With insurance coverage restrictions and limitations on the
minds of most roofing contractors, worker safety becomes even more
important as contractors try to keep losses to a minimum. But doing
so requires hard work—on the part of management and labor.
Professional Roofing asked three leading contractors what
the top 10 most important challenges are to implementing an
effective safety program; following are their responses.
Robert W. Bubenzer
Henry C. Smither Roofing Co. Inc.
- Inspect, don't expect. We all expect safety to be a high
priority in our companies. Obviously, no one wants to get hurt or
create unsafe conditions. It is important to conduct regular
inspections through all levels of a company. Field operations
always are a priority, but it is important not to forget office,
shop and warehouse environments. I think contractors need to
remember to conduct frequent safety walks and know a proper
inspection takes time.
- Top down, not bottom up. Ultimately, company culture is
set from the top down. It's typical to set policy and procedures
and implement them, and our challenge is to lead our safety efforts
from management. In my company, we ask ourselves: Does the office
get as much attention as the field operation? Is the office focused
more on the bottom line or the economics of safety? The saying,
"They don't care how much you know until they know how much you
care," applies in the case of implementing a safety program. For
example, we have joined forces with some of our competitors to form
a safety group. We hired a safety-consulting company to provide us
with "credits" we can use for anything from job-site inspections to
safety meetings in the office. Another example of showing we care
is we hired a nondenominational chaplain to act as a counselor to
our workers. All his meetings with workers are confidential, but he
does provide a log of how many workers have used his services. So
far, he has been a popular resource for our workers.
- Own versus rent. Another challenge facing roofing
contractors is whether to use "canned" safety programs or develop a
customized program. For example, should a contractor adopt forms
and policies from other companies, organizations or businesses, or
should he develop his own? Owning an integrated safety program is
considerably more expensive, but it will give employees a sense of
ownership in a safety program rather than considering it "just
- Walk the talk. I think company owners should make sure
safety walks are conducted in addition to safety talks. Most of us
conduct safety talks regularly. Safety walks, on the other hand,
are "hands on" and an effective way to eliminate safety hazards. A
walk can be done by management personnel or assigned to a crew
member. Safety walks take time, and it will mean a lot to a crew if
a company owner takes the time to show up on a job.
- Hit the target. To know whether our safety program is
effective, we have a target with measurable results. There are
several standard ratios used in the industry to determine whether
we are hitting our mark. Some things we analyze are experience
modification rates, recordable incident rates, loss-time frequency,
attendance at safety meetings, drug testing, etc. With our database
of information, we are able to tell whether accidents are more
frequent with a certain foreman or crew, specific to a labor
classification or common to a phase of work and specific to roof
systems. In addition, we can see whether our paperwork requirements
are too cumbersome.
- Sugar versus vinegar. Successful results come from
positive reinforcement. Most safety programs tend to focus on the
punitive, disciplinary aspects and not rewards. There are several
incentive programs that have been developed, and rewards don't
always have to be financial. We currently are in the process of
developing an incentive-based program. Until the program is
complete, we continue to stress positive attitudes, such as
focusing on what was done right in addition to what was done
- Power in numbers. It's a lot easier to move a boat if
everyone is rowing in the same direction. Our goal is to make sure
all the people in our company are on board with our safety program
(from the office personnel to the crews). If a contractor has a
union shop, he should ask himself whether the union membership and
leadership buy into his program. If a union contractor is facing
resistance from his crews with regard to safe work practices, he
should become more involved with the union and invite union
business agents to safety training meetings.
- The only constant is change. Safety programs are
dynamic. It takes a lot of time for a safety culture to develop and
mature. Shifts in crew composition, changes in management teams and
changes in roof systems installed all affect how well a safety
program can be implemented.
- No job is complete until the paperwork is done. Another
hindrance to an effective safety program is keeping track of the
training conducted, drug tests administered, safety meeting
rosters, toolbox talk participation, CPR/first-aid certifications,
driving qualifications, etc. We need to make sure all components of
our safety program are fully integrated. In addition, if our safety
program flounders, we may consider whether our record-keeping
process is too complicated or cumbersome. We need to make sure we
gather the correct information and know what we do with the
information we gather.
- Accountability. Finally, holding people accountable is
crucial to a successful safety program. We try to make sure
everyone knows his specific role and responsibilities and what will
occur if they do not fulfill their responsibilities. We currently
are developing a series of checklists specific to our program and
To read the article in its entirety, please log in or register (registration is free).
Log in or register for FREE access to this article and other Professional Roofing online content.