This week, we’re joining contractors across the country in acknowledging Safety Week from May 2 – 6, 2022. Safety is a topic within the industry that has grown in recent years to be a top priority for all reputable contractors, with an emphasis on ensuring that the workplace for construction crew members be physically and emotionally safe. These efforts will undoubtedly make for a stronger workplace with long term, healthy employees that can work in their respective trades for many years.
Most contractors have some form of a safety program in place to provide training, enforcement and record keeping. Measuring the success of those programs to evaluate how safely a company operates isn’t as simple as it might seem, but there are efforts to standardize certain measurements to compare companies to each other as well as gauge performance and improvement over time.
Safety Units of Measurement
Today, we will spend some time reviewing what units of measurement exist and how they are used to gauge the safety record of a given company. These measurements include:
- Experience Modification Rate – EMR
- Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred – DART
- Total Recordable Incident Rate – TRIR
In addition to these more formal measurements, individual companies will track several other benchmarks and measurables to watch for trends in their safety program, including:
- Total number of employees
- Total employee work areas
- Total number of deaths
- Total number of lost workday cases
- Total recordable injury/illness cases
- OSHA citations
Lagging vs. Leading Indicators
The above listed measurement tools are all lagging indicators; as in, they’re based on past incidents as opposed to predicting future performance through leading indicators. Leading indicators might include measurables such as:
- Worker attendance rates at safety meetings.
- Response time by management to potential safety incidents.
- Frequency of safety audits performed on jobsites.
Evaluating the leading indicators for a safety program is an important tool in creating a positive, safe culture for construction work. However, these measurables aren’t as standardized as the lagging indicators that we will be reviewing today. We will focus primarily on the EMR, DART and TRIR measurements, how they’re calculated and what that means for contractors and clients.
Experience Modification Rate
The EMR, also referred to as a ‘mod’ rate, for a given company is a three-year lagging indicator based on workers’ compensation claims paid on behalf of the contractor. Created by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the EMR rating helps insurance companies determine the cost of the premium to insure the company.
To calculate the EMR rate, payroll and loss data is evaluated over time. Calculating the EMR is a bit complicated. It considers multiple factors to review both the frequency and severity of lost time due to injuries occurring on the job. Companies with numerous claims or very expensive claims will both factor into a raised rate, but more weight is given to high frequencies of injuries than the expense of only one.
For a detailed explanation of the factors and formula for calculating the EMR, visit this article published by the NCCI.
One critical piece to remember about the EMR is that it is a lagging indicator. If a contractor is subject to a large claim in one year, it will negatively affect their EMR rating for three years following. Said contractor may have demonstrated significant improvements to their safety program, or had few to no claims, and still be ‘penalized’ for past claims.
The average EMR rating for construction is 1.0, with companies that perform better than average scoring below, and those who score worse above 1.0.
Days Away, Restricted or Transferred
The DART rating, or ‘Days Away, Restricted or Transferred’ is a measurement developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that measures three factors:
The number of days employees are absent because of a work-related injury or illness.
The number of days an employee must perform a modified work assignment due to work related illness or injury.
The number of days an employee is transferred to another job because they cannot complete their normal duties due to a work-related injury or illness.
The DART rate is based, in theory, on relatively severe incidents since it is based on lost or modified workdays. As of 2018, the average DART rate for the construction industry was 1.8.
It’s in a company’s best interest to reduce all of these types of incidents, as they all reflect on productivity and therefore, profitability. Additionally, regulatory bodies such as local building departments or the local health and safety administration may increase the number of random inspections that occur on sites run by contractors with higher DART ratings. A higher DART rating, in essence, equates to a riskier company in terms of worker safety.
The DART rating is based on the following formula:
An example of a DART calculation if a company works 250,000 annual hours, with 4 restricted duty days and 2 transfer days:
DART RATE = (4 + 2) x 200,000 / 400,000 = 3
Total Recordable Incident Rate
The TRIR, or Total Recordable Incident Rate, is based on all OSHA-recordable incidents in a company, including those that do not require lost or modified workdays. The TRIR rate will typically be higher than the DART rate, since that rate is only based on more severe incidents that do result in missed workdays or modified duty. The formula for TRIR is as follows:
If we follow our above example, let’s say the same company has 4 incidents in addition to the restructure or transfer days, for a total of 10 incidents:
TRIR = 10 X 200,000 / 400,000 = 5
A good rule of thumb for TRIR is to have a number less than 3.0, as the average is 3.1.
How to Lower EMR, DART and TRIR Rates
While all three of the rates we’ve discussed today are lagging indicators based on past incidents, they do affect insurance rates and sometimes the ability to work for certain clients. They may also be used as a means of comparing contractors to each other in a proposal or bid scenario. Those with higher safety scores may be easy targets to remove from competition.
The key to lowering all of these rates is to reduce the number of injuries that occur onsite. Action items include implementing a full-scale safety plan, enforcing OSHA rules and regulations, hiring safety managers and/or coordinators to provide in-house audits and education, and changing the culture of site crew members to embrace safe work practices.
Lowering these safety ratings to below average at a minimum brings many benefits, including, but not limited to:
- Workers are genuinely safer and healthier when on the jobsite.
- Insurance rates are reduced.
- Eligibility to work for large corporate clients or otherwise safety-conscious clients increases.
- The frequency of inspections by OSHA or other governing bodies are reduced.
The effort and cost to create a safe work culture can pay back tenfold for both a company and their workforce.
As we walk through safety week 2022, we want to think about the large and small consequences of jobsite safety. If you want more resources on safety in the industry, we encourage you to check out some of our past articles on the topic below.
Construction takes place in many locations, often without the general public present. However, many projects are completed in spaces where it’s not feasible to move occupants out while completing the work. When a space is occupied, unique challenges exist when it comes to getting work completed safely while minimizing any disruption in the health and productivity of the day-to-day occupants.
Today, we will look at the challenges presented when construction occurs in occupied spaces and tips for how to overcome them.
1. Maintaining Safety of Building Crews and Day-to-Day Users
Jobsite safety is always a top priority on construction sites. This priority increases when members of the general public will be or are expected to be nearby, and even more so if they’ll be occupying the same space as the construction crews.
Safety is established in a variety of ways, with most having a developed plan tailored specifically to each jobsite. Teams should consider all factors, including:
What is the location of the non-construction personnel?
- Do any existing walls separate them, or will a temporary wall or barrier be needed?
- Will work be occurring overhead? If so, what kind of protection must be erected?
- Is there a chance that debris could reach occupants?
What age and demographic are nearby?
- School aged-children or those with special needs may require extra precautions, such as hard-walled barriers.
- Incarcerated or mentally ill occupants may need hard-walled barriers that are unable to be weaponized in any way.
Are the nearby occupants going to be the same people each day, or are they members of the general population that differ on a daily basis?
- If occupants are in the space from day-to-day, more direct communication protocols can be established to determine entry points and walkways.
- If the space is designated for public use, such as an airport, zoo, or other public building, extremely clear barriers and signage must be erected to communicate effectively with passers-by.
In addition to considering the people in the building, contractors must have plans in place to protect the existing building elements and equipment. Spaces that include food manufacturing or healthcare facilities will have additional protocols required to protect products and/or patients. In Mission Critical facilities, safety of the existing mechanical systems maintaining servers is paramount.
