www.agc.org • February 2016  

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently renewed its alliance with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners (including AGC of America) to protect workers in roadway construction work zones from injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The renewed alliance will continue for five years.

The alliance promotes a culture of safety in the roadway construction industry, especially among non- and limited-English speaking workers. Members collaborate to reduce workplace incidents, especially preventing worker exposures to run-over and back-over hazards, excessive noise, sprains and strains, and illnesses related to silica exposure.

"Employees who work in highway construction work zones face serious dangers, not only from construction equipment but from motorists as well," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "I am confident that the information and resources generated from this renewed alliance will prove beneficial in reducing worker injuries and fatalities."

Created in 2007, the alliance has developed case studies on worker fatalities in roadway work zones, produced an infographic on the causes of the fatalities, and contributed to the development of documents and training courses to prevent falls and other construction safety hazards. The Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners have distributed information on OSHA’s campaigns to prevent falls in construction and reduce the risks of heat illness.

Signatories include the American Road and Transportation Builders Association; National Asphalt Pavement Association; Laborers’ International Union of North America [LIUNA]; Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America; LIUNA Training and Education Fund; International Union of Operating Engineers; Associated General Contractors of America; International Safety Equipment Association; and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Through its alliance program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. Alliance program participants do not receive exemptions from OSHA inspections or any other enforcement benefits.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
WEBINAR: Toxic Employees and Bullies; What are They Costing You?
February 25, 2016 
2 - 3 p.m. Eastern

Retention of your best employees is especially crucial in today’s recruitment climate. When one of them leaves, there is no guarantee you can replace them in a timely manner. The number one reason employees say they began thinking of leaving their position is "disrespect." Bullying tactics are the height of disrespect. Retaining toxic employees and bullies has a number of costs; one of them is the loss of positive, ethical employees. Bullies target these individuals because they speak up and promote positive change. The other is lost productivity. Sign up for our webinar "Toxic Employees and Bullies; what are they costing you?" and learn more about why companies put up with the manipulation, abuse and intimidation tactics commonly used by toxic employees. Learn why supervisors and human resources don't DO something about it? Workplace power dynamics are complicated. Learn how they get a foothold and how supervisors and others are neutralized. The solution is to define a positive culture and begin to shift the workplace. These negative employees can be terminated but it will take some preparation and a strategic approach. 
97th Annual AGC Convention 
March 9-11, 2016 
San Antonio, Texas
Grab your hats, don your boots, and join your fellow construction industry professionals at the 97th Annual AGC Convention, March 9-11, 2016, at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio. As our premier event each year, the AGC Annual Convention and Technology & Construction Solutions Expo is the ideal opportunity to see everything AGC can do for you and your business.  Join us for more than 15 education breakouts, terrific networking events and industry leading speakers, all in a perfect location for business, culture, family and fun ... San Antonio.
Learn more.
AGC Safety Management Training Course 
March 14-16, 2016 
O'Fallon, Illinois 

The AGC Safety Management Training Course (SMTC) provides attendees three days of training on the basic skills needed to manage a company safety program in the construction industry. The program builds on Focus Four training and prepares attendees to manage key safety issues on the job site and provides techniques for delivering basic safety training to field personnel. Participants will receive intensive instruction and training that will allow them to return to their firms with readily applicable new skills to positively impact their company’s safety and health program.
Third Annual National Safety Stand Down 
May 2-6, 2016
OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Center for Construction Research and Training will hold the third annual National Safety Stand-Down May 2-6, 2016, to raise awareness of the serious risk of falls in the workplace. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, and lack of proper fall protection remains the most frequently cited violation by OSHA. More than 4 million workers have participated in the last two years, dedicating themselves to on-the-job safety. This year the stand-down will highlight the safe use of ladders and encourage employers to pause during their workday for topic talks, demonstrations and training on how to prevent falls. For more information on the success of last year's stand-down, see the final data report. Visit the 2016 National Safety Stand-Down webpage for more updates.
Best Practices

The average safety hard hat weighs approximately 14 ounces. The average worker’s head weighs 14 pounds. So there is an ounce of safety for every pound of head — provided the head protection is properly worn and maintained. But there is more to safety than the equipment protecting the noggin. And hard hat talks, regularly scheduled construction safety meetings, should extend beyond the topic of actual hard hats; content must reflect not only the culture and climate of safety on the jobsite, but utilize effective and efficient means to educate workers. In addition, they should support engagement as some of the most powerful lessons in worker safety come from the worker, as a result of topics or questions posed by the supervisor.

