For larger whole-house remodeling projects, Rick Hjelm, president of Phase II, in Lakewood, Wash., hosts jobsite tailgate meetings with subcontractors and crew to review safety for specific work that the team will complete during the job. His main motivation is employee wellbeing, but safety meetings also limit liability.
The company holds weekly safety meetings as well, where its six field staff meet with Hjelm in the office to review safety handouts, which Hjelm orders annually from Safety Services Co.
The on-site meeting before project start focuses on making sure everyone knows how to properly wear the required PPE (personal protective equipment) for that project, Hjelm says. And it provides the opportunity to make sure that the required supplies are on site.
Hjelm provides participants with copies of the Safety Services Co. information sheets and uses these to review safety procedures. He asks every person who attends the meeting — including subs — to sign and date a copy. “I can’t be there all the time,” he says, “but at least I’ve done my due diligence.”
Explaining safe working practices to staff and subs can also limit liability. In one case, a Phase II employee removed the connection between his harness and the scaffolding and fell 16 feet, fracturing vertebrae and breaking bones in his shoulder and elbow. When representatives from the state’s Department of Labor & Industries saw the safety document signed by that employee, Hjelm says, they levied a minimum fine. “I still paid a penalty, but it was not as harsh — it could have been thousands of dollars.”
Ready for Anything
To further reduce excuses about not wearing safety protection, Hjelm keeps the office stocked with equipment. “It’s readily available, right by front door. They can open the cabinet, grab it and go,” he says.
- The cabinet has gloves in various sizes.
- Hjelm purchased safety glasses and ear plugs based on employee input and trial wear. “They can’t say they are uncomfortable, because they chose them,” he says.
- The jobsite is stocked with commonly used items such as safety glasses and ear plugs in case employees or subs forget them.
- Every employee carries a car first-aid kit.
A. Pouring Concrete
Although Phase II subcontracts concrete work, since the company’s crew is on site, Hjelm addresses how to communicate with the operator/driver of the pump truck, especially if the operator has not previously worked with Phase II.
If the in-house crew has to work on a roof, Hjelm reminds them to tie-off to approved roof attachments. Ladder safety — extension and step ladder — is the company’s most reviewed topic.
For jobs that involve installing pre-made trusses, the company reviews Washington state’s harness use requirements. Harnesses are labeled with employee names so that fittings do not have to be adjusted.
The company uses scaffolding for siding installation and second-story additions. Phase II crews set up and dismantle company-owned scaffolding. Prior to each scaffolding job, Hjelm reviews Washington state’s guidelines.
E. Inclement Weather
If Phase II’s two company vehicles are out of commission due to an accident, productivity suffers. Before inclement weather, Hjelm goes over techniques for driving on snow and ice.
For projects that involve excavation, the crew meets with excavators and landscapers. Hjelm insists that “no one digs without a spotter,” and to only dig if gas/power line markers are visible. If not, the crew must call the utility company to re-mark the area.
- Safety Services Co.
- SMI Safety
- Courage Safety Systems
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)Occupational Safety and Health Administration (
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.
This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the December 2012 issue of REMODELING.