What Time Is It?

This year has rapidly flashed by. Is it me or does time pass faster as you age? My involvement with Associated Builders and Contractors is now in the fourth decade beginning in the 80’s when I was safety committee chairman and began teaching safety courses for members. Do you remember the original ABC office located in the Houston Ship Channel area in an old Howard Hughes complex? Not far from that office was the Houston Country Club that Howard frequented. Today the course is known as Gus Wortham Golf Course and is owned and managed by the City of Houston. ABC has grown up and moved on. Congratulations for the forward look. Had we stayed in that old part of Houston, we’d now have cobwebs over our sign out front.

Who’s keeping time?

I often compare ABC with what’s happening in the construction industry. ABC is rocking. Construction is rocking. From residential to high rise buildings, to office complexes, to upstream, midstream and downstream oil production, it’s the glory land for constructors. Nearly any person these days who wants to work can find a job in construction. That’s not to say that ‘any’ person or ‘every’ person is qualified, it’s just that construction offers many the opportunity for employment. In 1990 the CMEF Board of Directors was attempting to assist the industry with attaining sufficient numbers of qualified workers. We called our plan Workforce 2000. Of course by 2000 we had not maintained our goals because we didn’t anticipate the continuous needs of construction.

Hour glass timer

Often the progress in construction is viewed from an hour glass, or in some types of construction, maybe a sun dial-like when will this freeway be completed? In comparing progress, I’m often asked to give a summary of what’s happening in the world of safety. From an observer’s position, safety in our localized world is doing well. However, if a company or a project has an incidence rate with anything other than zero, our task is incomplete. There are many who say that if we’re going to be in the construction business, we just have to know that injuries happen. I say ‘no’ to that. Injuries don’t just happen, they all have a cause, and since they all have a cause, they can be prevented.

In my safety seminars, a question is asked: “Have you ever been part of a team investigating an injury?” Most will answer “Yes”. Then I say: “What were you looking for?” Someone will usually say: “We were looking for the root cause.” I would say: “That’s the correct answer, and if you were looking for a cause, you have proven that injuries are preventable. Because, if you can find a cause, then by removing that cause, the injury would have been prevented.”

Timex or Rolex?

What’s the difference if the watch keeps time? Some may say it is the style or the look, or maybe it’s the quality. By any watch or clock you use, the time is always right to prevent injuries. Since injuries have causes, they surely are preventable. So, why do we still have injuries at worksites? For an answer, we need to look at the leaders. From my experience in construction, leaders get what they want. If a leader wants to save money, all he/she has to do is eliminate cost, reduce processes, avoid adding value, rush the work and don’t worry what the customer thinks or how many people are harmed during the ‘savings’ process. If, by chance, the same leader wants to get a great return on the investment, do just the opposite: invest sufficient funds, add necessary processes, perform the work productively, consider the customer’s feelings and always prevent injuries and preserve lives.

The bottom line is this: Are you using a Timex and still doing safety like in the 70’s or 80’s? Or could it be that you are a Rolex person and a zero injury kind of person? With no disrespect, consider that companies or projects that have incidence rates in the 1.0 and above range, it’s time for a Rolex. One project leader in one of my seminars stated that he did not need a good incidence rate to get work for his company; all he needed was a low bid. What the leader did not understand is that a 1.0 IR means that one person out of every 100 employees in the company suffered a recordable injury. If a company has 500 employees, that’s 5 people injured. What if your child worked there and was one of those injured, would that make any difference? Of course it would…or should.

Which is it?

So which timer do you have? The one that takes a licking (as in injury) and keeps on ticking or do you prefer the Rolex with injury to no one? The choice belongs to the leaders. They get what they want.
Hopefully leaders want employees to go home the way they came to work. Or, in the case of a zero injury company, they want workers to go home better than they arrived because they were under the direction of a Rolex leader.

Bennet Ghormley has more than 35 years of experience in safety, training and construction administration. He is experienced in implementing safety programs involving commercial, industrial and municipal industries. Mr. Ghormley has conducted audits, investigations and inspections in refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants, for pipelines, water and waste facilities,manufacturing plants and fabrication facilities. Mr. Ghormley has served as an expert witness in litigation cases and appeared before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, EEOC, Employment Commission and civil courts.Contact Mr. Ghormley via email at bennetghormley@yahoo.com.

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