Words: Zach Everett, Corporate Safety Director at Brazos Masonry
Photos: MASONRY Magazine
They say communication is one of the most necessary and impactful ingredients in a successful marriage. Communication in a masonry business is much the same. Building a culture of safety is no different. We want people to avoid injury and illness and the only way to do that is to communicate the risks in a way that they can understand and thereby avoid the potential catastrophe. Safety talks, JSA reviews with the crew, or any safety talk are all ways of communicating the proper way of doing a task to avoid the risk of injury. This can be on the job site, in an office, with a general contractor, with subcontractors, pre-construction meetings, or any other venue where safety is part of the topic.
Likely, we have all seen situations where a safety meeting sheet was laid down and the crew told to sign off, but rather than go over the safety topic as they should, the crew one by one signs off and goes to work. This is an obvious sign that safety is not as important as it should be. It’s a symptom of a deeper illness. A heart issue. Safety is not in their heart. “Pencil whipping” a safety meeting or JSA is missing a wonderful chance to communicate something that may save someone’s life. Some may feel that a safety meeting is simply slowing down production. That it is getting in the way of the real goal and reason for being there. Communicating safety in a meaningful way can increase production and help avoid shutdowns. For example, talking about the safety of the scaffolds can help make sure the scaffold is built safely. This helps everyone feel secure and safe while working, rather than being distracted by missing boards, handrails or some other issue that could impede the mental comfort of workers. This is only one example and there are many more that we could give. Part of a well-oiled, high performing masonry crew is exemplary safety practices as part of that well-oiled machine.
A strong safety program will make a company money! It will benefit on their bottom line, quality, and schedule. This cannot happen without communicating the high value of safety through safety talks of every kind. When safety is not communicated continually, injuries are the natural result. When that happens, employees stop working. That costs money. The down time will depend on the severity of the injury. Some people will stop to help the injured. Some will stop to just watch out of concern. If the injury requires EMS chances are the whole job will shut down. All the supervision will stop what they’re doing to make sure proper care is given. Time will be taken to do an injury investigation and employees will have down time writing witness statements. There should be a safety meeting held immediately to inform the other crew members what happened so they can avoid a similar hazard. As more information comes out about the incident, that too should be shared with the crew. Additional training may be needed as well. There can be literally thousands of dollars spent solely in down time associated with just one injury. It will affect schedule, morale, and money.
Often safety talks are delivered on the job site by the Superintendent to the crew. But, all should participate. Make it personal. Think of stories from your personal life that you can share. Consider the job tasks for the day and include them as well. The more relevant and personally applicable the safety talk is, the more your coworkers will embrace it willingly. They will also remember what was discussed in the safety talk when they see the issue in the field later in the day. I know what people are thinking: some safety topics are hard to be enthusiastic about. The way to conquer this is to bring it down to a personal level. It could cost someone’s life. Who will take care of their family… raise their kids?