A condition of employment
Markham Contracting Co. Inc. is a site prep development contractor based in Phoenix, AZ. An Experience Modification Rating (EMR) of .71 might be acceptable for some contractors, but not for this company. "Truthfully, we were not pleased with that," says Michael Rose, safety director. "We were operating in the .58 to .60 range."
According to Rose, one of the secrets to establishing a successful safety program is to get management to buy into it, and to make it mandatory. "Whether it is wearing a seatbelt or wearing a vest, it is not negotiable," he stresses. "It is a condition of employment."
This also applies to management. "If we expect [our employees] to wear a vest, we have ours on," he says.
Safety meetings are another important part of the equation. Rose makes them effective in several ways. For one, management participates in the Monday morning meetings to emphasize their importance. Hollis Loper, vice president of equipment operations, and Rose go to a different jobsite each week. "I think the awareness that Mike and I put to all of the crews makes them more aware," says Loper. "It is on their minds more because management participates in the safety program."
Another tactic is to tailor the meetings to individual projects. "We may have 20 foremen conducting a safety meeting on Monday morning," says Rose, "but it is not necessarily all on the same subject.
"Sometimes we will provide a DVD on a particular jobsite," Rose adds. "Lately, we have focused on dust and track-out because of health and environmental concerns. In addition, the EPA is coming down hard on Arizona, and we stand to lose billions of dollars in highway funding if we don't comply."
There are many generic construction topics, in both Spanish and English, available for free from the State Compensation Fund (SCF) of California. However, foremen are encouraged to discuss subjects pertinent to the job at hand. "You can pull these generic topics right off the web site," says Rose. "But a safety meeting topic on scaffolding may not be perfect for a group that is out there doing paving."
In an effort to present pertinent information, Rose helps the cause by creating a summary of all the month's incidents, injuries and near misses that he provides to the foremen, along with some suggested safety topics.
Markham Contracting also encourages employees by offering them the ability to earn safety awards. "We have a safety incentive program with safety awards if employees and their crews attain 90 days without incident or injury," Rose says. "Our safety incentive program is geared to create peer pressure to be safe. You are held accountable for the actions of everyone on your crew. You can lose your safety award because of his or her mistake."
The company has always practiced strict pre-employment drug testing and post-accident and for-cause drug/alcohol testing, but random testing was sporadic at best. Two years ago, the company began a rigid random drug testing program geared at eliminating employees who abuse drugs, which in turn can promote safety on the job. "The Bureau of Labor and Statistics puts out statistics that tell us the construction industry averages 20% drug users," says Rose. "Our percentage is a lot lower.
"We are committed to not have drugs be a factor," he adds. "We do random drug testing once a month. Fifteen percent of the employees are tested each month across the board for shop, office and field personnel."
When the company began rigid random testing, it lost 18% of the people tested. "Since then, we religiously test 15% of our employees almost every month," Rose notes. "Now, it is not unusual for us to test a whole group of people and not have a single positive."