Ensuring a Safe Job

Posted on July 31, 2012

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One of the more difficult topics to communicate to a hospital is a company’s role in, and record on, project safety. Safety is one of those slippery topics that, like quality, is challenging because it is subjective and occasionally elusive.

Most owners would agree they want safety in all projects. Who could argue safety is not a ‘must have’ during the project visioning process? No hospital wants the bad publicity, community outcry and legal liability that accompanies an accident on their organization’s project.

In an RFP, safety is a common subject that is asked to be discussed by a builder. But safety is tough topic, not easily defined. Sometimes we can see safety in action, but if you don’t see it, is it automatically there? And like anything else, it can add cost to a job. Yet, can a price be put on the alternative—loss of a human life?

Never.

What needs to be understood is safety is achieved by being proactive. As the saying goes, safety is no accident. Firms that do not plan for safety with definitive budgets, people, training and procedures will not maintain a good record for very long. Why? Because workers are human: they get tired, they overestimate their abilities, they try to work through pain and illness, and they make mistakes—sometimes fatal ones. And safety concerns can be external to the worker; it could be bad weather, or an equipment malfunction that leads to a safety breach.

Haskell invests heavily in job site and worker safety. Some programs we have in place to ensure a high level of safety on our jobs:

  • Transparent Communication. Haskell regularly reports on its safety record for each job, and makes lessons learned from the industry available to teams for planning.
  • Employee Empowerment. As an ESOP (employee owned), we are all owners. Our leadership has made it clear that safety is everyone’s business. If we see an unsafe activity taking place, anyone has the power to stop work on any job to correct it.
  • Safety Evaluation Reports. Each job is routinely evaluated by a safety officer. Reports are reviewed with the design and construction project leadership, as well as the project manager and site superintendent. A project’s safety record affects bonuses.
  • Code of Safe Practices. Every Haskell employee completes safety presentation, watches a video training, and signs the Code as a promise to each other to keep safety at the forefront of our work in the office and in the field.
  • Designing for Safety. Our in-house designers (architects and engineers), are trained to put graphics on our construction documents that identify potential hazards in the installation of the work as designed. These icons have a legend that help field personnel in the building of the design. For example, grade changes or steep roof pitches that could create a fall hazard, and may not be otherwise apparent on the drawings, are noted.
  • American Contractors Insurance Group (ACIG). Haskell partners with other like-minded companies to invest in an insurance company that believes in higher standards for safety. In effect, these member companies are self-policed, and companies not serious about safety are precluded from participating or asked to leave.
  • OSHA Partnerships / Consultations. States in which we do a lot of work need to know Haskell is not a liability requiring stringent oversight. By proving ourselves and maintaining high standards, certain states and AHJs have engaged with Haskell in providing approved training and protocol that allow us to operate under mutual respect and with more autonomy.

Safety is an absolute condition, and similar to managing a reputation: by default, people assume you are a good guy and have it. You work all your life or career reinforcing that belief, consistently making sound decisions. Yet if a poor choice is made—broken trust or unethical behavior—it is all wiped out, and it takes a long time to not only eliminate the negative perception, but turn it back into a positive. Safety is the same way.

I read somewhere it takes nine good actions to counteract the perception of a negative action. It takes nine times as many rights to make up for one wrong—and depending on the severity of the bad move, it could take much more.

Safety is not about ratios and recordable incidents. It is about preparedness and discipline, and you want a team that has both—or you want someone else designing and building your hospital.

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