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Our challenge was simple: take safety from a hazy, static, undefined idea and transform it into a corporate cultural philosophy that is pervasive from the owners down to every employee, subcontractor and business partner.

This concept and approach is a substantial departure from the prevalent ideologies in so many construction firms. Often safety is prioritized behind production, often somewhere near quality. Safety and education are most likely not a budgeted line item for most projects, despite safety and education having the best return on investment of all dollars that could be spent.

To begin, first we defined our goal and dedicated it to writing. Simply put, it is our belief that every worker has the right to expect a safe and healthy workplace and to expect to be able go home at the end of every workday.

The next step was to assign responsibility for achieving the many milestones that would need to be met. The task of conveying the goal to all of the company associates and business partners fell to the owners, Kevin and Tom Belcher. The idea was met with lukewarm response as it seemed like so many people had heard the talk about safety and how important it is, yet those same people never seem to see a company walk the walk. Despite the lackluster response, this informational milestone was achieved and the goal was now set.

Then moving on to practical issues, BRC understood that the fundamental move to the goal of zero injuries required time, money and most importantly energy delivered with enthusiasm to keep everyone interested and engaged.

Bill Reis, a longtime BRC roofer and supervisor with many years in the field, stepped up and volunteered to take the lead as the full time Safety Director. He remains in that position, with no other responsibilities aside from Safety Director.

In addition to assuming the responsibility that comes with the title, Bill Reis also assumed the task of seeking out every possible safety education and certification resource available. His success in that area is obvious as he has acquired an OSHA 500 card that allows him to train others as well as his 3110, first aid and AED training from the American Red Cross along with countless other seminars and courses in all phases of safety He now has his Construction Health and Safety Professional (CHSP) certification pending as well.

With the message clear and the education and training available to reach their goal, it was now time for BRC to address the costs involved with getting that message to all BRC associates and getting the new policies in place and in use.

Substantial dollars were needed and supplied to purchase the appropriate safety equipment for all applications from Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) all the way through all aspects of required or suggested equipment throughout the company including certified Crane Operator (CCO) licensing for all BRC crane operators regardless of whether or not it was required by statute or contract.

The dollars and energy spent were not limited to just field equipment. BRC saw the need for a permanent training facility and built a Safety Training Center in Montgomeryville, PA. The center seats up to 20 students comfortably and provides the trainers with true multi media presentation options including a 72” whiteboard with projector, software that allows for on screen annotation of projected images, a dedicated PC attached to the BRC internal data network and external internet, DVD player and VCR. Adjacent to the training center is an area that allows for students to actually see and use the various different types of PPE, fall restraint, fall protection, edge railings and many other types of equipment used in the training giving the student a better grasp of the practical application of their training.

BRC had already learned that safety equipment is an important part of the overall plan, but still only a part. Training needed to be provided to all users of the safety equipment so they would be able to properly identify hazards, understand best practices for remediation of the hazard and have the training to use the appropriate equipment correctly to properly address the potential hazard.

Using the BRC Safety Training Center as well as other offsite facilities, this training was provided several times for good measure. First, all field employees received mandatory 10 hour OSHA training and BRC Fall Protection Training. Then all supervisors and foremen received 30 hour OSHA training and the BRC Fall Protection Training. Field employees working with open torches received CERTA training and updates although in many instances it is not required. Asbestos supervisors received training and updates as required.

With the basic foundations now in place including a clear goal, a trained and educated work force, appropriate safety equipment readily available, the next, and most important challenge presented itself. Did BRC succeed in having that group of people most typically at the highest risk, the employees in the field under the foreman’s supervision, buy into the idea of having their safety a top priority as a corporate mandate?

Without question, that is the case. BRC leads by example from the top down. That example is consistently repeated and reconfirmed over and over again. The example includes spending substantial time and dollars for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of the people at work, and the employees clearly saw that leadership.

The buy-in is complete and throughout the entire company. Safety equipment, once considered to be clumsy and unnecessarily time consuming, is now considered standard operating procedure before any other task is considered.

Employees now recognize that BRC has taken all reasonable steps to provide the tools they can use to protect themselves. Also, as employees, they accept their crucial role in the plan by consistently using the training, equipment and education they have been provided to the best of their ability to provide their own safe and healthy workplace.

BRC recognizes that a safe and healthy workplace is a goal that must be pursued but will never be fully met. The industry and the workplace, particularly in construction, is constantly changing. However, it is important for us to understand that we have reached important milestones in the ongoing progress of our own corporate culture, while also raising the bar for other contractors, again leading by example.

Our next focus is to reach out to our clients, subcontractors, vendors and other fellow contractors and bring the message that safety is the first priority above all others.

Furthermore, that safety need not be a negative cost issue. Our own real life experience has clearly demonstrated that while there are certainly time and cost challenges to be met, once those issues are addressed and the work force is properly trained, equipped and motivated then quality increases and production labor costs actually decrease compared to pre-safety figures.

BRC employees go home every night, quality is at exceptional levels often exceeding clients expectations and productivity continues to rise resulting in more on time project deliveries and lower production costs. Truly a win for all concerned.

© Copyright 2012
Belcher Roofing Corporation

111 Commerce Drive
Montgomeryville, PA 18936

Tele: 215-362-5400
Fax: 215-362-9338
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