Safety First

Soave Makes Safety in the Workplace a Priority

An effective construction safety program goes beyond compliance to address overall loss control, which includes employee protection, property damage, and liability claims. Gino Soave, Corporate Safety Manager for DeMaria and chief safety instructor for ABC of Southeast Michigan has created a model safety program for builders. It’s built on a solid foundation of safety principles that will resonate with safety professionals in the building industry and beyond.

“I have always encouraged the companies I work with to make sure you have a real passion for safety,” Soave stated. “A program is only as good as the people or person behind implementing and enforcing it. I have seen very knowledgeable safety officers go through the motions required by law and have little success because they lack the conviction and passion to make safety a priority. You must believe in what you are doing and feel dedicated to making your job site, company and employees the safest you can. That passion is the key to success.”

Trends in safety for large general contractors are becoming more challenging for companies to maintain a credible on-going safety programs. Soave cautions companies to make sure that the person they designate as their safety officer can make decisions solely based on the safety of the employees and in their best interest, even if it cuts into the company’s bottom line.

“We have all heard the adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” Soave said. “The cost of not having a proper safety program in place can cripple a company should an accident occur. The time to invest in your safety program is not after you have had an incident, injury or death. Like insurance, it is crucial not only to have to protect employees, but also your company’s ability to succeed and compete in the future.”

Here’s what Soave recommends for a successful safety program:

  • State goals in writing. Determine what you want to achieve, such as employee protection, prevention of injury and illness, and prevention of work site accidents, or property damage.
  • Write an action plan. The plan should reflect your commitment to run every project safely and comply fully with relevant laws, provide necessary safety equipment, and conduct ongoing training and education.
  • Establish a budget. In addition to equipment and personal protection equipment, factor in insurance costs, personnel to oversee the program, and time for safety meetings and program development.
  • Designate a safety commander. This could be an employee who is first and foremost passionate about safety and has the full support of management.
  • Define specific responsibilities for key individuals, including the company president/owner, site superintendents, field employees, contractors and subcontractors, and others.
  • Develop and implement jobsite safe work practices. These should address federal and state regulatory requirements, as well as specific hazards and conditions applicable to the worksite.
  • Establish accountability procedures. Make sure employees know that safety is a part of their job and they will be held accountable for it.
  • Develop and deliver a comprehensive training program that includes supervisors and employees. Make sure to include emergency preparedness procedures in your training and have supervisors deliver regular “toolbox” talks to reinforce more in-depth training.
  • Conduct regular jobsite inspections and hazard analyses.
  • Develop recordkeeping procedures. Make sure to include required documentation for workers’ compensation, OSHA and MiOSHA injury and illness records, and additional company records pertaining to safety.
  • Establish accident reporting and investigation requirements. Focus on information gathering and preventing future incidents, not on finding fault. Make sure to include near misses.
  • Develop and enforce a contractor safety policy.
  • Evaluate your program’s effectiveness.
  • Encourage feedback and recognize excellence. Get your employees engaged in your program and appropriately reward their involvement.