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5 Ways HBW Makes Safety a Priority Celebrating Construction Safety Week
We’re gearing up to observe Construction Safety Week here at HBW Construction, but the reality is that we prioritize safety all of the time and on every job site. For us, safety is a 365-day effort that has earned us a reputation for being safer than required – because our processes often exceed our Federal, State, and local regulations.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 80 percent of workplace accidents are caused by behaviors, and 20 percent are caused by unsafe conditions. Recognizing these dual challenges has shaped the way we hire, train, support, and verify safety on the job.
HBW views safety as an all-or-nothing issue – you’re either 100 percent all in, or you’re unsafe. It sounds a bit dramatic, but we see job site safety as a sign of respect. Respect for our workers, respect for our clients, and respect for our craft. For HBW, doing the job right means doing it safely.
Safety, from the top down
Safety at HBW starts at the top and trickles down. We train all of our superintendents to uphold our level of construction safety. No matter their experience level, we have new superintendents shadow a senior superintendent team leader for weeks, learning our expectations for safety in every facet of the role, from following guidelines to communicating with staff. We have even created a unique trainer position to provide instruction and mentorship for those moving up in our ranks. Our investment of time and resources sets us apart from other companies in our region.
All new employees are required to go through HBW Construction’s safety orientation covering safety prevention, procedures, and response measures, setting the tone for safety awareness. Our subcontractors receive our safety manual and policies too. Our expectation is that they will arrive properly equipped to do their job with personal protective equipment (PPE) and proper tools – but we don’t leave anything to chance. Our superintendents are responsible for verifying their readiness, preparing them to enter and work on the construction site, and alerting them to any special hazards or job requirements.
Big picture, small details
We’ve found that planning is key to safety. By thinking through the job, the people, the activities, and the risks, we can ensure everyone’s properly prepared to do their job. It is our way of gaining control over the 80 percent of safety risks that are the result of behaviors.
One challenge is that safety comes with infinite amounts of information. How do we know we’re handling every situation correctly? Following the latest regulations? Doing all that we can? HBW employs a safety consultant to supplement our own extensive knowledge of safety protocols and procedures.
The consultant helps us look at the big picture – driving a culture of safety – and drill down into the smallest details, including advising us on special safety processes for unique situations or new equipment. OSHA protocols can seem time-consuming and arduous, especially with tight construction schedules, so having a safety expert on hand keeps everyone focused on doing things right by doing them safely.
The construction industry is also constantly changing. As the industry learns new information, our training and the expertise of our safety consultants, help us apply it to our work before OSHA regulates it so our people have the best possible working conditions.
Trust but verify
Our safety consultants aren’t just there to advise, we also ask them to conduct mock OSHA inspections of our job sites – to verify that we are doing things correctly. These visits highlight any deficiencies so immediate action can be taken to improve.
Our Field Operations Coordinator schedules five safety visits to job sites each week. Jason Sears of Diversified Safety Services, a certified Construction Safety and Health Technician, walks the site with each Superintendent, using OSHA checklists and taking photos to help them recognize and mitigate safety issues. Jason’s keen eye catches problems in the making – so they can be addressed immediately and systemically – applying what we learn on one job site to all of our sites.
“HBW has a true dedication to safety that reflects how they feel about their employees, their subcontractors, and their clients,” says Jason. “Their work might not attract the attention of local state or federal compliance officers from OSHA because they don’t have a giant crane poking into the skyline, but internally they have the expectation that every part of the job will be done perfectly. Knowing our partnership helps them achieve that means a lot.”
Right on time
HBW job sites have signage that states our safety guidelines, but we know that written words aren’t enough to keep everyone safe. That’s why our Superintendents conduct Toolbox Talks. These important meetings can be held daily, weekly, or spur of the moment. They gather everyone on the job site, have them sign in, and then go over our safety standards, spelling out how things should be handled on the site.
Reinforcing safety in the moment makes a difference. It leaves nothing to chance. If a supervisor has jackhammers in use, he or she may do a quick Toolbox Talk to discuss ear and eye protection for those doing the task – and those nearby. Plus, they can discuss how they will sequence work to keep everyone safe.
Industry involvement and leadership
HBW Construction has a long history of involvement with construction safety organizations and leadership in our industry. We are a part of the Maryland chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America’s (MDAGC) Safety Group. They are a resource for OSHA training courses, first aid certification instruction, and industry best practices. Our involvement is a clear sign to our subcontractors and our clients that we are dedicated to safety.
Significantly, the AGC recognizes safety efforts with awards, incentivizing general contractors to up their safety game and highlighting those companies with few or no accidents. HBW was recognized in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 for the AGC Safety Excellence Award. This award is given to GCs with a combined incident rate below the Bureau of Labor Statistics average.
Quality goes hand in hand with safety – it’s how we get the job done during Construction Safety Week and every day.
Learn more about HBW’s quality control program on our website.
Allison Lambert, a Project Manager for HBW, heads up the company’s involvement with the Maryland AGC.
Rande Naylor is a Senior Superintendent and HBW Team Leader and Trainer, driving safety on every job and mentoring and supporting all Superintendents.
Jason Sears CHST, STSC, CDS is a Field Operations Manager for Diversified Safety Services and has 15 years of expertise in construction safety.