Avoiding disruption and maintaining safety often hinges on reducing attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is anything on the project that is both dangerous and enticing to children. Examples include, but are not limited to: heavy machinery, fence climbing, scaffolding, and construction materials or debris. Project signs ( i.e., No Trespassing) are not generally considered preventative measures. To minimize these attractive nuisances, project teams must:
- Remove the hazard(s)
- Discard construction debris on a daily, if not hourly, basis
- Secure and obscure the hazard(s)
- Lock heavy equipment doors and/or remove keys
- Remove, store out of reach, or secure ladders
- Provide locked enclosures around scaffolding/stair towers
- Provide a fenced storage area for stored construction materials
- Ensure fencing includes driven posts to prevent displacement
- Consider opaque fence fabric along public areas
While production and quality are near the top of the priority list for every construction company, the safety of workers and occupants is the most important of them all. Great consideration should always be given to this topic to ensure that at the end of the day, workers and occupants all return home safely.
2. Minimizing Noise, Dust and Odors
Construction is inherently dirty, with saw-cutting and demolition procedures often generating dust and debris, activities such as paint and carpet installation generating odors, and more. Occupants are understandably averse to experiencing the effects of noise, dust and odor, requiring contractors to find ways to prevent these factors from affecting building users.
With special care, the noise, dust and debris can be minimized. Some strategies may include:
- Use wet-saw techniques and vacuums
- Enclose areas of demolition
- Utilize floor sweep products
- Cover vents with filters
- Utilize mechanical air scrubbers
- Schedule noisy activities for unoccupied hours
- Utilize hand tools in lieu of power tools
- Complete pre-fabrication efforts off-site and assemble onsite
- Schedule work windows where noise is allowed, accepted, and has been communicated with building users
- Utilize prefabricated wall systems such as Dirtt
- Utilize Low or No VOC products
- Utilize charcoal filters on mechanical systems
- Install negative air machines with air exhaust to the outdoors
A failure to prevent dust, noise and odor from interrupting building users can be inconvenient at best, and dangerous at worst. Containment of contaminants is vital in locations such as hospitals and other medical facilities. In office or school settings, dust, noise or odor can cause headaches or other symptoms, forcing lost work time by occupants in addition to inconvenience and possible pain.
3. Developing Effective Phases and Schedules
Safety, health and productivity are all optimized with proper planning. This includes phasing work areas, staging prep space, and creating effective schedules that account for maximizing work while minimizing disruption to occupants. Phasing plans and work schedules all tie into the larger site logistics strategy for a given project.
A variety of factors will play into this planning, including, but not limited to:
- Building work hours and occupancy levels
- The location of the construction work relative to occupants
- The complexity of the work:
- Can the work be completed in a single shift? Or must it be completed in multiple shifts over time?
- Will the work disrupt utilities that serve the building?
- Will the work take place directly above or around occupants?
- How much labor is required to complete the work?
As the saying goes, ‘Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance’. Planning for phasing and scheduling of the work is critical to maintain safety and productivity in occupied spaces.
4. Minimizing Utility Interruptions
A significant challenge when completing construction work in occupied spaces relates to modifying utility services such as plumbing, electrical, mechanical and fire protection systems, as well as security and low voltage. Let’s look at some examples of modifications to those systems and the simplified ways to minimize interruptions to existing operations:
Upgrade electrical service to add capacity.
This process requires shutting down the building power to add the new capacity to the system. Some options for minimizing the interruption might include:
- Preparing prior to a shutdown by coordinating an optimal time, usually off-hours. This shut down must be coordinated with, at minimum, the building occupants and owners/manager, the electrical utility company, and security company.
- Utilizing a temporary generator to maintain power to the building while the shutdown occurs.
Modify the fire protection system to add or remove sprinkler heads:
- Notify the fire alarm company to put the alarm system in ‘test’ mode during the work.
- Utilize personnel for temporary fire watch while the system is shut down.
There are many examples of means of minimizing interruptions during utility modifications. The most important steps in the process include extensive communication with all affected parties. These entities include the building occupants, ownership and/or management company, the utility company(ies) involved, all associated alarm companies and trade partners.
With extensive communication, the best path forward can be identified and implemented.
5. Coordination of Staging Areas and Materials Storage
In today’s tumultuous climate of long lead items and procurement challenges due to supply chain constraints, it’s more important than ever to ensure materials are procured on time to meet the schedule for the work. This may mean ordering materials earlier than previously required, and in turn, having a place to store them. The most ideal location is onsite to simplify logistics, but site constraints may prohibit this as an option.
Part of the preconstruction planning process for any project includes looking at the timing for materials procurement and where to store them upon arrival. The size and availability of space on a given site determines how much material can be staged in that location. When a building or space is occupied by the public, the options for storage are often more limited than on a vacant site. It’s not ideal for materials to be moved multiple times, so it may be more conducive to store them offsite and bring them to the job on a just-in-time basis.
As with all aspects of the site, planning for the storage and staging of materials must be done in conjunction with the building users to minimize the impact to their operations.
Proper planning is the key to solving all challenges related to occupied space construction. With proper planning, any challenges that arise during the work can be optimally navigated and solved in a manner that minimizes delays and interruption to building occupants.
Our teams are knowledgeable about the challenges involved in completing work in occupied spaces. If you’re considering a project, get in touch with us to discuss your options.
The Pacific Northwest has experienced multiple heatwaves during the summer of 2021, and the soaring temperatures are highlighting the need to prioritize awareness of heat exposure related illnesses, heat safety in construction as well as strategies to keep workers safe in these conditions.
In July of 2021, Oregon OSHA enacted an emergency rule to require employers to take precautions for workers during high temperatures. Utilizing the heat index and tiered levels of regulation, the basic idea is to provide shade and water at regular intervals to keep workers hydrated and healthy as temperatures rise.
In addition to these rules, Perlo has been utilizing a variety of strategies to minimize heat exposure and maintain worker safety in all aspects of our jobsites. Today we’ll explore more about OSHA’s new rules as well as strategies to minimize the risk of heat related illnesses on our sites.
The Heat Index
According to the National Weather Service, The heat index is ‘what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature’. To determine the heat index, the temperature and relative humidity must both be accounted for. In higher humidity environments, the relative temperature will feel hotter than in low humidity environments.
Critical to note is that the heat index is based on temperatures in shady locations, which means that workers in direct sunlight can experience an increase of the heat index value by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re inclined to do manual calculations to determine the heat index, the National Weather Service provides the Heat Index Equation on their website, although most weather apps will identify this.
OSHA Oregon Temporary Rules
The full documentation outlining OSHA Oregon’s new temporary rules are available on their website. In summary, the rules apply when the heat index temperature reaches or exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the regulations increase at each 10-degree interval.
At a heat index temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must supply access to shade and a supply of drinking water.
At a heat index temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must also establish the following:
- Effective communication channels between employees and employers for reporting purposes.
- Observation of employees for signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses.
- Cool-down rest periods in the shade of 10 minutes in length for every two hours of work.
- Development of an emergency medical plan and practices to help employees gradually adapt to the rising temperatures.
Additionally, employers must provide specific training to each employee about the risks of heat related illnesses, the responsibilities of employers related to heat exposure, and general education on personal risks that may exacerbate heat related illnesses, such as medications, obesity, alcohol, etc.
