Modu Tech Provides Hand-On Safety Experience
“If you think you’re going to hire a safety officer, and all of a sudden you’re going to be safer, my experience tells me you’re going to be wrong.” That’s the warning Todd Wagner delivers in his safety training sessions. His point: developing a safety culture and sustaining an ongoing commitment to protecting employees is not a one-person responsibility. “It’s a company-wide effort,” he says. “It’s all of us looking out for one another.”
As president of Wagner Industrial Training Systems, Todd draws on his own experience in the construction, paper mill, and manufacturing industries, and he has plenty of opportunity to review the efforts of individual companies. He says FrameSAFE is a particularly impressive program – but that makes it a good starting point, not a blanket solution. “My experience tells me that if you sign up for a FrameSAFE manual or purchase a company safety policy, you’re not instantly going to be safe,” says Todd. You can’t just buy a program and have a safe workplace the next day.
Todd’s belief that there are no instant results when it comes to safety, was reflected in a full-day training session hosted by NFC member Modu Tech. Scott Stevens, president of Modu Tech, and fellow NFC member Bruce Jones of Bruce L Jones Contractor Company. Bruce and Scott initially reached out to Todd in response to the new federal silica regulations that OSHA began enforcing on September 23. The training session they developed around that topic drew attendees from All-Tech, American Pride Builders, Fine Line Trim, GEM Building Corp, RPM Construction, Southernwood and Winslow Carpentry.
“One of the requirements of the respirable crystalline silica law is that your employees must be trained,” Todd explains. “You also must have a competent person on the jobsite to identify any hazards and then implement a plan to reduce and or eliminate the hazard.”
Todd, Bruce and Scott agreed that the place to start was simply educating NFC members about what the standard entails. For Todd, that didn’t mean his training session should start with a lecture. “A lot of this stuff is interpretation,” he says, so he asked his class to read the standard itself. Then, the entire 15-person group would discuss what each paragraph meant and reconcile their interpretations of the regulation language. Todd says this isn’t just about learning the silica standard requirements. It’s good practice for anyone who routinely tries to make sense of and comply with federal regulations.
Next, it was time for the hands-on portion of the training. “We went out into Scott’s facility,” Todd explained, to where “a vacuum dust collection system was set up that Bruce had purchased” and was in a position for training use. With a good understanding of what the standard requires, the NFC group had a chance to see exactly how the tools that would help comply with the silica standard match up with the language of the standard.
Last but not least, Todd brought the NFC members back inside for some train-the-trainer instruction. He went through slides that they could take with them, customize and use to train their own employees and subcontractors, just as the silica standard requires. Todd even throws in some teaching tips, from basics like dressing the part and getting your audience’s attention so they take the message seriously, to the more challenging aspects of safety instruction like being prepared for strong audience reactions when explaining the consequences of unsafe behavior becomes graphic.
“We did a lot during the course of that day!” says Todd. “They felt like they were back in school.” And, just like in school, there was a test. “After they go through the training, we verify comprehension,” Todd explains. “For this class, we actually had three different tests.” Passing scores prove to him and his trainees that the day was a valuable learning experience.
Providing that experience and sharing a message about safety is part of why Todd followed up on this training by joining the group that invited him. “I originally heard about it through Bruce,” he said, and after attending an NFC meeting and seeing just how worthwhile it was, Todd sent in his member application. “I’m excited, really excited for the networking opportunity as well as for the opportunity to learn,” he said. “It was fresh. It was real,” he says of the first NFC meeting he went to; he says he’s looking forward to more.
Above all, he’s excited to see a group in the construction industry encouraging a substantial, rather than a superficial effort to protect workers. Having a safety program and ensuring that everyone follows it are two very different things, Todd says; it’s great that the NFC is encouraging more companies to do both. What Todd stresses in his training is simple: “Once we’re committed to having a safety system in place, let’s make sure we’re following it every day to protect our people.”