A little proactive groundwork can help control costs at the jobsite.

Predictable emergency preparation (PEP) is more often referred to as “proactive” rather than “reactive.” Many people call these predictable emergencies “Murphy’s Law.” We never know when these costly and frustrating roadblocks will happen, but our past experiences prove they do happen and cause much time and money to be wasted.

I hope you always hold an effective kick-off meeting before you begin each project to transfer all of the critical information from your estimating or sales department to your purchasing, expediting and project management teams.

In addition to jobsite strategies (value engineering), you should openly discuss proactive detours or resolutions for those predictable emergencies:

1. Our foreman is late or doesn’t show up at all.

  • He might be sick, have an emergency at home, have truck problems, be stuck in traffic, have had an accident, etc.


  • He may have quit or even have died.

    2. Our foreman may have to leave the job early for personal reasons.

    3. We are on a critical task that must be finished today and one of our key employees doesn’t show up.

    4. We are in a deep ditch with water and our pump won’t start.

    5. We are using a generator for our electric tools and it won’t start.

    6. We are short of critical material or tools, but have no one extra to send to the supply house.

    7. One of our employees appears to be drunk and we can smell booze on his breath.

    8. Someone stole material from our site.

    9. An employee fell and cannot get up.

    10. An employee got angry when disciplined and threatened to cause bodily harm.

    11.The general contractor is not maintaining safety rails at the elevator shaft.

    12. The steel erectors are working above our crew and dropping welding sparks.

    These are only a dozen of the common roadblocks that your jobsite foremen encounter. In your PEP talks, they will add their own past experiences. You need to consider how many company dollars are wasted, in addition to the frustration and delays these roadblocks cause.

  • Tips To Eliminate Delays

    Here are some of the strategies you should consider to eliminate most of those costly delays and help resolve any that may occur:

  • The top of this list is conducting your kick-off, prestart meeting to get everyone’s ideas and involvement. You should also create a checklist of predictable emergencies for discussion at future PEP talks.


  • Items No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 are probably the most re-occurring situations. Your foreman is the key to any successful project and should be on that site before starting time, all day, and after quitting time. Due to the many possibilities of being late or absent, you should always have a second in command onsite to fulfill his duties.

    Some contractors call this person an assistant foreman, a foreman-in-training, a second string foreman or even a right-hand man. Naturally, this person needs a key to your trailer and access to the blueprints and project daily schedule.

    Even without any emergency, having a constant foreman-in-training is very beneficial to your company. You easily can understand how much that is appreciated by your other employees.

    When any of your foremen have reason to leave the jobsite early, they should first call your office and then instruct their assistants on how to carry on and close out each project.


  • Items No. 4 and No. 5 involve gasoline-operated small engines on generators, pumps, compactors, etc., that are needed to complete a task. You may be able to get a local mechanic to the site or take it to a local repair shop. There is often a mechanic on your site working for the site contractor or one of the other trades. This is why it is so critical to work with and “horse trade” with workers, to maintain a cooperative relationship with everyone on the jobsite.

    When that task is very critical, you might consider renting a spare or locate a nearby source to obtain one in an emergency.


  • Your foreman should plan ahead at least one week for tools and materials necessary to complete a task. If emergency No. 6 should occur, he can call in his list to your supply house and send a taxi to pick it up. In addition to being convenient, it’s really cheaper than sending one of your employees - especially your foreman.


  • Item No. 7 is a potential legal problem. Your foreman should always be on the alert for any sign of drug- or alcohol-impaired employees. The U.S. Department of Labor says these abusers are more likely to:
      1. Be late or absent;
      2. Make mistakes;
      3. Take risks;
      4. Get involved in an accident; and
      5. File a worker’s comp claim.

    Clues to look for in a suspicious worker’s performance and behavior are: poor quality, unexplained disappearances from the job, carelessness and errors in judgment.

    Behavior clues include: ongoing financial problems, high turnover of friends, over-reacting to criticism, poor personal appearance and excessively blaming others.

    If your foreman suspects any employee of substance abuse on the jobsite, he should call your office immediately before taking any action. Above all, do not send the employee home in an impaired condition!


  • When anything is stolen or vandalized, call 911 immediately (item No. 8). The police come free and it sends a message to everyone on the job that you will not condone any criminal behavior. Likewise for any threat or sign of potential bodily harm (item No. 10). Whatever the police do is safe, effective and legal.


  • Item No. 9 also concerns calling 911 for any serious accident or injury. Every foreman should have a multimedia first-aid training card less than 2 years old to provide whatever immediate medical attention your employee may need until the 911 response team arrives at your site.


  • When the general contractor is not maintaining OSHA-required safety railings, temporary lighting, or an uncluttered, safe working area (item No. 11), your foreman needs to demand this from the jobsite superintendent and remove your employees from that danger. He should immediately call your office to clarify whatever measures you recommend to eliminate any possible accidents or OSHA citations.


  • Item No. 12 is another OSHA violation which your foreman and the jobsite superintendent need to avoid. No one is permitted to work under the steel erection crews or under the entire swing radius of their crane. Those areas should be clearly taped off and your foreman needs to schedule his work in safe areas.

    Most of you will be pleasantly surprised at the positive input your foremen will add to your PEP talks. They are fully aware of what you expect them to accomplish and need your guidance and assistance with these potential emergencies.