The new rules outline clear descriptions of shade and the expectations regarding the quantity, cleanliness and temperature of available water supplies for workers.
Heat Related Illnesses
There are a variety of heat related illnesses that an individual may succumb to. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) outlines these clearly on their website. They can include:
The most serious heat related illness, which occurs when the body can no longer regulate its own body temperature. Extreme fevers up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit can be reached in as little as 10 – 15 minutes time, and heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability without immediate and proper treatment.
Heat stroke symptoms may include:
- Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Very high body temperature
Typically triggered by excessive sweating and therefore the loss of water and salt in the body, heat exhaustion is most often suffered by the elderly, those with high blood pressure, and people working in hot environments.
Heat exhaustion symptoms may include:
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
A medical condition related to heat stress and physical exertion, this condition is related to the breakdown and loss of muscle. It can cause irregular heart rhythms, seizures and kidney damage.
Rhabdomyolysis symptoms may include:
- Muscle cramps and/or pain
- Dark colored urine
- Exercise intolerance
- No outward symptoms
A fainting episode or dizziness that typically occurs when rising suddenly from a laying or standing position, or from prolonged standing. Dehydration and lack of acclimating to the environment contribute to this condition.
Heat syncope symptoms may include:
- Light headedness upon suddenly rising
Typically arising after long, strenuous periods of heavy activity where sweat has decreased the water and salt levels in the body, this is when the muscles in the body cause painful cramping.
Heat cramps symptoms may include:
- Muscle cramps
- Spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs.
A skin irritation from excessive sweating during hot weather.
Heat rash symptoms include:
- Red clusters that appear like small pimples or blisters, and usually are located on the neck, upper chest, groin, under breasts or in elbow creases.
NIOSH provides a two-page First Aid for Heat Illness Fact Sheet to educate employers and workers on heat related illness, prevention techniques and first aid protocols, and has additional educational resources on their website.
Site Strategies for Heat Safety in Construction
The best strategies for individuals to avoid heat related illnesses are to stay hydrated, to slowly acclimate to high temperatures, wear loose and comfortable clothing, and avoid direct sunlight. On construction sites, we must take special care to ensure that workers remain healthy and safe, especially when temperatures rise beyond 80 degrees.
We utilize a variety of options for helping to maintain safe work sites related to the heat:
Providing shade: Ideally, a job trailer with air condition space is available for work breaks, and at minimum, significant shady areas are available for the entire crew.
Providing water: Water coolers are provided with enough water for each employee to consume at least 32 ounces per hour, at a temperature no warmer than 77 degrees. When power is limited for cooling mechanically, we add ice to the water supply.
Sun visors on hard hats: In addition to light and loose clothing, many of our crew members are now wearing sun visors on their hard hats to provide additional sun protection.
Enforced break times: In addition to regular breaks as required by national labor laws, the new Oregon OSHA regulations regarding temperatures above 90 degrees dictate 10-minute breaks for every two hours of work. The rest periods must be in a shady location and as close as practical to the employee’s areas of work.
Shifting work hours: When possible, site working hours are shifted to avoid the warmest times of the day. This may mean switching to night hours or beginning shifts in the very early hours of the morning.
Misting station installations: If a water source is readily available, sites can choose to install misting stations to provide additional cooling for workers.
Heat related illnesses are a serious concern. By employing strategies to both educate workers about the risks, as well as provide opportunities for breaks, shade and hydration, these concerns can be minimized. It is always our goal for individuals to be safe and healthy on our jobsites. We encourage you to stay safe as we progress through our summer heatwaves.
It’s nearly Independence Day here in the United States, and this year, Perlo Construction wishes you a happy and safe day of celebration. Today we take a moment to remind everyone to use caution this weekend so that you and your families can celebrate many more years together.
Here are some tips to remain safe this year:
1. Plan for a designated driver if you’re going to consume alcohol.
According to the National High Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 38% of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes over the Fourth of July weekend involved drunk drivers.
2. Use caution with fireworks.
Fireworks routinely cause significant injuries to kids and adults. An estimated 10,000 fireworks related injuries occur in the United States each year, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 19,500 fires were started by fireworks in 2018 alone, resulting in five civilian deaths, 46 injuries and $105 million in property damage.
3. Enact safe practices when grilling and cooking.
4. Practice safe boating and swimming.
Fourth of July weekend combined with Memorial and Labor Day weekends account for nearly 1/3 of all boating and related accidents and fatalities. Follow these tips to remain safe on the water this weekend. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, an average of 17 children drown in pools or spas during Fourth of July weekend. Check out these tips to make sure your kids stay safe.
5. Beat the heat!
With the current record-setting heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, it’s more important than ever to know the signs of heat related illnesses. Check out this tip sheet from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more.
As always, Perlo strives to create a safe work environment for our people, but we care about them when they’re away from our sites, too. If we all use caution, we can celebrate safely this weekend. With safety in mind, have a wonderful holiday weekend celebrating our nation’s independence!
Spring is in the air, and summer is near – one of the busiest seasons for completing construction of all types. Drier weather lends itself to optimal conditions for road construction and excavation, as well as roofing and re-roofing scopes. Additionally, seasonal work for schools is common during summer months while students are on break, and larger sites aim to complete excavation work, as well.
While summer presents opportunities for efficient work, it also presents some additional challenges for quality of certain products and safety risks to onsite workers. Today, we explore the top 6 challenges of summer construction work.
1. Dust Control and Airborne Particles
While considerations for dust control are a critical component of operating construction sites, the heat of summer increases those concerns. Dry conditions can create airborne dust via heavy equipment and utility vehicles used for grading.
OSHA has a series of resources available related to dust control and Respirable Crystalline Silica. In recent years, significant attention has been given to protecting workers from silica and one of the main methods of controlling exposure is to utilize water. When conditions are excessively hot and dry, it requires more water to maintain the same amount of control.
In addition to silica concerns, some geographical locations like Maricopa County, Arizona have additional regulations related to keeping dust from blowing onto neighboring properties. In these areas, heavy use of water trucks to maintain a solid ‘crust’ on any exposed earth is a requirement for construction sites. Sites found to be lacking proper control of dust can be subject to fines.
Requirements for dust control vary from state to state and contractors must be educated on the specifics of each jurisdiction before beginning work.
2. Timing of Planting Materials
Another challenge related to the heat of summer is landscaping and the timing for planting vegetation. Most jurisdictions have specific requirements for plantings, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest. The City of Portland has a page dedicated to landscaping and screening with a variety of resources for landowners and designers to consider.
Often, jurisdictions will not finalize certificates of occupancy until landscaping is completed on the site. However, landscape companies won’t always warranty plantings if they’re done mid-summer. Frequently, contractors may need to negotiate with the jurisdiction for temporary occupancy and follow-up to achieve final occupancy once all plantings are completed, often in the Fall when temperatures and rainfall will better support root growth.
Additionally, some jurisdictions will verify that plantings must thrive for a certain period of time following the completion of construction. If plants fail to thrive, they must be replaced.
A competent contractor will help manage the risk of plant failure through strategic scheduling of the site plantings. While some landscaping will need to be installed during the summer months to assist with dust and erosion control, other items may be able to wait until better weather conditions will support the plantings.
