Your employees are constantly exposed to ever-changing hazardous conditions which could cause serious injuries, possible death and major financial company losses. At a recent convention, two mechanical contractors, one company’s jobsite foreman and I enjoyed lunch together. After discussing my Value Engineering University, I asked the foreman two simple questions:
1. How effective is your safety program?
2. Have you had any accidents or OSHA citations?
He smiled as he replied, “Our safety sucks!”
His answer shocked his boss until the foreman explained: “We hold weekly tailgate safety meetings, and we provide hard hats, safety glasses, harnesses and lanyards, and ear plugs. I am a close friend with all my employees and really watch and worry about their personal safety. We have a first aid kit to take care of minor cuts or injuries. But I cannot watch every employee every minute and we’ve had four serious injuries this year. We also had one OSHA inspection with three citations. That sucks!”
His boss, a licensed plumber, interrupted. “We are very concerned and involved with safety, but he is right, it sucks!”
This opened the door for me to share my own personal safety experiences, as well as critical rules for OSHA compliance and practical documentation.
In our family company, I always considered our employees as part of the family. Many were blood relatives, but all of them were members of our proud craftsman fraternity. We extended every effort to help each employee advance to his full potential and earn as much money as possible, but the top priority was always safety. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not enter our industry until 1971, we abided by Pennsylvania Labor and Industry Department safety standards.
I have been a full-time safety director for the last 12 years and certainly agree with that foreman and his boss’s statement that “safety sucks.” The foreman’s explanation that he cannot watch every employee every minute tells the whole story.
Employees just don’t care! You have all heard these excuses:
This list is only a starter and you could easily double it. I recommend creating your own list and add what could happen to your employees and what it will cost your company for each item. Every time you hear one of those “safety sucks” excuses, you need to confront your employees with these statements:
- 1. You cannot save money by working unsafe.
2. You cannot save time by working unsafe.
3. We want you to go home safe and sound.
Safety successYou can imagine my frustration with that “It can’t happen to me” attitude after all my decades of jobsite experience. I tried every method I could think of, as well as copying everything that I saw other contractors doing. Let me share some of the ideas we tried.
If needed at your company, you can easily duplicate these tickets in Spanish. Four tickets can be printed on one sheet of 8 1/2–in. x 11–in. medium paper stock. This idea is a great one to share with other contractors and any trade associations.
I’m sure you have had success with other safety measures that you would like to share with Plumbing & Mechanical readers. Anything we can do to ensure our employees’ safety and welfare will benefit everyone involved in our great construction industry.