Construction workers are a vital part of our economy, helping companies scale to meet demand, providing functional and pleasing work environments that increase productivity and worker satisfaction, and building various infrastructure projects, government facilities, healthcare centers, and more.
Ensuring a safe and healthy workplace environment is critically important in any industry. When it comes to the commercial construction industry, however, there are many more inherent risks that need to be considered. Maintaining a safe construction jobsite isn't just the right thing to do; it is a key element to ensuring a successful building project.
What to Look For in a Building Contractor’s Safety Program
Asking about safety records and protocols doesn’t always top the list when first exploring which commercial general contractor to partner with, but it is an important consideration that can have far-reaching implications.
The #1 goal of any reputable construction company is worker safety. Doing everything they can to minimize work-related injuries and ensure that everyone who showed up on the jobsite that morning can return home in the same condition they arrived, is at the heart of most companies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has extensive regulations and standards that apply to the construction industry. To monitor compliance, OSHA safety and health officers may conduct unannounced inspections at any time to look for violations. When they show up on the jobsite, they’re looking for safety protocols such as fall prevention and machine and equipment safety measures.
OSHA inspectors will also likely ask to see Safety Data Sheets (SDS), OSHA 300 safety logs, hazard assessment records, safety manuals, and other supporting documentation. For prospective project owners, a reputable construction firm will also be able to provide the information needed to assess whether the company prioritizes safety.
Ask About EMR
EMR stands for Experience Modification Rate and is a number used to gauge a construction company's safety metrics. It's used by insurance companies to determine the likelihood that a business will experience worker's compensation claims. The national average Experience Modification Rate (EMR) is 1.0. A construction company that maintains an EMR below this rate demonstrates commitment to safety and their safety program. Additionally, a contractor with a low EMR may save your project money due to reduced insurance related expenditures. A safe work environment during the construction of the Green Lake County Government Center paid off significantly for Green Lake County when they were presented with a $291,904 dividend check from the Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation (County Mutual), the county’s insurer, for having no lost-time accidents during the project.
Beyond Protocols, Look for a Partnership
Another way to assess a general contractor’s dedication to safety is to see whether they’ve formed a strategic partnership with OSHA to maximize safety efforts. The OSHA Strategic Partnership Program Directive (OSPP) was established as a voluntary program that encourages, assists, and recognizes a company’s efforts to “eliminate serious hazards and achieve a high level of worker safety and health.”
Not every construction company that applies to become a strategic partner with OSHA is accepted into the program. For example, in the state of Iowa, only 10 partnership projects are allowed at a time. As part of the partnership, an OSHA representative makes monthly visits to meet with the construction manager and the entire team where they learn about leading-edge construction industry safety trends and receive additional training.
A jobsite tour is also conducted, giving the OSHA representative an opportunity to conduct a safety audit. These assessments help point out positive findings and may also provide feedback on where improvements can be made. In the end, the purpose of the partnership is to provide another tool to keep tradespeople, building owners, and other occupants safe.
At The Samuels Group, we’re honored to have been chosen as one of the limited number of OSHA partnership participants for the Floyd County Law Enforcement Center project in Iowa. Everyone on the jobsite benefits from the privilege of working with OSHA as a true safety partner, and those benefits extend to subcontractors, the project owner, and the community. The knowledge gleaned from these partnerships not only applies to the sanctioned project, but is transferred across the company to impact every jobsite in multiple states.
Consequences of an Ineffective Safety Program
Unfortunately, there are some contractors who may cut corners in an effort to speed efficiencies and meet deadlines. These shortcuts often lead to the opposite outcome, however. Not only can poor safety protocols jeopardize the wellbeing of workers and reduce morale, they inevitably lead to work stoppages and delays, potentially putting an entire project at risk.
Commercial contractors are required to comply with local, state, and federal regulations or face fines and potential litigation. Even though establishing safety protocols is the responsibility of the construction firm, a failure to do so could impact the project owner and add considerable costs to the contract or expose them to liabilities in certain circumstances. A poor safety program can also lead to a tarnished reputation for both the construction company and the project owner.
When considering your options for a commercial general contractor to take on your next building project, be sure to assess the company’s safety record and programs in your vetting process. Also look to see whether they’ve been recognized for their safety efforts. The company’s desire to seek a partnership with OSHA to continually improve demonstrates their confidence that their team will perform safely.
We’re happy to share more about how this partnership and other considerations can benefit your next project. Connect with us to start the conversation.