Construction Safety Week is this week, and while safety should be the number one priority on any jobsite year round, this week gives glaziers and glazing contractors an opportunity to come together and recommit to jobsite safety. However, many glazing contractors say that construction safety week is every week at their company.
Giroux Glass holds mandatory, bi-weekly safety meetings in-house to keep its workers prepared consistently. Director of marketing Barbara Kotsos says the company regularly inspects all safety equipment and replaces it if needed.
“We also keep the topic of safety top of mind by reminding employees throughout the company of its importance to us in the form of an all-employee game of bingo. We select daily bingo numbers for each day of work completed without any safety incidents. The prize amount increases for each safe day of work, and when the bingo card is filled, a jackpot prize is awarded. The prize can hit high amounts, because the jackpot continues to grow, even after cards are filled, until a safety incident should take place. For this reason, everyone—from the guys in the field to the employees who process our invoices—watches the game closely and keeps our safety in their thoughts,” she says. “We remind our employees that their safety is of utmost importance. We also educate them on the cost of workers’ compensation; on our experience modification rate (EMR); and how it affects the cost of our insurance. We remind them never to compromise their safety or hold back on reporting incidents merely for the sake of saving the company money. We strongly believe that if we don’t hear about an incident, we would lose the opportunity to learn from it and improve our safety practices.”
Giroux also conducts daily task hazard analysis on all projects before the work day begins, and holds weekly tailgate meetings at all jobsites to review adherence to safety protocol.
“Employees who demonstrate a lack of awareness regarding correct safety procedures will be trained or retrained before returning to the jobsite,” says Kotsos.
COVID-19 safety has added another layer to jobsite safety protocols and procedures. Steve Metzger, health and safety manager at the Finishing Trades Institute of the Mid-Atlantic Region, says companies have continued to hold toolbox talks throughout the pandemic, though these are now socially distanced or presented digitally to prevent exposure.
“It’s an opportunity for the pandemic safety officer or foreman to address the crew and ask workers on the job if they have any symptoms,” he says. “A lot of guys go through screenings with temperatures checks and questionnaires but it can become repetitive.”
He says that some people may fill them out automatically. Having a safety officer reach out to the crew and talk to them directly creates another chance for workers to reflect upon how they’re feeling.
Joe Clabbers, president of National Glass & Metal Company outside Philadelphia, says that his company focuses on timely topics during their toolbox talks.
“In the summer we talk about heat exhaustion and in the winter we talk about exposure,” he says. “We try to make the topics applicable to the task at hand.”
Eureka Metal & Glass Services of Philadelphia requires each employee to sign the toolbox talks every week.
“If the guys see something is off they can talk to us. We’ll get a safety specialist if needed, refine the issue and then retrain it,” says president Terry Webb.
Clabbers also emphasizes that safety is a mindset.
“It requires constant reminders and policies and procedures in place to be followed. We try to engage our workforce via our safety committee and other activities to facilitate the development of our safety culture,” he says, adding that his company constantly is looking to implement the latest and most effective safety procedures.
Metzger describes safety culture as a two-way street. He says that if company leadership actively shows their employees that they care about them, their employees will care about themselves.
“Cutting corners with safety backfires a lot. The cost savings is tenfold when something goes bad. $100 for a new piece of fall protection equipment goes a long way,” he says. “… Safety can be cut out for financial reasons or time constraints but that’s when things go wrong. Successful companies have great safety cultures.”
Webb adds that companies should accept the fact that they need to spend money to be safe on a continuous basis.
“Once you’ve accepted that and you’ve spent enough money you can begin training on safe practices every week and verifying that training. In two years your insurance losses should reflect that you’ve been doing that. You may even save money by spending the extra money,” he says. “But it’s not about the money, it’s about the men. You have to spend money to keep your team safe.”
Metzger also emphasizes the importance of having an open door policy and being open to feedback from those on the jobsite.
“Listen to workers when they say something might not be safe. No one knows better about what the dangers are than the person there performing the tasks. You should respect the opinion of the guy doing the work,” he says.