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Speakers Address Productivity Through Safety, Achieving Operational Excellence

The shared theme was the need for a properly trained, safe and productive labor force and the obstacles in our society to those worthy goals.

Tue May 13, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Ed Foulke, a partner of Fisher & Phillips, spoke to CIC board members at the 2014 annual meeting of governing and advisory committees.
Ed Foulke, a partner of Fisher & Phillips, spoke to CIC board members at the 2014 annual meeting of governing and advisory committees.

Addressing the governing and advisory board members at Crane Institute Certification’s (CIC’s) annual meeting in April in Atlanta, Ga., speakers representing Fisher & Phillips Attorneys at Law, JV Industrial Contractors and Institute for Safety and Health Management discussed the importance of productivity through safety and recruiting young workers to join the crane and rigging industry. The shared theme was the need for a properly trained, safe and productive labor force and the obstacles in our society to those worthy goals.

“The youngest generation entering the workforce isn’t growing up with the concept that construction is a viable career option,” said Brent Babow, vice-president, human resources and strategic planning, JV Industrial Companies, Pasadena, Texas.

The ongoing shortage for skilled craft workers in construction includes the need for crane operators and riggers with all skill levels in all regions of the United States, but especially in the booming Gulf Coast market. JV Industrial Companies (JVIC) has entered an employment placement partnership with CIC for the recruitment of crane operators and riggers. JVIC is one of the largest industrial maintenance contractors in the United States, working on nuclear, petrochemical, oil/gas, and general civil construction projects from coast to coast.

“JVIC recognizes the benefit of employing certified operators and riggers, which assists us in evaluating their skill level as we place new hires into appropriate positions at JVIC,” said Babow.

Likewise, Larry Curtis, executive director of Institute for Safety and Health Management (ISHM), preaches that it’s not only crane operators who should be certified, but also estimators, production managers, and safety managers.

“A foundational understanding of lifting operations is crucial to job site safety,” he said. “To that end, safety should be a valued partnership between all departments and specialties.”

ISHM, which partnered with CIC earlier this year to provide cross-market certification options to management level employees, provides three accreditations for safety professionals. ISHM is offering discounts on its certified and associate safety and health manager and certified safety management practitioner credentials to CIC-certified advanced riggers, lift directors and practical examiners.

“Safety should not become so rigid that it doesn’t work,” said Ed Foulke, a partner with Fisher & Phillips, a leading national labor and employment law firm. Foulke told the group of training professionals at CIC’s annual meeting that mistakes are going to happen on the job. The goal is not to eliminate mistakes. Instead, “The responsibility of safety professionals is to make sure that when operators or riggers do make a mistake, that they don’t get injured or killed.” Foulke was an OSHA leader during Clinton and Bush administrations.

In addition, Foulke shared that the current mood in Washington, D.C. is for OSHA to be enforcement-driven.

“There is increased emphasis on whistleblowers, large penalties, public embarrassment and more companies being named to the severe violators enforcement program,” he said. The premise is that a strong-arm improves safety. “I disagree with this approach. You have to have cooperation with government [to improve safety],” said Foulke.

Health and Safety professionals seem to agree with Foulke. A November 2013 survey conducted by Safety + Health magazine asked: “What should OSHA’s main role be in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces” Nearly 70 percent of responders said: “Compliance assistance and education.” Only 19.4 percent thought enforcement should be the agency’s main role. Meanwhile 4.8 percent thinks this is solely the employer’s responsibility.

“If you are just meeting OSHA requirements then your safety program is at best fair; it’s often not even good. OSHA is just a baseline,” said Foulke, who suggests that it is possible to achieve operational excellence and profitability through safety. Effective health and safety systems should include:

• Strong management commitment

• Employee engagement

• Worksite and root cause analysis

• Hazard prevention and control

• Training for supervisors, managers, and employees.

• Ultimately, safety must be a part of your mission, vision, value statement.

The dozens of CIC governing and advisory board members attending CIC’s annual meeting represented a cross section of employers, contractors, trainers and safety professionals in the crane and rigging industry in North America. Committee members concluded that a delay of 1926.1400, as OSHA has proposed, is a wake-up call for the industry.

“This industry has never set its bar for safety and productivity at OSHA’s level. Many people are alive and well today because this industry self regulates safety, trains for competence, and qualifies for the job to be done using the right equipment,” said Debbie Dickinson, executive director of CIC. “Certification saves lives and gives employers a valuable and reliable tool for identifying operators who have demonstrated knowledge, skill and ability relevant to their trade.”

She concluded: “CIC provides a higher level of certification by testing operators at longer boom lengths, higher capacity and giving credit where credit is due to operators who earn it. Stay safe. Work hard. Do the job well.”

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