Jobsite safety first

When it comes to safety, Doug Hanna, president of S & H Construction Inc., in Cambridge Mass., doesn’t mess around.

Hanna has seen his share of on-the-job injuries during the course of the 33 years his company has been in business—some minor and some major. “It’s a dangerous business,” Hanna says. “You can’t protect against everything.”

Whether it’s falling off ladders, sawing fingers or slipping off balconies, placing safety as a top priority has as much to do with protecting employees as it has to do with protecting his company—between workers’ compensation, liability insurance and OSHA penalties, the losses could be irreparable.

“We’ve had to negotiate penalties with OSHA twice, and although the fines were not that big, they served as a wake-up call,” Hanna says.

Hanna developed a safety program more than 10 years ago, making a vast improvement in his company and projects.

The program extends beyond training and includes both field and office personnel, with varying levels of structure and on-the-job oversight. High-level details of his program are:

  • All employees must review and abide by the in-house safety manual, and job supervisors must have the manual available on every jobsite.
  • All employees must participate in up-to-date training, classes, including fall protection, electrical, hazardous materials and lead renovation, etc., two times annually.
  • Field staff and subcontractors participate in 15-minute safety presentations onsite, known as Tool Box Talks, every one to two weeks.
  • Two site inspections/reviews by job supervisors per month.
  • S & H administrative, management and field personnel meet monthly for Safety Committee Meetings to discuss issues and areas of improvement.

Hanna’s approach requires input from almost everyone and allows for consistent, ongoing improvement of safety on his job sites. Being able to address things as they happen is critical to the success of the program, he says.

At the same time, this approach requires large amounts of time and financial investments. For example, Hanna estimates he spent $15,000 to have 45 employees trained in lead-safety when the Renovation, Repair & Painting Rule was enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency. (S & H employs 57 people in total, and that figure does not include the cost of paying them to attend the one-day training session.)

However, training and safety programs have turned out to be a great employee morale booster. “Most people take safety seriously and care about addressing issues when they need to,” he says.

At the end of the year, as NARI members reflect on changes to make to improve each business next year, it may be a good time to consider your safety program and how you can improve on creating a safer work and living environment for all. –Morgan Zenner

Many of the elements of the S & H Safety Plan are required by OSHA. Visit the OSHA Website for more information.

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