3. Concrete Curing
As we have discussed in The Art and Science of Concrete, the placement of concrete is tricky business. It’s critical that concrete cure at a steady rate, but if it’s excessively warm and sunny, there’s a risk of the top of the slab curing faster than the concrete below it. We employ several strategies to mitigate this risk:
- Large pours are scheduled for the middle of the night when temperatures are lower and the sun has yet to rise.
- Summer blankets will be placed on top of the slab following the pour.
- Sprinklers may be utilized to keep the top of the slabs cool.
If the heat isn’t properly managed and the slabs cure at different rates, there is likely to be significant cracking over time.
4. Combustible Materials, Fire and Smoke Danger
The summer and fall of 2020 in the Pacific Northwest brought new attention to the dangers of wildfire smoke on workers. The air quality at times was so poor that jobsites had to temporarily close for several days. We anticipate that OSHA will be issuing new guidelines for air quality considerations for construction sites in the coming year.
In addition to wildfires, dry conditions of summer and extreme heat can easily cause grass fires. Some tactics we take to avoid accidental onsite fires include:
- Avoiding storage of materials in grassy areas.
- Concentrating crew parking in non-vegetated areas.
- Storing heat sensitive materials in shaded or air-conditioned spaces.
- Create designated smoking areas with receptacles for disposal.
- Ensure all mechanized equipment is inspected before use.
In addition, crews must be alert for fire risks, and have fire extinguishers and water easily accessible.
5. Increased Employee Distractions
Summer time is enjoyable for many people because of longer days, optimal weather and kids home from school. This leads to an increase in employee distractions during work hours.
Workers may stay up later, consume more alcohol during off-hours, or desire to condense their breaks in order to leave the site sooner. All of these factors can contribute to exhaustion and, in turn, less safe work practices by individuals. It’s critical that supervisors keep an eye on individuals at all times, and during summer months, pay particular attention to any impairments that may exist. Utilizing morning huddles and stretching routines to help assess employee health is one key moment in time to complete these evaluations.
For instance, many morning stretch routines include standing on one leg. If an employee can’t complete that action, it may be a sign of impairment.
Additionally, supervisors must enforce adequate break periods and ensure workers utilize appropriate break times. Proper rest is imperative for workers to maintain clear thinking and avoid fatigue. Compromising on these guidelines can lead to accidents and/or mistakes in the field.
6. Increased Safety Concerns – Heat Risks and Injuries
There are several injury risks during the summer months when temperatures are high and the sun is bright. These include things like burns from materials stored in the sun, sun burns to the skin, or bee stings from surprise nests on stored materials or underground.
Bees, hornets or yellowjackets may nest in stored lumber, pallets, in roof eaves, etc. Jobsites are prepared with treatment options for minor stings and any affected individuals must be supervised to watch for allergic reactions before being released back to work. Additionally, those with known bee allergies are encouraged to carry their epi-pens while onsite and inform others so that they may be aware and quick to respond in the event that individual is stung.
Workers are encouraged to wear gloves while handling any items that may be exposed to direct sunlight. Metal objects are particularly susceptible to sunlight and may burn unsuspecting workers when touched.
Finally, one the largest health concerns during summer is from heat exposure. OSHA has a variety of resources about the heat index and how to identify risk related to high temperatures. They also provide recommended protective measures depending on the heat index to help avoid significant injury due to heat related illnesses.
Our sites are always prepared with water stations, shade stations, air-conditioned job trailers and enforcement of rest periods to help prevent heat related illnesses from occurring. Additionally, we encourage workers to drink water and avoid caffeinated beverages or energy drink consumption.
It’s critical that care is taken during warm work hours to avoid injury to workers and also to deliver a quality construction product. With proper planning, diligence and supervision, these summer construction challenges can be overcome. If you’re thinking of embarking on a new construction project, please reach out to us to find out more about how we can help you.
Safety in construction is top of mind in the industry today, but that focus is relatively recent. Some of today’s current construction professionals, in fact, have experience from earlier days in their careers where the focus was on production, and not on safe work practices.
George Trice, a current Perlo superintendent, began his career as a carpenter. As such, he was actively doing the work to build forms, tilt concrete panels, install roof structures and other carpentry tasks. Safety then was tremendously different than now. Today, we’re going to discuss the evolution of safety in construction through the lens of his lived experience.
Join us as we explore George’s journey with safety.
What was safety on construction sites like when you started in the trades?
If I’m being honest, it was pretty lacking. Old school. We just didn’t think about safety. It wasn’t something I even considered or thought about. Back then, there was a lot of gray as it related to safety. Our focus was just on showing up, doing the work as quickly as possible, and that was it.
Here are some examples. Sometimes when we built cast-in-place walls, we would just walk on top of the framing with the concrete hose and we weren’t tied off. We were 15’ high sometimes! You certainly wouldn’t do that today. Fall protection in general wasn’t something we focused on. We didn’t use tie offs on roofs – not even when cutting openings for skylights. If we were lucky we had a guardrail of some kind, but we didn’t think about these things.
What happened when people were injured onsite in the past?
I was lucky, I guess. I never witnessed any really bad injuries or had one myself. We had aches and pains, people hit their thumbs with hammers or cut themselves, and we just didn’t really worry about it. We went to work, worked hard, and went home tired. And then got up the next day and did the same thing.
I sprained my ankle onsite once and went back to work the next day, even though it hurt. I almost cut off my pinky finger one time. I told my superintendent and he sent me to the doctor and then I came right back to work with my stitches! These days I would have been sent home until the doctor released me. I can’t say I would have liked that. I liked coming to work and doing my job, and I think most people do.
How did safety start to evolve?
I don’t know if there was a safety program when I started, but I think it was about 6 – 8 years after I started that the company really worked to implement a more formal safety plan. It started with things like adding handrails, more fall protection, or putting lifts underneath the opening of a skylight. Training became more frequent and superintendents had to pay attention to it.
I was put on the safety committee for a little while and I’m not sure I was the best choice at that point, because I still wanted to operate things in the ‘old school’ way. Over time our safety programs have evolved considerably. Now it’s much more formal, takes more planning, and we have audits of our sites where we are scored on how safe our sites are. It’s gotten stricter every year and people aren’t getting hurt like they used to.
What are the items you pay attention to now that you wouldn’t have in the past?
Now I’m a superintendent, so that makes a big difference. It’s my job to enforce the rules and I remind workers every day to do things like wear their safety glasses, use their fall protection properly, hydrate. Basically, all the things I didn’t pay attention to as a carpenter, I have to make sure everyone else pays attention to, now.
I walk my jobsite 2 – 3 times per day with a specific eye for items related to safety. You have to or you won’t see everything. Every day there are small reminders I give to people, and I try to keep it light and fun, but they know they need to follow the rules. I understand that they don’t want to follow the rules, since I’ve been in their shoes. But it is important. We don’t want to see anyone go home at the end of the day hurt.
We also have to think about safety as we plan for work items. We can’t just let people be ‘cowboys’ like we used to be. Doing the work the safe way isn’t always the fastest way, and most people don’t like to take extra time to perform tasks. But we reduce the risk of injury if we plan properly, so I help make sure that’s happening for all of our work tasks.
What motivates you to make sure your job sites are safe?
Well. As I’ve said, I understand why our workers don’t always want to follow the safety protocols. It’s not always very fun to follow them. But they’re my responsibility and having incidents or injuries on my site would mean I’ve failed my crew.
