Safety Training Programs

Employee safety is paramount to the success of any construction company. No construction company wants to lose workers to injury or illness, which can cause a significant work disruption and cost to both the company and the workers and their families. Making sure your company has an established safety program is one of the most effective ways to protect your employees from injury or illness when working on an active job site.

Having an established safety program is essential to success

By Marcy Marro

Photo courtesy of Thomas Phoenix International

According to a 2011 report in Milbank Quarterly by J.P. Leigh, “Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness in the United States,” implementing a safety and health program can help employers avoid the indirect costs that result from workplace incidents, such as time lost due to work stoppages and investigations, training and other costs associated with replacing injured workers, and loss or damage to material, machinery and property.

Whether a company has a full-time safety professional on staff or hires an outside company to handle the training logistics, all construction workers need to go through a variety of training programs and OSHA-required certifications to ensure a safe and secure job site.

Basic Training

For new hires, safety training should begin from day one. At Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc. (KRSM), based in Wheeling, W.Va., Seth Abraham, director of HR and safety, says new hires go through a safety orientation upon initial hire, which covers everything from fall protection to PPE to proper ladder usage. “We try to address every aspect of safety right from the start,” says Abraham.

Jack Havely, president of Metal Building Erectors Inc., Eleanor, W.Va., says new hires are put through a two-week in-house training program. Located next to Parkline Inc., a manufacturer who builds factory-assembled modular-type structures, Havely says, “We have a ready-made assembly shop we can put a new hire in for on-the-job training and orientation. As soon as a new employee decides to become a full-time member of the company, he or she will take the OSHA 10 course.”

Depending on the type of job, there are different types of OSHA training certifications required. For example, all of Kalkreuth’s foremen are required to have OSHA 30-hour certification, while all journeymen/apprentices have OSHA 10-hour certification.

“For the last several years, we’ve been using a combination of online training, for OSHA 10 for instance. We also have available to us an on-site safety coordinator who is licensed to conduct OSHA training sessions and deal with safety reporting companies like ISNetworld,” Havely says.

In addition to OSHA training, workers are trained in first aid and CPR. Employees are also trained on new construction techniques, tools and equipment. “We participate in a lot of job-specific training,” explains Havely. This can include fork trucks, man lifts, scaffolding, etc. And, local equipment sales rental organizations will come in and do specialized training with workers. “Anytime we get a new tool, we make sure that the people who are using it are trained on its proper use,” he adds.

Ongoing Training

Safety training for construction companies goes beyond an initial basic safety program. There are daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly opportunities to continually discuss and train employees in safety-related matters.

At Fairchance Construction Co., Fairchance, Pa., vice president Brian D. Gaudiano says the company typically has a one-hour training session per month that covers general topics. “As OSHA issues new regulations, we have training specific to those. We also conduct equipment-specific training as required, and first aid training every two years. All of our management personnel have OSHA 10-hour training at minimum. We also do weekly toolbox talks on all job sites.”

Daily toolbox meetings at Metal Building Erectors include walking the job site. “In addition to talking about what’s going on that day, what hazards might be faced, what equipment is on-site, what other contractors are on-site, we provide ideas for short safety topics for the foreman to start or finish the talk with,” Havely explains.

In recent years, KRSM joined the North American Roofers Insurance (NARI) captive program and restructured its safety program and standard safety operating procedures. They want to be, and are, held to a higher standard of safety. Part of the process included increasing the number of full-time safety personnel to expand coverage on active job sites and increase the frequency of on-site safety training. Every project the company undertakes has a site-specific safety plan, which is developed and reviewed with employees prior to the start date. A Job Hazard Analysis form is also completed and submitted to the safety department by the foreman at each job site on a daily basis. All foremen are also required to have OSHA 30-hour certification, while apprentices must have OSHA 10-hour certification.

KRSM management personnel are required to attend weekly company-wide safety/production meetings in which safety inspection results and safety-related incidents or violations are reviewed and directly addressed.

KRSM also holds company-wide mandatory quarterly safety meetings, which include the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), safety rules and regulations, fire prevention, fall protection, blood-borne pathogens, and hazard communication. The company also has a safety committee composed of managers and field personnel that meets monthly to discuss further development of current and future safety policies and procedures.

In-House vs. Outsourcing

For a company with multiple geographic locations, such as KRSM, which has five offices across five states, Abraham says there is safety personnel in each office, along with a corporate safety director based out of the company’s corporate headquarters.

“At the end of the day, safety is everyone’s job … Our employees deserve it; our customers expect it, and the industry demands it,” says KRSM safety manager Jeremy Dvorcek.

Smaller companies, such as Fairchance Construction, may opt to outsource all of their safety management and training. “Our consultant assesses all company activity and provides training based on our projects and the time of year,” says Gaudiano. The company also has a safety committee that meets monthly to monitor its safety program. “We empower all employees to police safety,” he says. “We have a safety incentive program to encourage safety. The incentive program rewards employees with paid time off for working safely.”

Tyler Lukart is a senior safety consultant at East Coast Risk Management, North Huntingdon, Pa., the company hired by Fairchance to manage its safety program. “Construction companies that have between 25 and 50 employees don’t need a full-time safety professional on staff because of salary and benefits, but they still need someone dedicated to safety part time,” he explains. “That’s why [companies like East Coast Risk Management] are beneficial.”

Lukart is the dedicated safety professional for approximately 10 companies at a time. What he does for each company depends on their needs. For Fairchance, he’s working with them two or three days a month. “What I do for Fairchance, in particular, is I participate and manage their monthly safety committee meetings,” he says. “We talk about hazards out in the field, what training they may need completed, such as fall protection, scaffolding, aerial lifts, scissor lifts, etc. Other things that I’ll do out in the field is air monitoring for silica dust, excavating and trenching training, and just acting like a third-party support system to be there for any questions that need to be answered.”

Additionally, Fairchance will reach out to Lukart to go out and inspect job sites and make sure they’re in compliance with OSHA, or evaluate job-site activity for compliance. “The ultimate goal is to protect and improve our clients’ bottom line by taking a proactive approach by applying strategic risk management practices,” he adds.

“We are very serious about the safety of our job sites,” Gaudiano says. “This translates into safe employees and safety of the public. We have successfully kept our Mod Rate under 0.8 for the last 10 years since implementing a safety culture within the organization.”