From the open-roofed 37th floor of an in-progress 67-story condominium project in downtown Miami, it's apparent why jobsite safety is so important - it's a long way down! This fast-paced work site has a lot going on - bustling workers, cranes lifting materials, formwork going up, concrete pouring down - but it's an efficient and organized work site with a noticeable safety-minded atmosphere. The stairwells and walking areas are free of unnecessary debris, handrails and guardrails help workers stay on their feet, workers at heights are wearing fall protection, everyone is wearing a hardhat, people are communicating with hand signals and safety supervisors are overseeing the project from several angles.
This atmosphere wasn't brought about simply by a set of safety rules mapped out in a three-ring binder sitting on a filing cabinet in the construction manager's office, but was created through several years of hard work after the ownership group at Form Works, Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., made a commitment to safety. Form Works president Don Marks recalls the company's previous attitude toward safety, "We always tried to get everyone to work safely, but we had the attitude that we were in a rough and dangerous business and had to accept the fact that accidents would happen and there wasn't much we could do about it."
Five years ago, the ownership group at Form Works decided they would do something about improving safety on their work sites and set out to create a sophisticated, company-wide safety program that involves participation from every employee through all levels of the company.
Taking safety to the next level
In 2003 Form Works hired its first director of safety and risk management to implement a company-wide safety program that was structured and accountable. The safety director appointed jobsite safety officers, whose sole responsibility is to oversee safety on each work site. Each jobsite safety officer works with a group of safety carpenters to install handrails and other safety features to create a safe working environment.
Form Works also adopted a drug-free workplace with in-house drug testing; increased use and enforcement of fall protection equipment in addition to gloves, glasses, and hardhats; and introduced safety awards and luncheons to recognize workers who excel at following safety procedures. The company also began to take a proactive approach to claims management when an accident did occur, reminding workers of follow-up doctor visits after an accident, investigating accidents to help prevent them in the future, and using the same law firm to manage all its cases.
A year and a half ago, Dave Iglesias came on board with Form Works as the new director of safety and risk management. Iglesias, with more than 20 years of experience in construction safety, built upon the safety program in place but applied his personal safety philosophy to take the program further. "All the things the former safety manager did I would have done, but my goal was to take it to the next level," Iglesias says. "Instead of us working safely, my philosophy was to push everyone to do safe work and for that ideal to become part of who we are."
Iglesias indoctrinated his safety philosophy into his field safety manager, John Van Riel, and his jobsite safety officers. Once Iglesias won them over, it was on to the employees. "If I can get all employees to do safe work, that's a lot of pressure off my jobsite safety staff," Iglesias explains.
Iglesias changed the safety culture among Form Works employees by showing them the company was serious about safety. New employees complete safety orientation, drug tests and equipment compliance tests to earn in-house training certification. "I need to establish the fact that people know how to do what they say they can do. And I don't mean just operate a piece of equipment; they need to know how to inspect it too, because that's part of safety requirements," Iglesias says.