How to Start a Safety Program

In conjunction with John Meola, Pillar Engineers, Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction begins 2016 with the first in a year-long series of safety articles designed to increase general safety awareness and to improve the safety within all paving and pavement maintenance crews. In future issues you'll see safety articles tied to specific technologies, but in this first article you'll get a good sense of what your safety program must include -- and what can set your program above the basic level. Safety should be the dominant concern of every contractor and crew member and this series will provide the "how to" details you need. If you'd like to participate in this year-long effort please contact Allan Heydorn, editor, at or call 708-531-1612.

The paving and pavement maintenance industry is tough enough without having to endure accidents, along with everything else. We all get a bad name when someone gets hurt or there’s a bad crash. The smart folks in the business, those who plan to be around for the long haul, will recognize that a safety program is a big part of the company culture. If your employees truly mean something to you besides swinging a shovel, then you get it.

Here are some of the operative elements for basic, intermediate and advanced safety programs. If you are doing some of these now, this article should confirm that you’re on the right track. If you have ‘zippo’ on the books, then this is your wake up call. We’re basically trying to move the industry ahead, one safety meeting at a time!

Program Must Haves:

  • Top Leadership Commitment. The more visible the better. It cannot start in the middle of the org. chart. This key element will determine how effective your program and outcomes are.
  • Written Safety Program. Generic programs are free and available from OSHA or your state safety people. Or your insurance company.

o   A custom written program might cost a few bucks but they’re worth it.

o   75% will be Corporate Wallpaper, but you need to have it.

o   The level of customization will reflect the degree of interest your company has in the program.

o   In other words, oats that have been through the horse already, will look it.

  • Kick Off Meeting/ Roll out meeting. If you are starting the program from scratch, this roll out is an important first step. If you are giving the existing Program a boost, make this meeting memorable. Hand out some meaningful souvenirs- seasonal clothing, tools, etc. Put your name & safety message on everything. Make it a positive, upbeat and energetic meeting.
  • Accountabilities and responsibilities. Name the names, due dates, etc.
  • Safety Committee – representatives from major food groups. At least one Supervisor and an admin. to record the progress
  • Regular safety meetings for all employees, with a ‘No Excuses’ policy. Mandatory attendance sends the message you are serious. These are not gripe sessions. Use an agenda, stick to the schedule. Keep it moving, relevant.

o   Once a month- hold a one-hour meeting

o   Weekly meetings can be 30 minutes

o   Daily Tool Box Talks, 10-15 minutes

  • Basic OSHA compliance trainings:

o   New Employee Safety Orientation

o   Haz Com/GHS

o   PPE training

o   First Aid & Fire Safety, BBP

o   Emergency Response Plan

o   Lock Out Tag Out

o   Task-specific training at the awareness or action level, depending how deep you’re going:

  • Fall Protection
  • Confined Space Entry
  • Power Tools
  • Machinery and equipment – Operator safety training
  • Inspections- in some shape or form. Office, shop, yard, job site. With a checklist and follow ups for corrective measure.
  • Designated Spotters for movement of vehicles and machinery, as applicable
  • High Visibility Apparel for all employees, dress for respect!


Nice to Haves:

  • Guest speakers at Safety Meetings who can share meaningful information, such as equipment and hardware vendors, PPE specialists, fire and EMS folks, law enforcement, etc.
  • Insurance agent or carrier participation in your program. These guys love staying under the radar, but if you’re paying the big bucks, make some noise and get them involved in your message.
  • Pre-Work warm up exercises for the crew. 5 minutes at the start of the shift can make a big difference. Plus it sends the message. For extra credit, the Boss should lead the session.
  • Defensive Driving- preach the basics. Because everyone drives. Including the Family.
  • Suggestion Program, with follow up
  • Pay-check stuffers, on wide range of topics, but safety primarily
  • Close Call reporting & follow up
  • Fleet Safety Program – use the ANSI Standard as a guide
  • Personalized uniforms, seasonal selection, with high visibility built in
  • Customized safety meeting agendas, written by someone who actuaqll knows your business and employee needs and concerns. Avoid using generic stuff off the internet
  • Safety Newsletter or other regular safety communications, periodic bulletins, holiday safety messages, etc.
  • Safety Footwear program- percentage reimbursement or outright purchase. There are a lot of safety shoe vendors who will give you a pretty good break on pricing. Well worth the effort.
  • Seasonal Safety Gear- gloves and ice scrapers in winter, first aid kits to take home, recreational and camping gear, etc. Make sure your name and safety message is all over everything.
  • Job Hazard Analyses – for just about everything you’re going to do
  • Contractor controls- because these guys can cause a lot of problems if they’re not carefully managed


The Holy Grail:

  • Employee Safety Performance Recognition – define it, measure it, talk it up, show some pride of achievement
  • Safety Incentive, rewards, bonus. Start small, ramp it up`
  • Zero Incident Program
  • Continuous Improvement Program
  • Engage the employees family
  • Continuing (Safety) Education – OSHA courses, Community College
  • Codify and publish your Best Safety Practices. This shows LEADERSHIP and pre-eminence in your field.
  • Trade Association participation, attend conferences, make presentations on your Best Practices
  • Be an acknowledged LEADER in your industry
  • Review Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. You’ve arrived.


John J. Meola, CSP, ARM is safety director at Pillar Engineers and he can be reached at 804-751-0600, ext. 4314 and He will host "How to Set Up and Run an Effective Safety Program" at the 2016 National Pavement Expo, Jan. 27-30 in Charlotte, NC. For details visit