Workforce Weekly

Safety Panel: Construction Industry Needs to Follow Oil & Gas Industry’s Example

The construction industry could learn a thing or two from the oil and gas industry in terms of safety.

Matt Frey, Vice President of Skanska USA Building Inc., led a lively discussion of six expert safety panelists to address a crowd of 250 construction professionals who attended ABC of Greater Houston’s July membership breakfast. One of their many conclusions on worksite safety was to take note on how the oil and gas industry approaches safe practices. All five panelists include:

P1010337(1) SSHE of ExxonMobil Susan Bradley,

(2) Chevron GM Global Real Estate Ops and Projects Jim Tosh,

(3) Performance Contractors, Inc. EHS Director Jeremy Miller,

(4) Skanska USA Building Inc. General Manager Brian Freeman,

(5) Dean & Draper Commercial/Industrial Insurance Agent Sonny Convington,

(6) President of D.E. Harvey Builders David Harvey.

Each panelist shared their perspective on how to progress in a strengthening field while being mindful of risk assessment. Susan Bradley told the crowd that working in commercial construction was ‘eye opening’ when it came to approaching risk assessment. There are still obstacles to be tackled and goals to be met when it comes to a safe company culture.

“We all say that ‘I’m not in the oil and gas business. I’m in the risk P1010327management business,’” Bradley said. “They place responsibility each day to assess risk. We should all be safety leaders.”

Jim Tosh said Chevron, as a company, was shocked into safety practices. From then on, they measured to look for significant changes in order to implement effective strategies. Tosh’s struggle, he said, was to receive needed data from contractors and subcontractors in order to safely proceed.

“We sometimes get the fact that it’s not being recorded. We ask ‘how your TRI [Toxics Release Inventory] has changed over the last few years?’ They don’t know. You have to know and record these things,” Tosh said.

Jeremy Miller said when the industry applies the same discipline on the safety ownership side, especially with data, that the field as a whole would improve drastically.

P1010329“We’ve learned from the oil and gas industry,” Brian Freeman said. “We’ve seen the results get better. Until every single one of us and every single subcontractor gets fully-committed like oil and gas, we’re going to fight an uphill battle. If we don’t hold them accountable, then every single one of us will never get that perfect mark, meaning you’re not going to get hurt on our job.”

The group also discussed aspects of their business that do well. Miller said incentives are a great way to boost morale, and morale effects safety. Most of the panelists spoke of the importance of interacting with individuals on the site. Freeman said his phone receives the first or second call with any jobsite news.

“It’s that personal side of it, that accountability is that you are responsible for everyone that steps on that job site,” Freeman said. “It’s getting to know people…and figuring out how they tick.”

A different perspective on the panel was the insurance side. Sonny Covington shared with the group about witnessing the aftermath.

P1010307“I can assure you sitting across the table from a mother or siblings whose family member passed away – if that doesn’t impact you, nothing will,” Covington said. “The less you spend on safety, the more you’re going to spend on accidents. So you’re going to pay the piper eventually.”

David Harvey said that training is a critical component in addressing safety requirements.

“When you’re trying to change the safety culture of your company, and it’s been a certain way for a long time, it can take decades to make an impact,” Harvey said.

Panel moderator Frey did a small calculation for the crowd. He asked a couple of panelists how many individuals would be on a certain job site, the total adding up to 12,000. Frey wanted to put into perspective the span training can have of the jobsite and for the construction professional.

“That is 12,000 people receiving high quality safety training right here in the city of Houston,” Frey said.

The takeaways for the crowd were simply that safe practices should be implemented, measured and discussed openly with employees. Training is critical. And managers lead by example when it comes to how much of a priority these plans are when they are implemented.

“It’s not just by luck that we happen to be safe,” Bradley said. “We work really hard to be safe.”

1 Comment

  1. January 9, 2015 at 2:41 pm — Reply

    I agree with this panel that safe practices should indeed be implemented. When safety is not the first priority of a company, then the workers are indeed at risk.

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