When it comes to a safe jobsite, there is always room for improvement. Even the most stand-up contractors recognized in the industry for their safety programs find mistakes on routine job walks and face accidents on occasion. Perfection doesn’t exist on a jobsite. After all, we’re only human. What we can do is strive to be better, which is precisely what GLY’s Safety Team aims for, and preaches to the workforce on a regular basis.
One of the best ways to realize our faults and strengths is to invite someone from the outside in and give them the power to critique—much like a proposal or interview debrief. The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America [LHSFNA] does exactly this for safety programs around the nation. I couldn’t say no to this opportunity. Whether the feedback was good or bad, I knew the intel would benefit the company and help keep workers safe.
On July 19, April Dorsey, the LHSFNA’s Safety and Health Specialist, flew in from Washington D.C. to conduct a site safety audit at the Lakefront Blocks jobsite in South Lake Union. She spent a full day looking high and low, inside and out, while vigorously taking notes and snapping photos. Having a second set of eyes look at your own jobsite is humbling, even exposing, especially for any safety supervisor. By sharing the who, what, why and how of this process, I hope it encourages others to consider this valuable opportunity.
WHAT IS THE LHSFNA’S MISSION?
The LHSFNA was founded by the Laborers’ International Union of North America [LIUNA] and its signatory partners in 1988 to help union members and signatory contractors live safer and healthier lives—both on and off the jobsite. Whether educating LIUNA members in fitness and nutrition or assisting new or small firms in developing their safety programs, the LHSFNA is committed to protecting workers and the employer’s bottom line. The Fund’s goal, in the simplest terms, is much like our own: that everyone goes home healthy at the end of the day.
Most importantly, the staff on the LHSFNA team are passionate about what they do and each has extensive experience and education in their field.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE SAFETY AUDITS?
The safety audits—or consultations—provide LIUNA’s signatory contractors with a second set of eyes by someone not personally attached to the firm. Through an unbiased lens, the LHSFNA specialist evaluates workplace hazards, suggests approaches for solving any problems, and ultimately, helps improve the firm’s safety performance.
Both contractors and their employees benefit from a safer jobsite and healthier work environment after addressing any of the reported issues. This also helps lower costs associated with injuries and illnesses and sustain productivity.
WHERE DOES THE LHSFNA PROVIDE THESE SERVICES?
All over the United States and Canada! Based in Washington D.C., the LHSFNA is available to help LIUNA signatory contractors across the U.S. and Canada upon request, and often visits multiple contractors in a single trip. For example, during the recent visit to Lakefront Blocks, April Dorsey, the LHSFNA’s Safety and Health Specialist, was able to visit both GLY and another general contractor in the area.
The beauty of LHSFNA is that they are always willing to conduct safety and health consultations … signatory contractors just need to ask. Some firms simply aren’t aware of the opportunity, while others are initially hesitant, assuming that the LHSFNA is connected to OSHA, when in fact, it’s not at all. The LHSFNA does not issue citations or fines, but they do offer practical solutions to help contractors stay in compliance and keep workers safe.
HOW DOES THE PROCESS WORK? WHAT CAN A JOBSITE EXPECT?
The first step is to start the conversation. If you’re a signatory contractor or a LIUNA Local Union, reach out to the LHSFNA and request a visit. A safety audit is provided at no additional cost, but it’s up to the requesting contractor to get the most out of it. The best way to do this? Do not scrub the job site before the visit and do not inform the workers of the event. If you want the most honest and real results, do not change your processes before the audit.
Effective safety and health professionals start by opening a dialogue on site. It’s important to ask about the scope of work, the total manpower on the job and what tasks are being performed that day. For example, are there any critical lifts or confined space entries planned? These questions can help identify trends and lead to recommendations that help create a safer and healthier environment for all workers.
During the walk of the jobsite, visiting safety professionals look for observable hazards or workers following unsafe practices that may jeopardize their life or the lives of others. These issues are addressed immediately to prevent worker injury or illness. After the jobsite walk, safety professionals will often debrief with supervisors and management about what they observed.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON ISSUES THE LHSFNA SEES WHILE CONDUCTING + REVIEWING THE AUDIT RESULTS?
Typically, the most common hazards observed relate to falls from heights as well as slips, trips, and falls on the same level, electrocutions, struck-by/caught-in hazards, housekeeping, scaffolding, and trenching/excavations.
When discussing the results with the contractor, the most common request for help centers around proper compliance with OSHA’s new Respirable Crystalline Silica standard. Through education in person, over the phone or through Fund materials, the LHSFNA is helping many contractors understand the nuances of the new rule and what is and isn’t acceptable.
GLY’s jobsite audit is complete and the results discussed. While they were very promising and reflective of a safe jobsite, there’s room for improvement. Now it’s time to implement the LHSFNA’s recommendations, share the results with a broader audience at the company, and use the results as a training tool. If your firm is ready to do the same, reach out to the LHSFNA today and start the conversation!
You can contact the LHSFNA via their website at www.lhsfna.org, by calling 202.628.5465, or through your LIUNA Local Union.