Safety is just like many other desired behaviors—you have to train to get it. At Boston-based Suffolk Construction, they've taken this sentiment to heart, and in March it won them an Association of General Contractors Construction Safety Excellence Award.
Suffolk competed against 96 other entrants in their category. According to Dan Della-Giustina, Suffolk's corporate manager of safety and risk control, training was a big part of the company's leg up on the competition. "We have a regimen of training that occurs on a bimonthly basis for every position on the operations side of the company," Della-Giustina says. "The superintendents, all field personnel and project managers are already conditioned to spend a minimum of three hours and most of the time between five and six hours per month in a training session."
Of course, Suffolk provides the usual OSHA training that most contractors have, but it doesn't stop there. "Every course that a person attends, we pre-test and post-test them so we know what they knew coming in, and we know what they know going out," says David Wilkinson, director of training and education for Suffolk. "All of that is kept in an LMS, and for any certification that expires we set that date, and it reminds us that so-and-so needs to renew their CPR or their 30-hour. We cannot have accountability if we don't first ensure that they know what they're supposed to do."
Before every project, Suffolk holds a pre-construction risk planning conference between the safety department, field operations and project management. "We sit down and we look at the job from the first day we put a shovel into the earth until we're punchlisting that project at the end. We highlight every step of the way where the major exposures are," says Della-Giustina. During the conference, any additional training needs for superintendents are identified.
Part of Suffolk's success comes from its emphasis on safety with its subcontractors as well as its own employees. "We sit down with every subcontractor before they start and review with them the site-specific safety program," says Della-Giustina. "We go over the scope of work and make sure they've identified what their hazards are going to be."
If the subcontractor isn't performing in a safe manner, Suffolk personnel know how to handle it, says Wilkinson. "We have courses in how they approach that, how they can hold the competence of the subcontractor up and get them to perform or, if worst comes to worst, some of the different things we can do to leverage and force their performance on the safety issues on a project site."
Finally, Suffolk uses creative as well as pragmatic methods to encourage seriousness about safety. About a third of the way through each project, children of the workers on site submit artwork with the theme of construction safety. A panel of judges decides on the winning entry, and that art is framed and mounted at the site so it's the first thing workers see when they arrive in the morning. "We do that because the reason we get up and go to work every day is for our kids," says Della-Giustina. "I think a lot of people have that same motivation, to return home safely to their kids at night, and it's really working well." —H.D.