Also, we have these audits that our safety crews complete on a regular basis. They come out and there’s a set list of items that they review and we get scored on those. And I believe that anything less than 100% on my jobsite means I’ve failed. And I don’t like to fail! So I tell my crews and my foreman: follow the rules. Do it right. Anything less than 100% means we’ve failed. It really does motivate me to be better, so I pay attention to the safety stuff.
Do you think the safety efforts mean workers are safer now?
Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, being a carpenter or in the trades is still a physically demanding job. People are going to have aches and pains, or hit their thumb with a hammer or slice a finger. Maybe get a bee sting or a sunburn. There are risks to the job, but much less now than there used to be. With proper protocols in place it’s much harder for someone to have a serious accident.
There are hazards that workers tend not to think about, for whatever the reason. It’s easy to just get into the groove and forget to think about proper safety protocols. For instance, if you’re forming up something and realize you just need one more cut…so you try to just quickly make the cut and don’t think about putting your safety glasses on. It’s easy to have those lapses.
The thing is, you have to constantly remind workers to follow the rules, because it’s so easy to forget when you’re wrapped up in your work. Some of the PPE items aren’t super comfortable, but they’re important. And the more I remind the crews, the better they are about keeping up with the safety protocols.
Increasing safety on jobsites isn’t a task that is completed quickly. It takes hard work and strategic implementation of policies and programs, as well as nurturing the culture of safety so that every worker, from top down and bottom up, is willing to participate in the effort. As we have seen through George’s story, it also requires a transformation of thinking by those individuals who didn’t prioritize safety over production, but now understand its purpose and help to enforce safe practices on our construction sites.
We commend George and all of our workers on their efforts to improve on safety in our work.
The history of safety in construction is fraught with accidents and fatalities, with true focus on improving safety only emerging within the last 50 – 80 years. In fact, at the time of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was expected that one person would die for every $1 million spent. Since that time, a variety of regulations have been passed at both national and local levels, and the construction industry has also worked to increase awareness and education related to keeping workers safe onsite and encourage construction safety innovation.
Over time, advances in technology have made safe work practices increasingly achievable. In addition to safer tools and items like fall protection harnesses, netting and PPE protocols, advanced technologies like software programs, robotics and virtual reality are increasing access to education and the ability to complete work items while avoiding injuries or fatalities.
Today we explore the history of safety, the increased technologies available and look at what the future may hold for continuing efforts to improve the health and wellness of construction workers.
The OSH Act of 1970 – The Foundation of OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created the occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is more commonly referred to as OSHA. The goal was to ensure the health and safety of American workers by creating and enforcing safety standards; providing research, training, and education; and working with employers in order to promote safe work practices. Construction is now highly regulated by OSHA which, over time, has led to significant reductions in injuries, illnesses, and fatalities on jobsites.
Spurred by OSHA regulations, insurance providers, and both public and private companies, the construction industry has also taken on the continued improvement of safe work practices. Driven by demand, suppliers have simultaneously worked to increase technologies on construction tools and equipment to help further reduce worker injuries.
Improved Fall Protection
Fall protection is a big piece of the safety puzzle and was first worn in the 1920’s. The systems have evolved from simple waist belts to today’s modern systems that are more comfortable and backed by industry research. Modern systems are designed not only for life preservation, but also to minimize injury from the shock of hitting the end of the line in the event a fall does occur.
According to OSHA, falls are still the leading cause of death in construction. The installation and use of proper fall protection measures saves lives. Fall protection is now required when working at heights of 6 feet or greater. It also applies at heights of less than 6 feet when working near dangerous equipment.
OSHA also requires that employers provide fall protection training to their employees on an annual basis.
Technology of tools and ladders have continued to evolve to prevent falls, strains, and sprains. For instance, there are now ladders being produced that can be used in a variety of positions, where prior versions could only be used in a single manner, such as an a-frame or against a wall. The added flexibility of the newer ladders reduces the chance that it will be misused and potentially cause injury.
Other tool improvements include clutched drill motors to prevent torque caused fractures when they bind, vacuum attachments, to control airborne hazards such as silica, and battery powered tools, reducing the dependency on electrical cords. Additionally, employers now have several options to choose from when considering tool tethers and lanyards, reducing the likelihood of dropped tools. These small changes to how tools function significantly reduce injuries.
PPE and Wearable Technology
One of the more basic measures being used to improve worker safety is personal protective equipment (PPE). More widespread and universal use of basic PPE has greatly improved the day-to-day safety of workers on construction sites. Basic PPE includes high visibility safety vests, hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, and work boots. These basic items are greatly enhanced by the development of integrated heating and cooling mechanisms or materials, anti-fog treatments, and cut-free fabrics. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional items such as cloth face coverings, face shields, and long sleeves have been added to that list.
Along with standard PPE, there have been advances in wearable technology and tracking mechanisms such as smart watches, hard hats, vests, boots, and glasses. These trackers can look for fatigue, dehydration, or excessive repetitive motions as well as monitor for the presence of hazardous gases. While these products aren’t highly utilized currently, it’s likely just a matter of time before they’re commonplace.
3-D Modeling, Video and Software Systems
Modern times have brought the emergence of construction safety innovation and technology like 3D modeling. These technologies optimize our ability to plan for safety. For instance, virtual representations of full buildings can help plan for scaffolding erection, access routes, and attachment locations for safe tie-off points. Proper planning is the best prevention for accidents, and the virtual modeling now available allows that kind of planning to take place long before the work onsite even begins.
In addition to physical technology, software has become a great tool for improving safety on jobsites. Software programs can be utilized to track safety audits and inventory, collaborate across multiple jobsites, and provide training in offsite locations. Often this information can be parsed and reported on, providing valuable analytical data which can be used to provide further insights into project safety. Using data collected in the field, companies can identify dangerous or risky patterns and take steps to mitigate potential incidents or provide additional training where needed.
Another more modern innovation, video technology, has made a great impact on construction in a variety of ways. Tracking progress, weather conditions, and people onsite allows for greater accountability and transparency related to project conditions. Video recordings can provide:
- Historic documentation
- Evidence in the event of an incident
- Learning opportunities
Cameras are utilized in a stationary manner to watch construction, as part of motion sensing security systems, and in equipment and vehicles. Drones are often used for documentation purposes, as well as to explore compromised structures or record active construction while keeping people out of harm’s way.
Safety Technology of the Future
We are starting to see technologies that are even more sophisticated, such as Hilti’s exoskeleton. A variety of companies are working on exoskeleton technologies to provide support and physical enhancements to human labor, especially when it comes to high-risk activities like heavy lifting and repetitive motions.
Another emerging construction safety innovation is artificial intelligence which is making its way into safety, with smart video and smart goggles helping to identify hazards and predict issues before exposing workers to those hazards.
Proper planning and prevention is the best way to ensure worker safety, so improved technologies will only help reduce the instance of injuries and fatalities in construction. While we can’t predict exactly which of these technological advances will be implemented, the possibilities are exciting to consider.
Implementing Technology in the Workplace
The modern construction industry is well aware of the importance of maintaining and improving safety on jobsites but, it isn’t always easy to get individuals to adhere to optimal safe work practices. The key to implementing new safety measures requires that the workplace culture be open and accepting of new means and methods. Improving and increasing safety is a team effort; all parties from leadership to laborer must be willing to accept changes and enforce them.
