safety takes small, deliberate steps.
Safety pays. In the past 30 years, my commitment to safety has led to lower insurance costs, OSHA inspections without fines and repeat customers for Hull & Associates. Having a safe jobsite did not come easily. It required changing the framing culture and my framers’ perceptions about their value and safety. Though reluctant at first, my framing crews have embraced safety and, in turn, have grown a newfound respect for the framing industry and the work they provide.
It all started with hard hats—my framing crews did not wear them consistently, if at all. Texas is hot in the summer, but the sun does not limit the force of falling objects. “Wear your hard hat,” I would tell them again, and again, and again. Eventually, grudgingly, the hard hats were put on and kept on. Hard hats serve their intended purpose of protecting one’s head from injury from falling objects, but they were much more important to that for my framing crews, because the hats got them thinking about personal protective equipment and safety. Once the hard hat battle was won, the next safety battles were simpler. Using fall protection for heights over six feet was easier to enforce. “You have to have fall protection when over six feet,” I would inform my framing crews. Sure enough, with their hard hats on their heads, they did. Once they understood the importance and value I placed on their lives, they understood my commitment to their safety. With framers looking out for their own safety, and the safety of their coworkers, the overall safety on the jobsite improved.
Having a safe jobsite did not happen overnight, however. After working in the framing industry for many years, I’ve learned some methods and practices that work better than others. The perception of the jobsite sets the tone for Hull & Associates’ commitment to framing safety for everyone—workers arriving to the jobsite in the morning, the OSHA inspector on a visit, and potential customers who simply drive past. For example, we set up hand rails on all unprotected exterior edges, post a lot of signage, and keep the jobsite free of clutter and debris. Additionally, there is always a safety point person on every jobsite who stays at the site for the entire day, as well as three roaming safety officers that travel between active jobsites. We are always ready for an OSHA inspection because we understand the framing procedures we follow. With our continuous commitment to safety, we don’t hide our practices behind a smoke screen. Instead, we openly discuss with OSHA inspectors what we believe is a greater hazard, and why we feel our practices are the safest possible. Understanding the “why” behind framing procedures is just as important as understanding the “how.” Through this multi-pronged safety approach, we often have OSHA inspections without any issued fines.
Since my framers understand my commitment to their safety, they appreciate my philosophy of living best practices. This translates to their health and safety on the jobsite, but also to the level of work they perform. Hull & Associates has many repeat customers because they are happy with the quality of work we provide. Just as shortcuts in safety are not tolerated, shortcuts in framing are unacceptable, and my framing crews know this. Many skills and traits from practicing safe framing translate directly into good quality framing—attention to detail and precision being two prominent examples. Setting the stage with safety has allowed these traits to develop in my framing crews, which has increased the value and pride in their work.
Though it was a long process to change the framing safety culture, and my employees and subs did it reluctantly at first, that has all changed. My employees are happy and retention is high because they value the time and money that Hull & Associates spends on their safety. They look out for each other and keep producing high-quality framing, which keeps my customers returning for more.
Through NFC’s safety program, we are looking to provide framers access to best practices that will help foster similar professionalism and pride. A safer work environment will have far-reaching effects in the industry, beyond just a healthier and safer workforce. There are additional financial benefits, such as reduced insurance rates and a reduction in OSHA fines. Framers who use industry best practices to create safe, well-built structures, done right the first time, offer great value for suppliers, engineers, framers, general contractors, builders and owners.