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Safety Really Is Job #1

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by Levi Schrock, chair of CFA Safety Committee

Throughout the years, safety has been a subject of conversation at the CFA. We confess, however, that it has usually been brought up as a reaction to a hot topic posed by OSHA. Today, we hope to be advanced enough in our thinking to be talking about safety long before OSHA comes up with a relevant rule, or before one of our members gets cited, or before our association has to look at insurance options. We now recognize that safety needs to be prioritized in the same ranks as accounting strategy, production growth, new business ventures, advancing technology, human resourcing best practices, ownership structure, and all other important areas in a business. We propose a radical way of not just “doing” safety but being inherently safe.

But how does a residential foundation construction company learn safety’s best practices for our industry? In America today, we do not see published writing on safety in our industry at all, much less helpful advice. Sure, we have OSHA like everyone else; but the truth of the matter is that the strategies and techniques on how to best implement and grow in safety in the residential foundation construction market are not widely known (much less communicated).

For starters, the CFA overhauled and rebooted our safety committee in the fall of 2017, asking company leaders to put together a board of safety professionals from within our membership (not another industry). This diverse group has been taking a hard look at “OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs,” and they are putting a CFA spin on how these practices relate to companies in our industry. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to read an intensive “safety’s best practices” guide that was designed with only our industry in mind? Since such a document does not properly exist (we hope one is out there, but if there is, we cannot find it), we decided to make our own.

Necessity is the mother of invention, but all too often we only see necessity too late. The best businesses will see a problem before it has arrived and proactively change processes to avoid that problem. Businesses that wait to deal with the negative consequences of poor safety are either doomed to fail or lucky to survive. However, if we know ahead of time that poor safety performance will absolutely result in such dire consequences, why do so many of us put off safety precautions? Let’s be honest: Is safety a true consideration when injuries are down, insurance is happy, and OSHA is not interested in your business? For most companies in our industry, ownership is too busy dealing with other “emergencies” from everyday business to be concerned with average safety performance. To our own dismay, we often misinterpret the effectiveness of consistently dealing with safety. Similar to the prospect of “buy low, sell high,” safety needs to be a priority when it is not a hot topic, not only when it is what everyone is talking about – having this shallow view on safety will rob you of the greatest rewards that safety can offer your company. We want to show you what these great rewards can be.

Our safety committee will soon be publishing a work that will include a walk-through of OSHA’s guidelines for having a safety program, tips from some of our company’s more successful safety ideas, and even some lessons that have been learned the hard way (which will hopefully help you avoid some of the issues we have run into). The amount of information from one company may be good, but when we combine the CFA’s resources from our diverse membership and experiences, we find a wealth of knowledge that needs to be shared. To give a practical example of the kind of information that will be offered in the safety guide, here’s a sneak peek into the kinds of ideas we are compiling:

Be Present in the Doc’s Office: Continuing with the thought of knowing your doctor well, you should know the visit well, too:
“For this one you need to really have the trust of the doctor and the trust of the injured employee, and even if you do have the trust of both, you should ask permission every single time. However, if you do this right, you can be allowed (welcomed, even) to sit in on the injured employee’s doctor visits. This was huge for our company. I usually sit completely quiet in the room. In this scenario, I hear the doctor/patient conversation firsthand, and know for myself exactly what was said. The employee must stick with this story now and should the doctor’s paperwork look anything different from what I hear the doctor say in the visit, I can call and have it corrected. Also, the employee is now put in a spot where s/he must tell the doctor what s/he has told me. For instance, I once had an employee complain of back pain. When I took this employee to the doctor and sat in on the appointment, this employee went on and on about pain in his knee and elbow. This not only opened my eyes to foresee the motive this employee had in going to the doctor, but it made it infinitely easier to prepare for (rather than if I would have heard this from the doctor later and then tried to pick up the pieces). I’ve also found that being in the doctor visit I can give all the necessary work comp/company info that the employee doesn’t know, which makes the paperwork way easier later. And finally, I’ve been able to help bridge the gap in understanding regarding the work we do. The doctors have a difficult job, and when a wall worker has to explain what s/he was doing when the injury occurred, the physician just has to interpret the work the best that s/he can. When I am present, I can usually explain the job process and how it makes sense that the employee was injured doing a particular duty (which can help the doctor diagnose what the problem might be). I won’t pretend this strategy doesn’t have a downside, but there are many reasons as to why it is beneficial to invite yourself to these doctor visits.”

This excerpt is an example of what we will be providing to help educate our members. Everyone has a story or an idea – this safety guide holds great power in bringing many of these thoughts and stories together.

Whether safety is a thriving aspect of your company’s culture or is still in its infant stages, stay tuned to see what the CFA safety committee will be producing in mid-2018. To that note, never hesitate to ask safety questions of the CFA. We don’t pretend to be all-knowing, but through collaborative group efforts our members have likely encountered some useful answers for most questions you may have. We look forward to a safer 2018 with this renewed focus in mind.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us