The Importance Of Safety Meetings

Words: Editor’s Note: This month we had the opportunity to talk with mason contractors Brandon Hartsell and Paul Cantarella Jr. about regular safety meetings. Brandon and Paul were winners of the 2018 MCAA Safety Advantage Awards, and provide tips and advice for conducting effective safety meetings.   Masonry Magazine: How often does your team have safety meetings?  Paul Cantarella Jr. of Cantarella and Sons Inc.: Out On the project they have a weekly toolbox talk for all employees. The Foreman also gets additional safety meetings during their Monthly Foreman’s meetings.  Brandon Harstell of Gates Construction Company: We have weekly safety meetings.   M.M.: What is discussed during these meetings?  P.C.: The main topics usually are about any near misses that might have occurred on one of our projects. Something I may have seen while I was out on a site visit, or learning from someone else’s mistakes via toolbox talk and safety library on the MCAA’s website. The topics constantly change. Between being in different situations that can present a safety hazard on a current project or new rules being that are being released from OSHA.   It can be anything from slips, trips, and falls, to proper harness inspection, proper fall protection, and everything in between. There is definitely no shortage of topics on safety in the masonry trade. As our Safety Officer, I try to keep things fresh and new to keep the crew interested. If you keep going over the same material, most will not be paying attention. Most times I try to tie the topic into one of our projects that we are currently working on. Sometimes if people can see the hazard they can learn easier how to approach the situation (hands-on) compared to reading in a classroom. 
  B.H.: We discuss a vast array of different safety topics.   M.M.: What steps are taken to ensure safety on a jobsite? 
  P.C.: For me it’s simple, the buck stops with me. I have said it many times to our crew, “Nothing is worth you life to make a dollar.” Growing up in the family business I saw a lot of unsafe work being done (mind you at this time everyone worked that way) and said to myself, “When it’s my turn, I will not allow this on any of our projects.” Its 2 fold for me, most of the members of the crew I have grown up with so they are like family to me. The last thing I would want is for something to happen to them all because we were trying to save a buck. Add to this I’m deathly afraid of heights (Laughs).   They used to call me the “one-handed bricklayer,” because I would hang onto the scaffold with one hand, while laying brick with the other. My T-shirts also used to say “GROUND FLOOR” on the sleeve! I have pulled large crews of scaffolding during some of my projects because I was not happy with the safety. Honestly, to this day my father still brings up one of those occasions and still gets mad at me for doing that. But I would and will do it again in a heartbeat if the circumstances require. I have said many times, I would rather go out of business because we do too much safety, than have someone get hurt or die because we were too cheap and
pocketed the money instead of investing in our safety. My crew knows I mean it when I say follow all safety procedures!   B.H.: We have Trained Superintendents who make sure everyone returns home safe each day.  M.M.: Tell us about the importance of having these meetings regularly? 
  P.C.: Safety is such a top priority these days, and if you want to make it a serious priority, the only way to do so is by having constant safety meetings. Hold training classes to keep your crew up to date on their training and new OSHA rules. Without the constant reminder of safety, workers can become complacent. This is where keeping the employees engaged in training and meetings is key with new and fresh ideas or safety topics.  B.H.: Our MOD rate stays low. We are more productive.  M.M.: Who attends the meetings?   P.C.: Our weekly toolbox talks on the jobsites are for all the employees. While our monthly safety meetings at our office are attended by all masons and labor foreman on our team.  B.H.: All site personnel.   M.M.: How are the meetings conducted?   P.C.: I have a handout for the crew to follow along, either in the form of a toolbox talk, a safety talk, or if we had a near miss on a project. I will write up what occurred for all of us to review, and then we can come up with safe solutions for the situation. Sometimes when doing toolbox or safety talk I will pick one of the foremen to read it. This also helps keep them engaged. I also am big on the crew making sure they are listening and not talking amongst themselves. 
  B.H.: Weekly at the Jobsite meeting area.  M.M.: Do you have any advice for other contractors for safety meetings?   P.C.: You either make it a priority or you don’t! There’s no in between, if you want to have a safety culture in your business. Make sure your employee’s are engaged during the safety meeting. Not just staring at you, thinking about what they are going to do over the weekend for fun. I have also seen and gotten some great ideas that other MCAA contractors do at their safety meetings to keep their workers listening and engaged (This is just one of many benefits of joining the MCAA!). For example, make a game out of the safety meeting with employees. For every safety question answered right, they win a prize. It starts at the top! If the person leading the charge doesn’t believe in safety then it will never happen! Safety Always!
Words: Masonry Magazine  Photos: AF_Istocker, Drazen, Lamontak590623, Reimphoto 
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