Almost everyone I talk to these days is concerned about and focused on issues related to jobsite safety, especially when it comes to installed sales. Even though the margins for installed sales can be quite attractive, all it takes is one accident to wipe out the profits for an entire year, not to mention possibly ruin someone's health.
Several of my clients have a designated safety manager whose job it is to ensure that installed sales crews—both in-house employee teams and subcontractors—are fully briefed and trained on jobsite-related safety issues. This doesn't just include personal protective equipment (goggles/glasses, steel-toe work boots, hard hats, etc.), but also fall protection, ladders, power tools, power generating equipment, and vehicles.
Ladder safety is one issue that comes immediately to mind. When installing windows in new construction, do your installers use ladders or set up scaffolding? If they use ladders, do they set them in place properly—bracing the lower legs and ensuring that the angle is correct—or do they just slam them up against the house and get on with business. I realize that time is money, but properly 2006 setting a ladder takes only an extra 30 seconds. Isn't that small amount of time worth it to ensure that a ladder will not tip or fall, injuring a worker and racking up costs?
Another everyday item that you need to constantly be thinking about is safety glasses. Too many installers shun them because of discomfort or they just plain forget; many workers are not thinking that it only takes a second to alter a life. Take my close friend, for example. While using a drill/driver at an odd angle, the screw he was driving broke, sending a piece through his right eye. Doctors couldn't save his sight. He made two stupid (read, preventable) mistakes: first, not wearing protective eyewear and second, forcing the tool to work at an odd angle and applying too much pressure on the screw to keep the bit centered. But it was a hot day and the glasses were fogging up, and he was tired and in a hurry to finish up.
“Hurrying up” is a common theme for a lot of workplace accidents. One contractor I know arrived at work a bit late, parked, and dashed out to the jobsite so quickly he ran into the end of a ladder hanging on the side of his truck. He caught the corner of his eye on the ladder, and the injury required a significant number of stitches to close.
Were either of these two incidents preventable? You bet. Would a safety program have helped to keep these workers from having a mishap on the job? There's no way to know for sure. But a safety program—with continual reminders and training—can improve awareness and increase the likelihood that your employees and/or subcontractors will stop and think before they act.
My advice is to designate a safety manager and hold regular safety meetings (and be sure to document the topics and attendees). These meetings can be as simple as “tailgate talks” a couple days a week. Hold them in the morning for 10 to 15 minutes before the crews start work, addressing different topics each time. They don't have to be accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation and role-playing, but should just share common-sense advice based on tried-and-true safety practices.
In addition, make sure you have jobsite safety checklists and contractor safety compliance forms. The bottom line is that we have to take the time to be safe—if not, we'll have to take the time to recover.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If your company does not have job-site safety checklists and contractor safety compliance forms, contact me for free examples.