Elizabeth Manning is the managing editor of Construction Business Owner magazine.
Insight from a veteran safety professional just in time for Safety Week 2018
No matter the company; no matter the jobsite; safety is a facet of any construction project that can always stand to improve. In honor of Safety Week 2018, we caught up with Michael Barnes, a safety director at Hoar Construction, to talk about what he and the safety team at Hoar Construction are doing to decrease jobsite injuries and improve the company’s culture overall.
Barnes has worked with Hoar Construction for almost 8 years, traveling from project to project around the state of Florida and coaching the company’s superintendents on improving safety practices and mitigating risk. He also focuses on improving site leadership communication during safety meetings. Find out what you can learn from the safety team at Hoar Construction below.
CBO: Tell us about the culture of safety that exists at Hoar Construction.
MB: We take a lot of pride in our culture of safety. Our definition of safety involves eliminating the hazards on the jobsite. We recently redesigned our orientation process to reflect that, and it’s our message for Safety Week.
CBO: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a safety director for Hoar Construction?
MB: When people come to work, they also plan on going home at the end of the day. Somewhere in between, though, they don’t always take the necessary precautions that are absolutely imperative to staying safe. We want to catch those risk behaviours before they cause an injury. One of our company’s goals is to “be your brother/sister’s keeper.” If a worker sees something happening on the jobsite that isn’t safe, we ask that they step up and say something about it. Regardless, catching accidents before they happen continues to be a challenge.
CBO: What advice do you have for new safety directors, specifically pertaining to the current construction climate/current jobsite risks?
MB: Practice being observant. Observe people in their actions; and closely observe any jobsite you are on at any given time. Jobsite activities change from day to day, so your observation skills can sometimes be the key to catching and mitigating risk. You also have a lot of trade partners and employees who are new to the industry. Identify those people, and keep an eye on them. It will take time for them to fully assimilate to the jobsite. We rely on our superintendents to perform daily safety checks as well.
CBO: What tips do you have for eliminating jobsite hazards before they become a serious problem?
MB: When you see a hazard, get to the source of the problem immediately. Many of the employees I deal with on a daily basis don’t work for Hoar Construction – they are trade partners. I work to bring them out of the unsafe conditions they may be working in and have a conversation with the foremen about getting them onboard with our safety processes. We have a brand new process we are rolling out now that deals specifically with working with first-time trade partners. We’ve also made life-size personal protective equipment (PPE) posters that are on display at all of our locations. The posters are printed in both English and Spanish and they demonstrate what an employee full outfitted in PPE looks like on our jobsites. We have also printed out small, handheld cards that we give to our trade partners. The cards feature common hazards, 5 red flags that we have identified as often leading to accidents, locate marking colors and more.
CBO: How do you think business owners, safety directors and other risk managers can benefit from events like Safety Week and the National Safety Stand-Down?
MB: It gives our team and others an opportunity to put safety in a positive light. Safety is not often a positive experience for workers. However, during this week, we have a safety moment every day. We encourage our jobsites to bring different vendors on the jobsites to demonstrate fall protection and other safety equipment solutions. We also hold raffles, giveaways and lunches throughout the week.