Why It’s So Important to Have a Written Plan
by Darin Douglas, CEO, Lowe Roofing, Inc., & president, Merge 3 Technology, Inc.
(Editor’s Note: Darin Douglas began roofing in 1997 after graduating from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota. Lowe Roofing, Inc., is a family-owned roofing company that has been in operation since 1975 in South Dakota and Wyoming. Merge 3 Technology, Inc., helps contractors track and control their safety processes and efforts on a daily basis. Douglas also served on the WSRCA Board of Directors for nine years and was the chair of the Safety and Health Committee and Low-Slope Committee.)
Most roofing companies today have a written safety plan and train workers accordingly, but often what is trained on is not happening in the field. That is why a stable safety inspection protocol is a must, as you do not want to increase your liability by not seeing the safety trends within your company.
First, you need to set up a consistent inspection process. Whether it is on paper with a checklist form or through an online reporting tool, the data is only as good as what’s logged. Make sure all of the inspectors are following the same protocol so that inspection data can be analyzed and used in the future to keep workers safe. Try to design inspection forms that incorporate checklists along with dialogue boxes, so you get a good idea of what the inspector is seeing. Observational reporting is a great way to see a problem from different angles. Take the time to train your team as to what you want them to communicate through inspection and the reporting after.
Inspections can range from full site inspection to a focused review of a particular hazard or a safety audit on equipment. The information gathered during these inspections could be the difference between getting someone hurt or mitigating a hazard. Make sure your inspectors have direction, empowerment, and the proper tools needed to perform a quality safety inspection. Training your inspectors to inspect is a crucial part of your safety program, so management needs to take the time to define inspection needs, criteria, process, and train accordingly. If management does not drive this part of the process, program success will be limited. Start with a company-wide safety meeting to set in place your safety inspection program and bring your team up to speed on expectations. Follow that up with monthly safety meeting agenda items pertaining to the inspection program. Use this time during the meetings to reinforce the basics and goals of your inspection program and review the data from past inspections.
When starting your safety inspection program, design an achievable plan to start and make it an everyday thing. Start with three cornerstone inspections: site inspection, focused inspection, and snap-shot audit.
A site inspection should entail a review of the entire work area including reviews of items such as housekeeping, PPE, HAZ/COM, fire prevention, electrical, tools, lifts, materials, fall protection, first-aid, and more. Give your inspectors a place to grade these areas and a comment box for observation.
A focused inspection usually revolves around a specific item or event, such as fall protection. Give your inspectors a flexible, focused inspection form that is easy to use so they can use it as needed during the day. Document this inspection and group it by topic so that you can review past and future inspections and assess your company’s safety efforts.
A snap-shot audit is a great tool that can be used by anyone on the crew. Set up a very basic inspection form that covers all the daily safety hazards your team will face. Try to keep it to ten items or less. Then, numerous times during the day take a minute to look around the site from where you stand and complete your inspection. At the end of the day, assess the inspection results and grade out your inspection results per hazard. This type of examination shows you how consistent your safety effort is during the entire day, not just when a single inspection is being done. By including everyone on your team in this inspection process, a variety of results are collected which will lead to a better understanding of your overall safety effort from your team’s point of view.
Start with a few achievable inspection goals and build your inspection program from there. The goal should be to acquire actionable data that will help to keep your team safe and going home at night. Document as you go, make it a company-wide effort, and make sure management is leading the charge daily.