Communication and collaboration to share knowledge are imperative, and technology is only helpful if properly utilized, shared, and implemented. Some characteristics of a great safety culture include:
- A passion for improvement;
- Buy-in from the top down and bottom up;
- Patience while new processes and procedures are implemented and accepted;
- Cooperation and communication amongst all workers;
- Sharing of lessons learned.
If this kind of culture is in place, then the implementation of new technologies will be better received and more easily implemented.
Here at Perlo, we put great emphasis on safety, construction safety innovation and finding ways to improve every day. We also strive to match our everyday actions with our Perlo Practices, creating a genuine, inclusive environment to increase health and wellness for our people.
In the recent election in Oregon, voters overwhelmingly passed bond measures to support our schools, with 14 passed out of at least 17 on the ballot, all for good reason. According to the US Government Accountability Office, a June 2020 report states that an estimated 54 percent of public school districts need to update or replace multiple building systems or features in their schools. There is a large emphasis on improving security, adding technology, upgrading systems for energy efficiency and monitoring health hazards, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 40 percent of school districts need to upgrade HVAC systems, as many systems are decades if not nearly a century old.
According to this US News & World Report article, the need to complete deferred maintenance and improve safety and health in our public schools is astonishing. The recent wave of passed bond measures across Oregon will help to fill that void.
Construction in school settings requires particular care in planning for safety and responsibly utilizing public funds. Here, we will explore the types of work occurring in schools, and the complexities that come with completing work in the K-12 education space, with challenges that arise due to the age of the buildings, deferred maintenance, occupied space considerations, and budget concerns.
New Construction and Remodels
The Pacific Northwest has seen its share of new construction of school facilities in addition to a large number of remodels and renovations. Those typically focus on upgrades related to:
- Building security
- Seismic upgrades
- Expansions to accommodate student populations
- Technology upgrades
- Gym renovations
- Roofing and HVAC system replacements
- Energy improvements
- Increase efficiency of space utilization
We have extensive experience in the education sector with the most recent being several remodels for the Gresham Barlow School District and North Clackamas School Districts. Most of these renovations occur during the summer months when students and staff are not occupying the buildings. Larger and more complex scopes of work may span a year or more.
Safety in School Construction
Environments occupied by and serving youth dictate an extra level of care specific to safety. While safety measures are imperative in other product types, schools present an added challenge as children are more susceptible to environmental contaminants and must be protected from the hazards that inevitably exist in work zones.
Special care is taken to install secure barricades and signage to separate the work zones from student zones, to avoid excessive noise or odor producing activities, and plan material deliveries and traffic routes to minimize the impact to school operations and maintain traffic flows.
Given the age of many public schools, hazardous materials abatement is often involved in renovation work. Close attention is dedicated to inspecting existing systems and materials containing hazards and completing the remediation work without contaminating the building. Workers in all trades are trained to recognize these hazards in the event that demolition activities reveal contamination where it was not expected.
Maintaining the optimum learning environment for students, and low levels of noise or disruption is our top priority.
Unlike private developments, school projects involve a long list of stakeholders due to the nature of their funding. Teams of decision makers directly involved in the project may be a large group, including:
- School principal and leadership
- School staff
- School board
- District facilities operators
- Building engineers
- Design partners
- Third party construction management firms
- Bond oversight committee members
The selected general contractor is a steward of public dollars, is accountable for managing the funds in a responsible manner, and must strive to meet a higher standard of care in completing this work.
One challenge that occurs with such a large variety of project decision makers is the ‘analysis paralysis’ that can sometimes come with group decision making in spite of the best intentions. In addition, most of those involved in making decisions will have varied priorities for each project. A good general contractor must find a way to collaborate and listen to each of them, ultimately finding the best path forward to meet as many individual needs as possible while still completing the work under budget and on schedule.
School projects, whether new or renovation projects, are tied to occupancy dates that cannot be moved. As is true with any construction work, meeting deadlines can be challenging when unanticipated impacts like weather delays, pandemics and other events interrupt the work. In this case, there is more than money at stake – the nature of some work is such that it cannot occur when students are inside the facility so finishing late is simply not an option.
Strategies that can be used to prevent schedules from being overrun might include:
- Hiring the general contractor on a negotiated basis in lieu of hard bid so that they can participate in preconstruction investigations and constructability reviews.
- Review subcontractor pricing not just for low price, but evidence that the company can sufficiently staff the project.
- Complete a thorough schedule analysis long before work commences and evaluate phasing options for completing the work.
- Relocate students and staff to portable buildings or offsite so that work can take place during the school year.
- Pre-ordering long-lead materials to arrive onsite prior to beginning work.
A variety of factors will go into decisions about scheduling of work, but the bottom line is that the building team, including the decision makers, general contractor and design teams must work in a collaborative manner to fully develop the scope of work, site logistics and materials used to complete the project.
Renovation Costs vs. Lifecycle Costs
One important component in education projects to consider is the lifecycle cost of anything that is constructed. Given that many schools in our country are decades or centuries old with budget limitations, these buildings must be planned to last for a very long time. Low cost cannot be the only consideration, as the materials and systems installed need to be high quality, long lasting and with as low of maintenance costs as possible – all while considering the learning environment they reside in.
In addition, designers and users must consider flexibility for the future. As technology changes, learning strategies evolve and populations and cultural priorities develop, so will the school needs to be able to adapt. Therefore, paying attention to all of these factors during the preconstruction period of the work is critical. Some examples may include:
- Installing hollow metal door frames and steel doors in lieu of less expensive door systems. While the first cost is increased, the quality and longevity of the product far outweighs the initial cost.
- Heating systems come in many shapes and sizes, and some are much more expensive than others to install, but have much lower operating costs.
- Lighting systems can include controls for daylighting or occupancy sensors to minimize energy use. Highly efficient light fixtures may have a higher cost initially, but lower cost to operate over time.
- Plumbing systems can be evaluated for water usage requirements but must consider the wear and tear from rambunctious children.
- Finishes must be evaluated not only for cost, but for their contribution to the learning environment. The colors of the walls or furniture, for instance, can impact the emotional well-being of students and their willingness and ability to learn.
It’s easy to get trapped in a ‘spend less’ mentality when public dollars are involved, but it’s critical to evaluate both the initial and life-cycle costs, as well as the environment we are providing for our children during planning discussions.
Construction in the K-12 space is anything but simple, with the variety of needs that must be met, tight schedules and varied stakeholder concerns. However, it’s critical work for improving the lives of our children, improving their education and responsibly stewarding public funds. With a good general contractor on board and extensive planning, these projects are successful and rewarding.
To see more of Perlo’s past experience, take a look at our education projects. If you would like more information about the services we can provide, please contact us here.
This week, we are joining in the industry wide effort to raise awareness and share best practices for increasing safe work practices through Construction Safety Week. From September 14 – 18, construction companies across the nation will engage in conversations about best practices, creating cultures that embrace safety, and striving for zero workplace injuries across all disciplines.
The topic of safety in construction is a big one, and for good reason. There continue to be too many onsite accidents that lead to musculoskeletal disorders, chronic health issues, severe injuries and even death. Worker fatalities still happen at a rate of more than 14 deaths per day across the country, with many more non-fatal injuries each year.
