NIA Safety Roundtable Recap

Gary Auman

Gary Auman (www.dmfdayton.com) is a Partner in the law firm of Auman, Mahan & Furry in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Louisville in 1969, and a law degree from The Ohio State University in 1976. Since then, his practice has focused on defending employers in workers’ compensation and OSHA cases. In 2002, Mr. Auman was awarded the Distinguished Service to Safety Award by the National Safety Council. He has worked with OSHA in its development of safety and health standards, and he has defended OSHA cases in several federal appellate courts. Mr. Auman also represents 4 national and regional trade associations in the construction industry. He can be reached at gwa@amfdayton.com.

July 1, 2012

At the Annual NIA Convention in Scottsdale,
Arizona this past April, approximately 40 NIA members met with the
platinum-award winners of the Theodore H. Brodie Distinguished Safety Award to
discuss ideas and suggestions for creating and maintaining a top-notch safety
program. The group consisted of a wide variety of members, from insulation
contractors to distributors/fabricators and associates. This roundtable has
proven to be an extremely valuable resource for attendees who are concerned
about maintaining the highest-level safety program possible and minimizing
on-the-job injuries. Workplace safety is becoming increasingly important, not
only from the standpoint of reducing injuries and their resulting costs, but
also when it comes to avoiding OSHA citations that can adversely affect a
company’s ability to compete for contracts.

Winning
Recommendations

All of the platinum-award winners emphasized
the importance of making safety a priority. One of the key components of
implementing an effective safety program is the proper training of new
employees. One of the smaller contractors said that his company devotes half a
day with new hires to train them on safety protocols; while some of our larger
contractors report that a full day or more is spent making sure that new
employees are effectively trained in safety.

Part of training involves testing, which helps
employers to gage their employees’ knowledge of the rules and regulations. All
platinum-award winners said that they test employees after their safety
training to ascertain their understanding of the material. The winners
indicated that employees who do not meet the company standards for safety
knowledge are not permitted to work until they can demonstrate a sufficient
knowledge of critical safety issues. One
contractor indicated that his company conducts a pre-hire evaluation of the e
mployee’s safety understanding and then tailors
its training to supplemen
t
the employee’s existing knowledge.

Regular meetings that
continually train employees on safety requirements, while also giving employees
a chance to mention any safety issues that have recently occurred, are also an
important part of maintaining a strong safety program. All of the
platinum-award winners conduct, at least, weekly safety training through
various forums, such as toolbox talks or safety huddles. Most of the winners
also have daily safety briefings to keep employees focused on safety as they go
about their day-to-day activities.

Several of the platinum-award winners shared the
fact that they regularly begin the workday with stretch and flex programs to
get their employees loosened up to avoid sprain/strain types of injuries. Such
a program is actually beyond any OSHA requirement, but contractors and
distributors who practice this routine assert that it has a definite impact on
reducing soft tissue injuries.

Member Strategies

During the roundtable discussion, many members shared their unique
strategies for fostering a safe work environment. One of the
distributor/fabricator members shared his efforts to promote workplace safety.
He has a policy of conducting morning meetings with employees to ensure that
they have an opportunity to share their safety concerns with their supervisors
and make certain that they are using the proper equipment. He also empowers his
employees and his fabrication team to write down suggestions for solving safety
issues that arise on the job and to bring those suggestions and concerns to the
attention of the Operations Manager.

One of the associate members ensures that new
employees receive safety training immediately after they are hired. His company
has a monthly safety program and devotes a high level of attention to the proper
use of personal protective equipment. During management meetings, safety is the
first item on the agenda.

Owner Sets the
Tone

Many of attendees shared the fact that they believe that the
owner/president of the company is responsible for setting the standard when it
comes to safety. The owner/president needs to make sure that everyone is aware
of the company’s safety procedures. For instance, in one medium-sized company,
the owner provides new hires with an orientation on safety to emphasize its
importance as they begin their careers with the company.

One of the platinum-award
winners reported that no one in his company took safety seriously 20 years ago.
Now, safety is a core value of his business. In order to keep the safety
message fresh, the company has weekly safety meetings. Employees who are
observed being unsafe are required to give a safety talk at the next safety
meeting to discuss their mistake(s), in addition to any other discipline they
might receive.

Several contractors addressed the difficulty that
many members face to make sure their employees follow safety rules when they
are working as a subcontractor on a project, and the other contractors working
on the site are not taking safety seriously. How do you instill a safety
culture in your employees when the general contractor’s employees don’t take
their own safety program seriously? Whether this is a widespread problem or
not, contractors who face this type of situation have to be even more diligent
when conducting safety audits of their job sites to ensure that their employees
are the exception on the job, rather than the rule. You cannot let your safety
program slip just because no other contractor on the job is focusing on safety.

Safety Incentive
Programs

Safety incentive programs took up a portion
of the roundtable time because of the recent memorandum from OSHA indicating
that safety incentive programs that rely on records of lost time from injuries
or recordable injuries will be scrutinized as a potential violation of Section
11c of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. While attendees at the
roundtable who use safety incentive programs primarily rely on the findings
from safety audits (and this type of incentive program does not violate Section
11c), it is important to address this issue. The recent memorandum stated that
if you base an incentive program?and incentives can include individual cash
awards, crew lunches, awarding points to employees that they can use to
purchase various items, and recognition at company meetings?on the lack of
workers’ compensation claims and/or recordable injuries, you could be violating
11c. It is important to remember that an incentive program must be based on
safety performance and safety audits, not on workers’ compensation claims or
recordable injuries.

The
Future of Safety

All attendees felt that the roundtable
provided valuable information to aid them in maintaining their own safety
programs. While safety has always been an important aspect of any job, it is
becoming increasingly important in the insulation industry today. More focus is
being placed on safety compliance and safe work sites by owners, general
contractors, and mechanical contractors. Therefore, the NIA is committed to
providing opportunities to members to enhance their safety knowledge and
strengthen their safety programs. We want to remind all NIA members that
participation in the 2012 Theodore H. Brodie Distinguished Safety Award
competition, will no longer be limited to distributor/fabricators and
contractors. Associate members now have the opportunity to participate in this
competition, as a result of the Associates Committee’s meeting at the
convention. The NIA Safety & Health Committee strongly urges all NIA
members to participate in this valuable program not only to get an assessment
of their individual safety programs, but also to see how their company stacks
up in the industry.