We took special care this year to make sure our annual Big50 issue focuses on best practices. And as we collected scores of great management, marketing, and operations ideas from this year’s Big50 class, another group of top remodelers was coming up with a best practice of its own.
Last month, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry voted to formally add to its code of ethics a commitment to “[take] appropriate action to preserve the health and safety of employees, trade contractors, and clients.”
This addition was prompted in part by the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead-paint rule and by NARI’s desire to show it believes in a safe workplace. But as it turns out, REMODELING also played a role. According to Don Van Cura, a Chicago area remodeler and past chair of NARI’s Standards of Practice Committee, NARI was motivated in part by a speech that editorial director Sal Alfano gave at NARI’s meeting last fall.
“He reminded us that being a professional implies that we are a benefit to society,” Van Cura told me in an email. “He gave an example that there are 50,000 table saw accidents each year! What are we doing to prevent injuries like this? His question to us as leaders in the industry was: Are we setting/raising the bar?”
Van Cura noted that NARI’s code of ethics already touched on such issues as use of safe products, honesty in advertising, adherence to local laws, and licensing. “What was missing (previously assumed) was the need to train employees in safe work practices, environmental safeguards, use of personal protection equipment, and oversight of subcontractors to assure the health and safety of our workers and homeowners,” he said. “In keeping with our commitment to remodelers and homeowners, it made sense that we include this in our Code of Ethics. ... I love the idea that to be a NARI member in good standing, you will have to adhere to practices that will protect our workers, not because of laws, but because it is the right thing to do.”
That said, don’t conclude that NARI is seeking to clad all jobsite workers in bubble wrap. Its guidelines to implement this new part of its ethics code pretty much stick with following the law and with training employees about safe practices. Then again, given the widespread ignorance and/or defiance of regs today and many remodelers’ historically cavalier attitude toward safety, this might truly mark a sea change.
“When I started in this industry, it was the Dark Ages,” Van Cura recalled. “If we didn’t walk open floor joists on a second-floor framing project without protection, we were viewed as a chicken! We were never cautioned about lead paint, asbestos, or other harmful products. What a change there has been in our industry for the better!”
Bravo to NARI for this change, one in which REMODELING and Alfano can take special satisfaction. It’s a best practice worth emulating by all remodelers, not just the Big50. —Craig Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. Find him on Twitter at @RemodelingMag.