Glazing Contractors Share Jobsite Safety Tips, and
by Megan Headley and Ellen Rogers
Even as construction jobsites are seeing fewer fatal work injuries (see
“BLS Report Shows Decrease in Number of Private Construction Fatalities,”
on page 26), glazing contractors received a stark reminder that safety
should be a primary focus on every jobsite. On August 30, a 49-year-old
glazier with Swanson Glass, suffered a fatal head injury on a jobsite
in Iowa (see “Iowa Glazier Dies on Jobsite,” on page 25).
Jobsite safety training can take a variety of forms, with the most critical
aspect being regular reminders and updated training for all employees.
For the glaziers with Massey’s Plate Glass & Aluminum, headquartered
in Branford, Conn., every job begins with a safety talk. “Before we start
we go over the job-specific hazard analysis,” says Phil Delise, vice president
of Massey’s. “Once we put that together we assemble the troops. When we
get on the job we go through, not only the safety protocol, but also the
material safety data sheets (MSDS), and then we get into the more job-specific
For the projects on which Massey’s employees work—as with any commercial
glazing contractor working on high-rises—falls are the most common risk.
“Based on the [building] layout you might have high hazard areas where
you can’t get a boom lift in where you have to potentially work with coming
up with a custom tie-off system,” Delise says.
Although many commercial projects are unique, training on the most common
safety hazards—fall hazards being chief among them—should be a regular
“We have several training programs that are ongoing,” says Ted Derby of
LCG Facades, a glazing contractor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Among them,
LCG takes advantage of a safety training program sponsored by the local
chapter of the Associated General Contractors. “They have a pretty good
program, especially for our jobsite superintendents,” Derby says. “They
do safety training on an off-site basis … and they’ll guide the rest of
us through what they learn.”
Accurate Glass Works, a glazing contractor in Boca Rotan, Fla., also relies
on employees to disseminate safety training. “We also rely on our veteran
employees to conduct specialized [training] on glass handling, such as
the importance of wearing gloves every time you touch glass, even if the
edges are polished,” says Bill Parker, general manager for Accurate Glass.
Parker adds that the company offers weekly “toolbox talks” on safety,
as well as training on CPR, first-aid and OSHA courses.
Danny Davis, principal of the subcontractor Arrow Glass & Mirror in
Austin, Texas, says his company’s safety manager is responsible for attending
OSHA classes and trainings and then scheduling training with field employees.
“We make sure [employees] are trained on all of the equipment we use,
such as harnesses, lifts, etc. The safety manager is also responsible
for documenting the training and making sure that training is part of
our standard operating procedures (SOPs),” Davis says.
Dave Nohr, president of Glassworks in Muskego, Wis., says his glass installation
company works closely with vendors that offer certifications and/or training
on various equipment types such as forklifts and scaffolding.
“We utilize those vendor relationships,” Nohr says. He adds that they
provide a higher base rate of pay for those employees who are certified.
“The certifications also have to be maintained continually.”
LCG works proactively with OSHA to ensure there are no hazards in its
fabrication areas. “We invite OSHA [representatives] to come to our shop
and our fabrication facility—and they will do that at no charge—and make
a recommendation list of things that need to be corrected. Once we’ve
made the corrections we invite them back to inspect so that we can have
those safety inspections logged in with OSHA and become part of a support
approach rather than a negative experience,” Derby says. “We try and do
that every six months.”
Accurate Glass provides employees with a safety manual that covers general
construction worksite safety as well as areas specific to glass. “Our
number-one rule is that every job is a hard-hat job,” Parker says.
"When we get on the job we go through, not only
the safety protocol, but also the material safety data sheets (MSDS),
and then we get into the more job-specific potential hazards."
—Phil Delise, Massey’s Plate Glass
Incentives for Safety
While regular training should keep jobsite safety awareness fresh on glaziers’
minds, some companies and industry organizations go further in promoting
For example, in 2005 the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
(IUPAT), its signatory employers and the Painters and Allied Trades Labor
Management Cooperative Initiative (LMCI) launched a program with the goal
of instilling a new culture of safety in the workplace.
“It’s called STAR: Safety, Training, Awards, Recognition. Basically
it’s an incentive based program funded by the LMCI and our employers
to reward workers for attending advanced safety training classes
and maintaining a safe jobsite record in the workplace,” says Kevin LaRue,
administrator, Painters & Allied Trades – LMCI. “Those who meet both
of those criteria are invited to attend an awards ceremony at the
end of the program year where they’re eligible to win a number of
very nice prizes.”
LaRue adds, “It’s a win-win situation for everybody: our workers
are safer on the jobsite and have the opportunity to get rewarded for
it with some great prizes, and our employers enjoy a better bottom
line since they’re seeing a reduction in costs such as workers’ compensation
When Massey’s Plate Glass’ employees go a month without injuries, the
company offers incentives to keep them focused.
“On the larger projects especially where we have anywhere from 15 to 35
guys working, we have Massey paraphernalia that we like to hand out …”
Delise points out, “We try to isolate that to a person that’s demonstrated
[safe behavior] based on feedback from the foreman.”
Not all contractors are quick to latch on to these types of programs.
“We’ve talked about doing that but at this point we haven’t offered anything
at this point,” Derby says. “We have a real high expectation that we’ll
work safe, I guess.”
Some federal government officials have gone a step further by publicly
airing concerns that incentive programs can promote a less safe environment,
by rewarding workers for not reporting workplace injuries or illnesses.