The construction industry has recently begun to recognize that safety cannot be an afterthought, but instead needs to be a priority that drives all decisions from the top down and bottom up. A safe work environment free of seen and unseen hazards must be non-negotiable and as such, should be something that is understood as the single most important way in which to proactively avoid accidents and ensure worker safety.

To that end, how do those charged with creating a strong culture and climate of safety evolve past the outdated models that often include a short video, a scripted generic monologue leaving no room for discussion, or — worst case scenario — a handout with little or no explanation or consideration for worker literacy levels and potential language barriers?

Safety does not happen in a vacuum and as such, just like other aspects across the continuum of a construction worksite, hard hat talks, once seen as informal safety meetings, must now be recognized as powerful tools and part of the entire safety plan with the singular focus to keep workers safe.

It’s imperative that the person spearheading these meetings has direct supervision over the worker. In the ever-evolving process and day-to-day adjustments of keeping the worker safe, choosing to bring a safety manager to a hard hat talk might seem like a good idea, but in fact can lead to unnecessary confusion as to who is directly charged with the day-to-day safety of the worker, that of the supervisor.

Generic topics do not work, as safety is not generic and must be site- and task-specific. Therefore, a supervisor must take the necessary time to ensure that discussions are not only specific, but highly relevant to the workers for whom he or she is responsible.

Recognizing that not all supervisors are comfortable speaking publicly, even if it is to workers with whom they interact every day is simply not an excuse for poorly executed hard hat talks. When one assumes the role and responsibility of ensuring the safety of others, he or she must also take responsibility for the entirety of that job description and work to overcome any personal challenges that impede effectively communicating worker safety.

The effectiveness of these meetings is determined by:

  • How topical to the subject matter is to the tasks expected of the worker,
  • How relevant the topic is to the job at hand, and
  • How accessible the presentation is and how easy is it for workers to understand the entire discussion.
Another area of consideration is the frequency of hard hat talks. As with all aspects of safety and in turn creating a strong culture and climate of safety, these discussions cannot be applied haphazardly and should also reflect the level of hazard associated with a specific jobsite and the specific tasks being asked of the worker.

Collectively, if the industry is to make it a priority, weekly hard hat talks are simply not enough. Historically, it has been argued that this gives the supervisor time to assemble a crew based on varying schedules as well as prepare for an effective discussion. Given the data generated from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this approach has not worked as was once hoped. Construction workers continue to suffer catastrophic as well as fatal injuries far above the national average and therefore greater regularity will in turn reinforce an overall commitment to ensuring a safe work environment.

Traditionally approached as informal in nature, the movement toward a more formalized process appears to be a large part of the solution to keeping the construction workforce safe, but formality should not be confused with the need for a long drawn out discussion which is counter productive. Hard hat talks are most effective when they are focused and well planned. Ironically, it is in fact the shorter format that usually requires the most preparation as the supervisor must be ready and extremely well-versed on the topics to be discussed. Cutting through unnecessary information that may be interesting (but not relevant) and narrowing the talk down to essential information while presenting an engaging and supportive discussion takes time, creativity and a willingness to no longer settle for the status quo.

Worker safety is an enormous responsibility and although part of a large and complex system comprised of policies, procedures, regulations and industry standards, the process of imparting important safety-related information and knowledge to workers need not be overwhelming to the supervisor. The potential effectiveness for well-constructed hard hat talks is quite promising and as such, the industry must rise above what has been done in the past and meet the future with a sense of urgency and creativity driven by a genuine desire to keep the worker safe.

Joshua Estrin is a senior associate at Osprey, Florida-based construction forensic services firm Stephen A. Estrin & Co. Inc., an AGC of Greater Florida chapter, specializing in behavioral safety management. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University, in New York City. He can be reached at joshua@sa-estrin.com.

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