We are long past time that safety be a priority for every individual on all construction sites.
The good news is that many resources exist to help individuals and companies improve their safety programs. Today, we will explore some of the many options available for both individuals and companies to utilize to increase awareness and training as it relates to safety in construction.
Perhaps the most well-known governmental entity that works to provide training is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Commonly referred to as OSHA, their construction industry web pages include assistance and guidance to help identify, reduce and eliminate construction-related hazards.
In addition to the national OSHA assistance, there are typically state agencies such as Oregon OSHA and Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Both of these agencies offer consultations for businesses in their respective states.
Several colleges and universities offer degree programs in health and safety. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree to become a safety professional, OSHA has a list of the colleges and universities, searchable by degree type from certificates to doctorates. You can find this searchable database here. Some of the programs are offered by institutions such as:
• Northern Illinois University
• University of Cincinnati
• Rochester Institute of Technology OSHA Education Center
• Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center University of Washington
• University of South Florida
Third Party Consultation
Many third party consultants exist to help companies improve their internal safety programs. These companies can offer one-on-one help and insight, as well as onsite training and inspections. Here are just a few in the Pacific Northwest:
Many vendors that rent or sell safety equipment offer training services either online or onsite. Here are a few of them:
Other Educational Sources
Of course, some less formal training resources exist on the internet. Safety Talk Ideas help provide discussion points for safety professionals to use when speaking to crew workers. There are also great examples of employee safety training available online, such as Oregon State University, Portland State University and Washington State University.
There are also safety conferences for added education. One example is the Washington State, Governor’s Industrial Health and Safety Conference. This conference is all virtual this year and runs September 21 – 25, 2020.
In addition to these, some topics that are less directly related to construction activities and more related to mental health. 2020 has brought us plenty of challenges, but there has been a mental health crisis for many years in our country, and efforts need to be made to combat these concerns, as well. Perlo has put a new focus on helping employees through this time, and the industry as a whole is taking note of the challenges that people are facing with regards to this issue, as well.
It’s important that employers provide training and support for those who may be struggling with mental health challenges. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a myriad of resources to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. You can also call 1-800-723-8255.
Many health insurance providers will also have resources available for employers and employees, and we encourage you to ask about those services.
Perlo’s Safety Program
Perlo is dedicated to our safety program and is continuously evolving its practices so we can improve. We employ a full-time safety manager, assistant safety manager, and four field safety coordinators. All projects are visited on a regular basis by our safety team members. A unique site-specific safety plan and job hazard analyses is created by the project management team and safety manager prior to construction activities. We also align all of our efforts to our Perlo Practices.
Continuing education for superintendents and site management staff is considered and delivered prior to each project. The safety manager utilizes weekly Toolbox Talks to emphasize safe work practices and ensures all superintendents are certified in OSHA-10 and/or 30, CPR, first aid and AED.
Superintendents are trained to the competent person level in fall protection, trenching and excavation, scaffolding, and in the management of crystalline silica. Each workday begins with a daily huddle to emphasize safe work practices, issue work assignments, and coordinate work activities.
The ultimate responsibility for each job site lies with each superintendent, who are on-site during all working hours, and set up employees for success every day by providing the right tools, training and safeguarding the public from any construction activities we’re performing.
Safety on construction sites is our number one priority, and as we join the industry in celebrating Safety in Construction Week, we hope that the resources listed above will help others with improving their safety programs, too.
Be well. Be safe. Stay healthy. Join us this week, increasing the awareness of safety in construction, for yourself, and your fellow workers.
In recent decades, safety in the construction industry has risen to the forefront as a high priority for contractors, labor unions and project owners. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction fatalities still make up nearly 1 in 5 worker deaths for private sector workers, mostly attributed to falls, being struck by an object, electrocution and caught-in/between incidents. While worker injuries and illnesses are down significantly in the last 50 years, the industry still has work to do to eliminate injuries and deaths on jobsites.
Here at Perlo, we have developed a series of practices – known as the Perlo Practices – that we strive to represent each and every day. If we work in ways that are consistent with these practices as they relate to safety, we will continue to see rates of injuries decline. It is our goal that all our people go home each day as healthy as they came, without strains, sprains, abrasions or worse. Here we explore just how each of these practices relate to construction safety.
The right thing to do, every day, is to operate in a safe manner. This means empowering every person onsite to speak up and take action if they see unsafe work practices. It means operating safely even when you’re alone and no one is looking over your shoulder. It means taking the long way to complete a task if the short way cannot be accomplished without risking injury, or worse. The right thing to do is whatever it takes to ensure worker safety, for the smallest and the largest of tasks.
During his preconstruction review, a project Superintendent recognizes a large skylight opening presents a significant fall risk. Permanent fall protection anchors were not included in the original scope. The superintendent takes it upon himself to champion the installation of permanent fall protection anchors for not only the safety of his crewmembers, but for the safety of the client post-construction.
Prior to any task being completed, the aspect of safety must be considered. Ideally, solutions to any problems are found prior to beginning any assignment. If a problem is encountered while working, stop the work and take the time to find a solution that does not compromise the health and well-being of the workers onsite. Pre-task planning and consultations with competent persons and/or safety professionals are both ways to find reasonable solutions. Once solutions are identified, it is also important to share these with your co-workers, the company and the industry at large.
A worker is using a lift to install siding on a building. Suddenly the worker finds that they can’t reach the edge of the board and is tempted to reach beyond the limits of the lift. Instead of risking a fall, stop the work, take the time to move the lift. While this may add a few minutes to the task, the time taken is nothing compared to the worker sustaining a severe injury or death.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Every person on a jobsite is empowered to take action by either correcting it yourself or reporting to a competent person who can correct the unsafe practice. Safety applies to Perlo employees as well as the subcontractors we work with. Everyone plays a role in keeping jobsites safe, so that each individual can make it home safely.
While climbing a stair tower, an employee encounters a discarded water bottle on the landing that could pose as a trip/fall hazard. Instead of walking past, the worker picks up the water bottle, thus removing the hazard, and disposes of it in the garbage.
Quite simply, if you see something, say something. Always. Everyone has a responsibility to speak up when you see a hazard, a near miss, etc. Speak up immediately so the unsafe practice can be remedied. If you wait, you might be too late to prevent injury or death of one of your coworkers. There is no shame in reporting unsafe circumstances.
A Perlo employee sees a subcontractor utilizing a ladder that is too short. The stretch to reach could lead to a fall. Point out to that worker that they need to find an appropriately sized ladder for that task. A simple, ‘hey, I care about your safety. Please use a taller ladder’ is all you might need to make sure that worker goes home safely that day.
Safety is ever evolving and is not always black and white. The ways we operated ten years ago may be quite different than the ways we operate today. Sometimes there are situations that don’t fall within a standard or the standard doesn’t accurately depict the scenario, which forces us to get creative with solutions. Regardless, even if the path isn’t straight, we must seek the answer that does not endanger workers. Our path should always lead to the safe return of our people at the end of each workday.
While working on an elevated surface, an employee recognizes the fall protection available to her won’t allow continuous 100% fall protection to access the work area. Instead of disconnecting her fall protection system, the worker contacts her supervisor to devise a plan which will allow for continuous protection.
