No two construction projects are the same. That is one of the many challenges safety faces.
As our project teams grow, we require more skilled workers onsite, and the speed of work tightens. No matter how fast we’re moving, we need to remember the priority of safety doesn’t change. What can change is how we behave onsite and our ability to identify and prevent safety accidents.
In our Texas and Oklahoma region, we’re focused on growing and evolving our safety culture. We are taking safety week (recognized in the construction industry from May 1 – 5) and turning it into a safety year so our team and our trade partners have the updated and current skills to master safety in today’s changing construction conditions.
This initiative kicks off May 1, 2023, and here’s what our Oklahoma and Texas project teams will be focused on:
Whole Team Training
In 2016, JE Dunn was intensely focused on sharing safety knowledge, outlining best practices, and shifting to a mindset of a true safety culture that is lived on and off the project site. It was such a successful push and I saw that on my first JE Dunn job at Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas in Austin.
We need to do that again, but this time we need to extend that mindset to our greatest allies: trade partners. We’re preparing training and resources to increase their safety performance as we increase ours.
Speak Up, Listen Up (SULU) training will be provided to all our project teams and trade partners with the goal of 85%+ trained up this year. SULU breaks the communication barrier between skilled workers and project personnel. It promotes skilled workers to speak up when they know something isn’t right or safe. SULU is one of the best starting points to strengthen alignment between these groups.
Deliberate Safety Walks
Going out to the project, understanding the work happening, and looking with a safety lens is a deliberate effort. It’s easy for a safety walk to turn into a conversation about production – what’s being installed, what is coming up in two weeks, what will be the final product.
To challenge that default, our local leadership and project executives will conduct weekly safety walks with not just JE Dunn employees, but the people doing the work, and that includes evaluation of the Job Safety Analysis (JSA) for work in progress.
The takeaway from these walks is not to tell people what to do or what not do. We want our field teams and project teams to be equal partners in creating and maintaining a safe project site.
Preventative Safety Management
One of the best ways we can strengthen our safety culture is to start thinking about how we prevent an injury rather than identifying a resolution to the injury after the fact. Training and safety walks will set a foundation for preventative safety, but so will the following.
- Attention to our frontline workers who are at the highest risk of injury It’s our job to ensure they are trained, supported, and can self-evaluate situations while also bringing it to JE Dunn’s attention.
- One-on-one time with trade partners so we can discuss their specific safety concerns and roles onsite. Teams in our Austin office have already started these efforts by hosting meetings with trade partner leadership and bringing them into meetings to give them more visibility of project goals.
- Focus on control plans that go beyond ensuring workers are wearing their safety gloves but rather identify and eliminate hazards before work is put in place. Think of it this way: If production requires a schedule, quality control requires mockups and first install preparations, then safety requires total project inspection.
With this initiative, we are building long-term behaviors that aim to prevent anything that puts our people’s safety at risk, and we’re bringing all our partners with us. Because knowing how to climb a ladder safely is just scratching the safety surface. Everyone needs to know how to inspect and identify the conditions of the ladder. Everyone needs to know how to inspect and identify the surrounding environment. And everyone should have the power to speak up for themselves and everyone on the project because they deserve to go home safely. That is the real depth of a culture of safety.
Marco Martinez is the Safety Director for JE Dunn’s Texas and Oklahoma region. Marco has been a part of the JE Dunn Safety Department since 2014 having worked on projects such as the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, Covenant Health Hope Tower Addition, and Loews Arlington Hotel.