A November 2009 report on injury and illness recordkeeping from the Government
Accountability Office (GAO) stated, “… These programs can discourage workers
from reporting injuries and illnesses … in addition to missing the chance
to win prizes for themselves, workers who report injuries and illnesses
may risk ruining their coworkers’ chances of winning such prizes.”
Focusing on employees who have demonstrated particularly safe behavior—rather
than the lack of reported injuries alone—can be one way to make these
incentive programs work well.
The GAO report also stated, “… Because employers’ workers’ compensation
premiums increase with higher injury and illness rates, employers may
be reluctant to record injuries and illnesses. They also said businesses
sometimes hire independent contractors to avoid the requirement to record
workers’ injuries and illnesses because they are not required to record
them for self-employed individuals. Stakeholders also told us employers
may not record injuries and illnesses because having high injury and illness
rates can affect their ability to compete for contracts for new work.
The injury and illness rate for worksites in certain industries, such
as construction, affects some employers’ competitiveness in bidding on
the same work.”
That specifically occurs as a company’s experience modification rating
(Mod) moves further above 1.0—the rating, calculated by organizations
such as the National Council on Compensation Insurance, compares a company’s
workers’ compensation claims to employers of a similar size in that industry.
Return to Work
When a loss-time injury does occur on a jobsite, many glazing contractors
institute a return-to-work program that allows the employee to take on
some duties and allow the employer to remain productive—and lower workers
“These are individually based upon what the physician tells us, such as
a light work load,” says Nohr. “So the employee will be on a light work
duty until the doctor tells us otherwise.”
Davis agrees. “Employees would go on a light-duty program until they are
able to be back in full,” he says.
“We work with our insurance company on this and they work directly with
the doctors on when the employees can resume work,” Parker says.
“It’s on a per-case basis,” Delise says of Massey’s program. “If we’re
told that this person is available for light duty, we have to evaluate
what that light duty restrictions are.”
Workers’ compensations claims can be a significant burden, especially
for smaller companies, but should be reported immediately to the insurance
“It’s important to have a program in place and a safety director and to
make sure everyone follows the rules,” Nohr says. “If you have a worker’s
comp claim, don’t treat it lightly; immediately report it to the insurance
company and follow their guidelines, because if you don’t then your liability
just expands. Also be sure and follow through on the physician’s orders.”
Delise adds, “Our insurance carrier has a program where they would investigate
any claims that are potentially questionable.”
Some installers may work with specialized groups, through their insurance
provider or independently, that will “manage” a jobsite injury and any
ensuing workers compensation claim. While these groups can be a resource
for safety training and help reduce compensation costs, some see this
as another path toward pressuring workers to under-report illness or injury.
“Like all consultants in every industry, some are better than others,”
comments Lyle Hill, president of MTH Industries in Chicago. “Most good
insurance companies have their own field investigators and they typically
do an outstanding job … mostly because it’s usually going to be their
money that gets spent.
“The bigger the underwriting insurance company, the better the investigators
are going to be and typically the more aggressive, as well. They won’t
waste much time on small claims but will work very hard (and creatively,
I might add) to mitigate losses on a potentially large claim,” he adds.
Delise offered a suggestion for reducing minor jobsite injuries based
on research the company has done. “We’re finding out approximately 35
to 40 percent of the injuries we’re accounting have to do with some sort
of stretching … where people were not in the position to properly move
and lift,” he explains.
“One thing we’ve been trying to move toward with contractors [is a] …
program where, when you start the job in the morning, everybody goes out
and they do a stretching program, and that’s how they start the day. Now
they’re alert, now they’re awake, they’re stretched and they’re ready
to start the job.”
The downside, Delise says, is that the costs for reduced work time take
off the company’s competitive edge when it comes time to bid. Still, he
continues to recommend the program to GC’s and fellow subs alike.
Davis advises ensuring that employees are really using the information.
“Have a safety manual for employees to read and sign off on that they
truly comprehend what it says; daily safety updates are important as well.
You want employees to understand that they are important and you don’t
want them getting hurt,” he says.
Iowa Glazier Dies on Jobsite
Tom Fosdick of Swanson Glass, a commercial glazing contractor based in Des
Moines, passed away on September 1 as a result of a head injury sustained
on a jobsite on August 30. He was 49.
According to an article in the Press-Citizen, Fosdick died as a result of
a fall while working on renovations to the University of Iowa Boyd Law Building.
The Press-Citizen article also reported that the general contractor on the
project, Miron Construction, has a record of 19 workplace safety violations
with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). A search
of OSHA records found no such violations for Swanson Glass or KAS Investment,
its Rochester, Minn.-based parent company.
KAS notes on its website, “Employee safety has been a leading point of emphasis
for KAS Investment Co. since opening its doors 30 years ago. It is the policy
of KAS to strive for the highest safety standards on our projects and in
our shop facilities.”
As of press time, a representative from KAS had not responded to USGlass’
request for comment on the details surrounding the accident.
BLS Report Shows Decrease in Number of Private Construction Fatalities
Are workplaces and jobsites becoming safer? Possibly. According to the
United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preliminary
results of its 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) saw 4,340
fatal work injuries, down from 5,214 fatal work injuries in 2008. The
BLS says the 2009 total represents the smallest annual preliminary total
since the CFOI program was first conducted in 1992.
The construction industry, specifically, also saw declines last year in
terms of fatalities. The report notes that while construction workers
incurred the most fatal injuries of any industry in the private sector
in 2009, the number of fatalities in construction declined 16 percent
after a decline of 19 percent in 2008. However the BLS reports that economic
conditions may explain much of this decline, as the total hours worked
declined 17 percent in construction in 2009, after a decline of 10 percent
the year before.
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