Making Safety an Everyday Operation
by Darin Douglas, CEO, Lowe Roofing, Inc., & president, Merge 3 Technology, Inc.
(Editor’s Note: 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.)
When you are fortunate enough to secure a project and add it to your books, the fun is just starting. There are contracts to sign, material to order, and equipment to prepare. Jobsite safety should be considered just as important as these other tasks, and a quality plan is needed. It not only affects the workers on the job, but it also protects the people and property surrounding the worksite. Planning is especially important if you are working on projects such as schools, medical facilities, apartments, condos, or any retail space that accepts customers.
Quality jobsite safety is a team effort that requires a well-communicated plan and a process that helps everyone achieve success. It starts with the overall site safety plan, which takes into account all aspects of the project and finishes with defining the training and equipment necessary to maintain a safe workplace. Your plan should include a defined set of safety controls and procedures that everyone can understand. Remember it takes many moving parts and people for all this to work, so communication is vital.
Begin by looking at the project from the viewpoint of driving up to the site for the first time. What do you need to secure to keep the public safe? How do you keep new people on site safe until trained? Where do you put up signage and barriers defining safe and off-limit areas? Once you have considered the overall site safety scope, you can move on to more specific safety concerns, such as hazardous areas or any specialized training that may be required. Identify your most significant hazards first and list them in order of importance. List the safety controls to be used to limit these dangers and make sure they are prominent in your plan. By following the expected project flow, you can visualize the safety needs that will occur during construction, and from those notes, your site-specific safety plan will begin to materialize.
Safety meetings and audits will be the backbone of keeping your site safe, and those expectations should be spelled out plainly in your site safety plan. Make sure to include weekly safety meetings and safety audits, along with daily talk requirements, into your safety plan. These events need to happen on a schedule and be documented for review. Documentation forms should be consistent and straightforward, so everyone on site can understand. Regular meetings and audit schedules will help keep everyone on the project walking the same safety path.
OSHA stipulates that your plan should also include a section covering non-routine operations and emergencies and how you will control those situations. Non-routine operations would be events such as significant equipment use on site, sudden severe weather conditions, or anything outside of the everyday activities performed on the job. Emergencies such as a fire breaking out, a person injured in a fall, or a large chemical spill will often involve emergency services showing up on site. Make sure you have a plan for accepting the emergency personnel and display all significant emergency numbers throughout the project. Planning for these events will help keep everyone on the site safe and aware.
A solid safety plan, consistent communication of the plan, and constant updates will provide solid workplace safety. Include your prominent team members in the planning, and if you have any subcontractors, make sure you give them a voice also. A firm, but fair, site safety plan will benefit all companies and team members involved, and will provide the customer with a worry-free project with no emergency vehicles showing up at the site. Soon you will have developed a template for communicating your safety plan and vision to everyone on the jobsite, making safety seem like a regular part of everyday activities instead of a non-routine operation.