An NFC Member's Journey in Creating an Effective Jobsite Safety Culture
When it comes to developing an effective safety culture, “it’s about the heart, not the fist,” says Ken Shifflett of Ace Carpentry in Manassas, Virginia. With more than 40 years of experience in the framing industry, Shifflett has seen both approaches in action. Recently, he has led his team down a path that goes straight to the heart, and that road is paved with clear expectations.
“We used to chase instead of lead,” Shifflett explains. “We would let the crews get a couple of stories into the project and then follow behind them and point out the problems.” That approach, he says, only resulted in a lot of frustration for everyone. “Nobody wants to have to go back and do things again. They want to keep making progress, making money.”
The new approach at Ace is all about leading. It centers on a process that has been clearly mapped out, complete with the quality and safety expectations for each phase of the project. The job begins with a kick-off meeting that includes the safety director, supervisors and team leads from every crew involved, including the sub tiers on the project. “Each person needs to understand that they are in control of other people’s safety and whether or not they go home at night,” says Shifflett, who is also present at these kick-off meetings. When the meeting is over, he personally connects with key individuals he has tapped to lead these efforts and asks if they are committed to keeping everyone safe on the job. “Getting the personal buy-in is key,” he says. “Nobody wants an accident on his conscience.”
From there the work begins; expectations have been set and a point person is on the jobsite to help workers meet expectations instead of fighting with them about what needs to be fixed after the fact. Each day begins with tool inspections and if things don’t meet the set expectations, work does not proceed. Shifflett admits there was some grumbling in the beginning, but people made the required changes and everyone was happier in the long run. Ultimately, the first project Ace implemented the new approach was “one of the best they’ve done – across the board,” Shifflett says. “Everyone was happier and I got lots of good comments from people at all levels on the project. There were fewer safety issues and everyone kept a good pace. We spent 3-4 less weeks on the jobsite, too, which is icing on the cake.”
When it’s all said and done, Shifflett says, “appealing to their hearts is easier than shaking your fist.” And he would argue that it doesn’t really cost more to do this. “Correct equipment, yes, there is some cost there,” he says, “but from a productivity standpoint, you get time back when things are done safely and correctly. It’s not worth the extra time if someone gets hurt.”
As president of the National Framers Council (NFC), Shifflett believes 100% in the organization’s mission of making sure framers “Work safely. Go home safely.” He utilizes all aspects of NFC’s FrameSAFE program in his efforts to hone the safety culture at Ace Carpentry. “Safety culture – not safety rules,” he emphasizes. “It has to start from the top and it takes the right people to capture the vision, but if you can get to the heart, you’ll see results.”
For more information about NFC’s FrameSAFE program, go to www.framerscouncil.org/framesafe.