest part of this whole mess is that it is all unnecessary and controllable! Only one person can control it and you are already paying him or her to do it -- your foreman.

    The employees violating your rules are not bad people. They are human beings who are testing their leaders, which is a normal human trait. We all tested our parents, our siblings, our teachers and anyone in authority. As you know, we lost respect for those who were not capable of standing up to the test.

    In most cases, that foreman who is in charge of your jobsite and responsible for this discipline has never been trained to enforce the rules. Discipline is, and always will be, very difficult.

    Unfortunately our industry has typically promoted capable craftsmen into foreman positions without human relations or management training and merely expected them to supervise and discipline their former peers. This is especially difficult with any employee who has more seniority than his newly promoted foreman.

    What makes this discipline even tougher are the basic management principles that are not initiated or enforced:

  • A written and posted chain of command to specify who is each employee's one and only boss.

  • Written company rules and policies that are explained to each employee, agreed to and signed. This is what you are paying for!

  • Job descriptions for each foreman clearly defining his or her scope of work, responsibilities and authority.

  • Employee performance files to document above and below expected performance.

    Our present skilled-labor shortage has made it much harder to discipline a good employee for fear of losing them. Discipline can be accomplished without resentment if you initiate and follow proper procedures.

    Today's down economy and work shortage has made it impossible to raise your prices and get a job. This is a good time to raise your efficiency and increase those bottom-line profits.

    Remember, discipline creates respect -- do it!