Chairman's Message: A Safety Culture

Words: Larry Vacala

Last year I wrote an article on the importance of safety. That article was dedicated to the memory of my former Safety Director, Henry DeVries. I’m bringing up safety once again because safety is incredibly valuable and should never be discounted. 

Successful contractors have safety programs that produce zero injury outcomes because their program goes beyond just OSHA compliance. To not comply is a form of at-risk behavior and undermines your employees’ confidence in your program. The key is complete commitment from all employees and all management. This starts from the top down and includes everyone, upper management to the entry level employees.

Making safety a core value creates a vision that the workplace will be 100% accident-free. But it’s not simply putting up signs and mentioning it during a once a year all employee meeting. Posters and signs are useful, but not enough. Training can be done in different forms but should be ongoing and part of the development of an employee. It must be a standing agenda in management meetings, part of the company’s constant vision, and a routine discussed daily in the job site morning huddles. 

Your workplace environment should be “Blame Free”. This encourages employees to report incidents (injuries and near-misses) so that corrective actions can be taken. It’s important to find and correct the root cause of the incident. This is the best way to prevent recurrences. Your employees will one by one become convinced that their company really does care about their health and well-being. This begins the creation of a safety culture. 

Form a safety committee made up of your field employees. The power of a good committee takes on a life of its own. It speaks to growth, vitality, innovation, and the bottom-line results in safety. Be sure employees receive formal recognition for their efforts to promote best safety practices. 

To honor the legacy of the late Henry DeVries, each year we choose one employee that best represents Henry’s safety practices. Nominated by their peers, we recognize the 5 finalists at our annual Christmas party. The winner is then honored at a luncheon with their family, other employees, and the DeVries family. Everyone looks forward to becoming the next recipient of this prestigious award. 

For 2022, our company’s five finalists were John Grandfield, Damaso Rodriguez, Dewayne Russell, Jose Velasco and Jimmy Williams. We are very fortunate to have special employees that have become passionate about safety and play a huge role in preventing accidents and injuries. They are all truly appreciated! 

In 2022, the Henry DeVries Safety Award winner was presented to Damaso Rodriquez. Damaso is the gold standard for jobsite safety. Congratulations and thank you Damaso, for your dedication to safety!

Thank you, Henry DeVries, for building our safety culture, it lives on in your honor!

Safety should be treated as an investment, not a negative cost. It’s an investment in your employee’s well-being and part of the cost savings program because it’s the “vehicle” to lower claims and insurance costs and increase productivity. Resources and time must be set aside to identify ways to strengthen and improve safety performance.
We can say with certainty talented people, experience, and hard work can make you profitable. But safety is the glue to every successful company. 

Be sure to review your company safety policies and keep them up to date. If you don’t have the resources or ability to have your own safety officer, you can log onto the MCAA website and find all you need to know about safety in our industry. The MCAA has a safety committee comprised of experts throughout the country. This committee discusses the latest challenges to our industry and keeps all the safety information current.   

As you may have noticed, many of my articles have highlighted the trips I’ve taken to other National and State Association’s meetings. I would like to invite you all to join me next month on my next trip. It will be September 17th - 20th, to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the MCAA midyear meetings. A great time will be had by all attending. Not only will you enjoy the venue at the Historical Hersey Hotel, but you will also return home with more knowledge about our industry to benefit you and your company. Bring the whole family, there will be plenty of fun activities for all. Check out the MCAA website for the details. Hope to see you in Hershey. 

Stay Safe and Stay Strong!

Larry Vacala

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