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Spotlight on Safety

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Safety is an issue that matters, not only because of the obvious threat of loss of life, but also because of the financial wake of any serious accident on the jobsite. Masonry wanted to get the real scoop on this issue from an expert with firsthand knowledge. We talked to Zach Everett, corporate safety director of Brazos Masonry in Waco, Texas, which employs about 200 employees on average. Brazos typically takes on any size job, but they go after the bigger ones: highrises, stadiums, schools and hospitals. Following is what Everett had to say about the state and importance of safety on the masonry jobsite.

Zach EverettMasonry: Explain why safety compliance is so important on the jobsite.
Zach Everett: Lives are on the line. Thousands of people are killed every year on jobsites in the United States, alone, and who knows how many workers die in other countries – especially in underdeveloped countries. Life is precious. When a person dies, it affects families in the worst kind of way. Yes, financially, but so, so much more. Losing a spouse, a Mommy or Daddy, or a child who has just reached adulthood is among the worst things a person can experience in life. The emotional damage and consequent changes can very often ruin one’s life.

I still am talking about safety being important on a jobsite. These men and women are not numbers in a system or some expendable commodities. They are our family, friends and neighbors with a heart and soul. Once, we built buildings and bridges knowing that so many people would die during the construction. It was a cost of doing business. God forbid that anyone still thinks that way, but how many even still have that mindset about injuries?

“Accidents just happen…oh, well, hope he gets better one day.”
Shame on us, if that is the case. A back injury can affect a person the rest of his life, including how he will earn a living and quality of life at home.

Masonry: What are the insurance considerations for mason contractors?
Everett: Insurance companies are not charitable organizations. They are in business to make money, and, if they are not making money by carrying a mason contractor, they only have two choices. They can raise their premiums or drop the insured. Neither is where a contractor wants to be. The more injuries a contractor has, the more the insurance company must pay out in medical, lost-time benefits and legal costs. All those chickens come home to roost in one way or another – and, actually, in several ways – not just indirect costs. These claims also drive a company’s EMR, which customers look at in the bidding process and can cause a mason not to get a job.

A mason with a good safety program can turn all this on its head. Because insurance companies are in business to make money, if you can save that company money, it will compete for your business. The companies will drop premiums and/or give dividend payments back to the company, like ours does, and the contractor’s EMR drops to make you look like “the man with the plan” on bid day.

Masonry: Touch on OSHA and how to survive random (or planned) visits from OSHA.
Everett: Surviving an OSHA inspection starts about 10 years before the inspection. If you don’t have a good safety program, OSHA can find lots and lots to cite; it just depends how hard they decide look. A good safety program, such as promoted by the MCAA, includes a detailed, written plan that includes all the essential particulars surrounding the hazards employees face or may face doing their jobs. A good plan also includes training according to the hazards faced, disciplinary policy and more.

Normally what happens is that an OSHA inspector drives by and sees an employee in a hazard. They stop on the side of the road, take pictures, and then go to the jobsite office to do an inspection. Sometimes an inspection is the result of a complaint called in to the OSHA office, or they see something on the news that looks inspection worthy. It also could be a self-reporting of three or more employees injured in an incident or a fatality (which must be reported within eight hours of occurrence).

To survive, do the hard work. Have the plan, train your people and if/when they don’t follow it, re-train them. If that doesn’t work, then they probably aren’t cut out for a company that cares about safety. If the OSHA man never sees a hazard, it’s likely you’ll never be cited.

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Masonry: Explain the importance of using the proper clothing, equipment and fall protection.
Everett: Masons are exposed to more fall hazards than most other trades. We put the skin on the building and if that skin goes 300 feet in the air, so do we. Having good scaffolding is probably the biggest asset. When scaffold doesn’t cover it, then a PFAS (personal fall arrest system – a harness and lanyard) must be used and attached to a proper anchorage point. Whether it is the scaffolding or the PFAS, it must be in proper condition. If a handrail doesn’t hold the 200 pounds it is supposed to, when the man falls against it, it fails. He never goes home again. If a harness is torn, or worn anyway, and the person falls, it fails. He falls to the ground as well.

Proper inspection of all these fall protection tools is a must. If it is not in good condition, then we look unprofessional; we can be cited by OSHA; and someone could be severely injured or even die – simply because we didn’t assure it could do its job.

Masonry: How do you get your foremen and contractors to use all of the proper safety attire and equipment?
Everett: Training, training, training. Rare men are they who can be told once to do something, and they do so forever after. People must be convinced that it best for them, and there is no other choice. Logic and reason must be used, because our supervisors are intelligent people. Communicating the misery and broken hearts and dreams that result from accidents it needed, because our supervisors are human and can be touched by emotion. Finally, they must know that it is a condition of employment. All these facets should be at work continually and, soon, they will be preaching your sermon.

Masonry: Discuss how the MCAA views the issue of safety on the jobsite.
Everett: Safety is simmering to the surface around here at the MCAA more and more. Whether through questions from members; via compliance issues such as the new silica standard that is rolling out; or just by trying to make life easier for members by offering the free resources like safety meetings, videos, etc., there is always something to handle, that is for sure.

Safety in the work place in not going away. It is growing bigger and more important. Trying to fly under the radar is not a good plan. It won’t win any friends, and it could get people killed in the process. Working safety is a lifestyle – a culture where unsafe acts are looked at like a two-headed foreman. Commit to it, and we’ll all be the better for it.


Zach Everett is corporate safety director of Brazos Masonry, www.brazosmasonry.com. Contact him at 254.848.5830 or zeverett@brazosmasonry.com.

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