Always be looking for new, better ways to complete projects. If efficiencies can be found or safer ways to complete a task are discovered, report your findings. As a group, we can also investigate or create tools that can make work tasks safer. If we are always looking for ways to enhance how we operate, we will find improved solutions for operating safely and efficiently.
While testing a padded shoulder device during a panel tilt, an employee recommended that this device be offered to employees during brace placement activities, as well. He felt the extra padding would greatly reduce the stress from packing wall braces.
Many generations and companies have come before us that have established safe work practices. In addition, many organizations are working to inform workers about safe work practices, such as OSHA. Subcontracting partners have best practices specific to their areas of work that we can apply on our jobsites, as well. If we allow our ears to be open, the simple act of listening can teach us most of what we need to know.
Utilize resources such as the OSHA 30 class, the Perlo safety manual, and our safety professionals to raise awareness and solve problems. When ideas are shared, listen to them and think through each suggestion to determine whether it can improve the safety of our sites.
Prior to beginning an unfamiliar task, rally the crew and ask for their input. Perhaps someone has had past experience with the task and can be a resource, or collectively, a safe work plan can be established.
With any problem, there is rarely one solution. When identifying ways to complete tasks, identify all of the ways it can be done, consider the pros and cons of each, and then find the common ground to complete the task. If one worker has a faster but less safe way to complete an item, and another worker has a slower but safer way to complete the item, the safer option is the correct route. Settle on that strategy and move forward. We should always be looking for the optimal way to complete each task safely. Determining the right route will often involve sharing ideas and melding them together to find the optimal path forward.
While constructing a six-story self-storage building, it was identified the overhead powerlines would pose a significant hazard to employees. While working with OSHA Consultation, PGE, the building owner, the neighboring business, our effected subcontractors and the management, a safe work plan was developed. First, where possible, the power lines were moved away from the building. Second, a narrow swing stage scaffold was utilized instead of a standard boom or scissor lift. Next, the length of metal siding material was shortened to reduce the likelihood of it touching the charged overhead lines. All parties were given the opportunity to contribute to the solution and the task was accomplished without incident.
It can be easy to become complacent about safety, particularly when monotonous tasks are involved. It is imperative, however, that the same focus remain from start to finish. As projects near the end, during punch list repairs, for instance, it can be tempting to ‘cut corners’. Say there is a 6’ ladder nearby but a 10’ ladder is more appropriate to complete a task safely. Even though it will take time to grab the correct ladder, it is not worth risking the health and wellness of the worker. Remain diligent, all the way through the finish line.
If we embed safety as a top priority into our everyday culture, then actions to optimize the health and wellness of all workers will be the priority from start to finish, even if the safe route is not necessarily the fastest route to completion.
Safety should be just as much a focus on day one as on the last day of a project; it takes consistency and discipline. Our two-story, 127,000 SF Eugene VA Healthcare Center project ended with zero recordable incidents; this was largely due to the fact that safety was a daily conversation and everyone onsite took responsibility for it.
Safety and the efforts required to keep workers safe is often not seen as a ‘fun’ topic. But change the perspective here: a worker who goes home to his or her family each day is capable of maximizing the fun in their life and enjoying time with their family. A person who is severely injured or worse, is unlikely to have the same opportunities.
We want to make sure that we are recognizing those who are working safely, changing the narrative so that safe work practices are the admired and praised thing to do. With consistent, positive reinforcement for the safe behaviors we want to see, we can make sure the priority on our sites is for all workers to go home safely each day.
Did you know?
Did you know your safety team carries spot reward items? When they encounter someone going “above and beyond” with safe work practices, employees can be rewarded with anything from ball caps and camo framed safety glasses to flashlights and head lamps. Have you been caught doing something good lately?
The bottom line is that safety is priority #1 on our jobsites. We care about our people and their well-being both on and offsite, and want to see them living their best lives, free of injury, each and every day.
Perlo is a leader in the construction industry by addressing safety on all fronts – especially through this time of COVID-19. By embedding safe work practices into all of our daily activities, including the extra regulations to protect against the virus, we know that as a company and an industry, we can emerge with improved jobsite practices, strong morale, and healthy crews.
Safety is about more than a checklist or wearing the right equipment. It’s engrained in the Perlo Way and is part of how we look out for each other and serve our communities. Safety is something we take very seriously and have been addressing with appropriate changes in how we do things.
Safety is up to all of us and is the right thing to do. This ties into our core values, the first of which is to “Do what’s right.” By doing what’s right, we’ve been able to keep nearly 400 people in Oregon and Washington employed, as well as countless subcontractors and suppliers.
Safety on the jobsites.
Our partners have definitely noticed our attention to safety. As Scott Brimhall, General Foreman for Sturgeon Electric shares, “The Perlo Construction team, headed up by Lance Livingston, have done a great job of implementing and adhering to safety protocols. Everyone feels safe and morale is great. We truly appreciate the effort.”
The importance of clear communications.
Clear communication is the key to ensuring there are no surprises. We pride ourselves on taking a proactive approach, including sharing copies of our job hazard analyses and action plans on all of our work sites with both workers and clients. In addition, we’ve built a visible COVID-19 safety campaign on each jobsite. Through multiple banners and signs we spell out new policies and procedures so that everyone feels comfortable.
As Dennis Bonin, our Safety Manager, shares, “We have adapted to individual requirements of jobsites as well as meeting all of the State of Washington and State of Oregon safety policies. That’s been kind of a challenge to navigate, but certainly, we’re up to it. Our goal is to go beyond the requirements and be out in front of them!”
Safety as part of our culture.
At Perlo, safety is rooted in who we are as a culture. A key part of our safety program is encouraging our employees to speak up about any safety issues they see. This is particularly true now. Through this time, there are many unknowns. We make sure that our employees feel heard and that we’re actually taking action to address their concerns.
A key to staying up and running and supporting our teams is to explore all avenues for safety measures and to continue to stay ahead of the curve as we receive new information or approach new work tasks.
Our Safety Manager, Dennis, and our General Superintendent, Joe York, make sure to have ongoing conversations with OSHA consultants. By doing so, the Perlo team is able to implement a practical and realistic approach towards safety and the implementation of rules and regulations. As an example, Dennis and Joe created a solution for instances where employees can’t maintain a six-foot distance. For these unique instances, the Perlo Safety Team develops specific plans, and generally requires long sleeve shirts, safety glasses, a face covering, and gloves.
Support for our people.
We understand that as our people continue to come to work on a day-to-day basis, they may have different stressors or anxieties depending on how the situation moves at this challenging time.
To help employees cope with the COVID crisis, we’ve launched a #PerloStrong internal campaign. Lunches, produce boxes, sweatshirts, and stress-relief balls are just part of our response. We’re also stepping up our internal communications through the launch of our weekly “Perlo Post” which helps us reiterate our appreciation for all Perlo team members as well as keeping them apprised of ways they can get involved and be part of the solution.
Safety makes us strong.
Dennis and his team have implemented processes that ensure each superintendent stays in regular communication with a member of our Perlo Safety Team. Working closely together, they determine the risks and research ways to execute on tasks in the safest way possible. In short, safety is always the number one factor in everything Perlo does.
We commend Dennis and his team as well as all of our field and office workers for their continued commitment to safety. This foundation will keep us strong today and into the future.