The commitment your company makes can make all the difference when it comes to the success of your business
Odds are anyone holding a copy of Metal Roofing Magazine is aware of at least most of the potential dangers of installing a metal roof, or any roofing for that matter. It’s the nature of the beast — anytime you’re off the ground, there’s a danger of falling to the ground and suffering an injury … or worse.
Fortunately for you, your employees and co-workers, there is a wide variety of quality and proven safety equipment available. You owe it to your employees and your customers to know as much as you can about safety and safety equipment.
You may not always view its existence as a positive, but the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration is not just a governmental body of law enforcement and penalties. OSHA provides guidelines, regulations and training for crew leaders and crew members.
(While OSHA rules and regulations apply nationwide, be mindful that local regulations may vary between locations. It’s important to know what the expectations are in the area you’re working.)
Working safely may add to the time it takes to complete a job, but the value of time saved cannot match the value of healthy workers. No more lecturing — we talked to a few reps from several metal roofing firms about their safety programs. No one’s perfect, but it’s a pretty good goal. Hopefully, there’s an idea or two you can implement into your operation.
Kodiak Roofing, Lincoln, Calif.
“Our safety program is always evolving,” says Rich Palmer, vice president of operations. “It’s been evolving for over 20 years. Our safety director meets with our foremen at least once a month and at jobsites, we have weekly tailgate meetings.”
Kodiak employs approximately 200 installers at any given time, so the company takes on some large projects and works with general contractors who also place an emphasis on safety. Kodiak installed the metal roofing on the Sacramento International Airport in Sacramento, Calif., working with Turner Construction of Tempe, Ariz. More than 350,000 square feet of stainless steel roofing panels from Contrarian Metal Resources were installed — on a working terminal.
“Turner Construction knows we’re dedicated to safe working conditions, they know about our safety program and our IIPP (Injury Illness Prevention Plan),” Palmer says. “They’re as dedicated to safety as we are. Contractors expect that.”
Palmer says Kodiak has a “zero-tolerance tie-off” policy. “If you’re caught not tied off, it’s immediate termination,” he says. “And that’s not always easy to do, but they learn real quick we’re not screwing around with it. There have been occasions we’ve had to terminate a valuable employee, guys that have been with us a long time.
Palmer says Kodiak invests tens of thousands of dollars annually on safety equipment and training. Foremen are required to take the 30-hour OSHA class and all employees are taking the 10-hour OSHA course.
“They get it,” Palmer says of the Kodiak employees. “They understand why the zero-tolerance tie-off policy is in place. It’s for their safety and the company’s safety. Our employees are our most valuable asset and that’s not just lip service.”
J.V. Heidler Co. Inc., Lancaster, Pa.
Joe Heidler, president and CEO of J.V. Heidler Co. does his best to keep up on OSHA regulations and the changes that affect his business. He admits he doesn’t always agree with the regulations, but makes sure his employees follow them.
“We have a pretty involved safety program,” Heidler says. “I know it’s a lot more than most of our competitors do. With everything we do, we like to do things the right way and we like to take care of our employees.”
As part of its safety program, Heidler has a monthly safety committee meeting, complete with a typed agenda, as well as a reading and approval of minutes from the previous meeting. The committee is made up of a mix of management and field employees. “At jobsites, we talk about safety all the time,” Heidler says. “Especially when we get to a new project.”
Until recently, Heidler’s crews used a slide guard system for fall protection, but new OSHA regulations have changed that. “Sometimes I think OSHA is having us do things that are not as safe as we’ve been doing them,” Heidler says. “For instance, we’re not allowed to use slide guards anymore, so everyone is tied off. Tying off takes more time, it’s not as efficient and there is a tripping hazard involved, but we follow the regulations and work carefully.”
Heidler says his company takes on some industrial jobs that require his employees to undergo some online training just to be allowed on to the jobsite. “We have a lot of customers who have their own safety requirements,” he says, adding his company’s reputation helps land jobs with company’s who place a high emphasis on doing things right.
“It also keeps us from getting work,” he says. “There’s a job I can see right here from my window, where a competitor did it a lot quicker than we would have been able to do it and their bid was less. They came in, set up a ladder, no harnesses and went to work. We lose some projects, but it’s not worth it to us to take those short cuts because we value our employees. Not to mention that if you get caught, it’s pretty expensive.”
Heidler says his company pulled employees off a jobsite once because the crews they were working with were not working safely. “We wouldn’t let our guys work along side them and they found a different way to get our part of the job done,” he says. “Funny thing is, we ended up getting a contract later to go in and clean up some things they did on the project.”
Metal Monsters Inc., North Liberty, Iowa
Metal Monsters installs mostly residential roofing, “so some of the regulations are not as stringent,” says Mike Kramer, noting rules and regulations are always changing.
“We’re in the process of updating our policy and getting it in our handbook, putting it in place so everyone knows the repercussions,” Kramer says. “Our crew leaders will be attending OSHA training as well as a training program offered by our insurance company.”
During busy times, Metal Monsters usually employs three crews of three. Iowa winters are generally a little slower, so there may be fewer employees. Now is when Kramer has time to update the company policy on safety. “We’re working with our insurance company,” he says. “We’ve always done our best to work safely, being tied off, wearing hardhats, eye and ear protection.”
Kramer says the bottom line for any business, no matter how big or how small, is profit margin. It’s all about making money. “For those of us who are paying workman’s comp, it’s 20 percent,” he says. “If we can get that down, all the safety equipment is worth it. More importantly, for a company our size, if someone gets hurt, it takes a toll emotionally. Some of these guys have been with us since we started eight years ago.”
Safety is about taking care of your employees, your equipment, your bottom line and your business. One accident can affect it all in a very drastic way.