National Safety Month Update & Promotions

National Safety Month Overview

Everyone faces hazards and potential dangers in their lives. Whether you face them while working at your job or in your personal life, there is always a risk of injury. HB NEXT understands that safety is a top priority which is why we are raising awareness for National Safety Month. June is the National Safety Council’s(NSC) National Safety Month. The goal of National Safety Month is to try and reduce injuries and fatalities caused by some of the less focused on hazards. Over the duration of June, the NSC will put special emphasis on one safety topic each week. The order for this year goes as follows:

Week 1: Mental Health

Week 2: Ergonomics

Week 3: Building a Safety Culture

Week 4: Driving

Free Materials 

The NSC provides free public materials about each topic such as posters, articles, social media graphics, and more. They also provide additional 5 Minute Safety Talks for their members. The NSC raises money for the National Safety Council SAFER effort, which aims to address the safety needs of the Nation’s workforce now and in a post-pandemic environment. 100% of all donations from now to June 30 go to the SAFER effort and the NSC will match up to $25,000 worth of donations.

To access NSC’s free materials, please click HERE.


Complimentary Safety Manual Reviews

HB NEXT would like to share our expertise to improve more workplaces all around the country. As a promo for National Safety Month, HB NEXT is offering all companies a Complimentary Review of their safety manual. In addition to this, we are offering $100 off of new OSHA compliant safety manuals. To submit your manual for review, simply fill out the form and upload your manual HERE.  Or, Contact Us and ask for a complimentary safety manual review by emailing info@hbnext.com.


OSHA 10 hr BOGO

In addition to the complimentary safety manual reviews, HB NEXT is also offering buy 1 get 1 half-off on OSHA 10 hour training through the month of June. Click HERE to view our class calendar and register using coupon code BOGOHALF.


NUCA Trench Safety Stand Down

The National Utility Contractors Association(NUCA) has declared June as Trench Safety Month. For the last 4 years, the NUCA has held the Trench Safety Stand Down. This year they are holding it from June 15 – 19. The Trench Safety Stand Down is a series of organized events held by the NUCA over the entirety of the week. These events are used to emphasize the message of safety around jobsite trenches and excavations through seminars, safety training, and other activities.  To learn more about NUCA or the Trench Safety Stand Down visit there website HERE.

OSHA Safety Stand Down Postponed

OSHA also holds a Stand Down for Fall Prevention, as it is the cause of the most fatalities in construction, every year. This year, due to COVID-19, it has been postponed to an unknown date post-pandemic. In 2019, more than 47,000 employees participated in the Stand Down. They are expecting to beat that number this year as their community grows.  To learn more about OSHA or the Stand Down to prevent falls in construction visit there article HERE.

OSHA’s COVID-19 Changes

COVID-19 Responses

With the changing ideas and growing knowledge about COVID-19, OSHA has been putting new precautions into effect. One of the first changes is making COVID-19 a required, recordable disease under OSHA’s record keeping requirements. They reversed the April 10th announcement of not requiring employers to track on-the-job COVID-19 cases. The cases only must be recorded if the disease is diagnosed/confirmed by the CDC, or is work-related.

 

Is it a work-related Illness?

One of the first steps an employer should take if a case is confirmed is asking the afflicted employee how they believe they contracted the disease and discuss any activities that could have lead to the illness. Outside of asking the employee you can also determine if its work-related by looking at the environments around the time of contracting the disease. If many cases develop in your employees at the same time or if the employee became sick after extended contact with a customer or with the general public, then the disease is likely work related. If the employee is the only worker to contract the disease or if they spend time outside of the site with someone (family members, significant other, close friend) who has COVID-19, then the disease is likely not work related.

 

Updated Interim Enforcement Plan

Employers must report all work related fatalities within 8 hours and work-related hospitalizations within 24 hours. Employers must also report any fatalities that occurred within 30 days of a work-related incident. OSHA will determine if an inspection or an R.R.I. is required after receiving a fatality report. If the hospitalization or fatality was related to COVID-19, then each AD should evaluate the potential risk level of spreading diseases on the site. If a CSHO identifies a workplace with potential exposure and determine an inspection is needed, they must contact supervisors and the Office of Occupational Medicine and Nursing. COVID-19 inspections will be considered novel cases.

 

Workplace Risk Levels

High risk jobs have a high potential for exposure. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs at hospitals that are treating COVID-19 patients, nursing homes, emergency medical centers, emergency response facilities, places where home care and hospice are provided,  settings that handle  human remains, biomedical laboratories, and medical transport. Medium risk jobs have frequent or close contact with people who may be infected but are not confirmed. This includes jobs that work with the general public, high-density work places, and meat and poultry processing. Low risk jobs are those that don’t require contact with people who have or are thought to have been infected. These jobs have minimal interaction with the public and other co-workers.

Complaints, Referrals, and R.R.I.s

In high-risk workplaces, fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to COVID-19 are prioritized for inspections. Any complaints about lack of proper PPE for high risk jobsites should be inspected and if deemed appropriate a non-formal phone/fax investigation could be used. If there is an on-site fatality or imminent danger event and the proper resources for an inspection are not available, then a remote investigation will be used until the resources for an onsite inspection can be found. Formal complaints for medium or low risk jobsites will not require an on-site inspection. Employer-reported hospitalizations will be handled using a R.R.I. in most cases. Workers that request inspections, are complaining of COVID-19 exposure, or reporting illness may be covered under one or more of the whistleblower statutes.

 

Inspection Scope, Scheduling, and Procedures

High-risk job sites will be the focus of inspections if any complaints, referrals, or employer-reported illnesses are found. CSHOs inspecting sites should be familiar with the CDCs prevention guidelines and any individual characteristics and underlying conditions deemed by the CDC to increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19(being 65 years of age or older, being immunosuppressive, or having a history of smoking). CSHOs will be provided with the proper equipment and supplies to perform an inspection. CSHOs will be encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine if and when they become available.

If the inspection of a high-risk site can be conducted without visiting the location in person, then all steps must be taken for CSHOs to avoid such exposure. For example, the opening conferences can be done over the phone or with uninfected personnel. Before taking a walkaround inspection the CSHO should:

  • Determine whether the employer has a written pandemic plan
  • Review the facilities procedures for hazard assessment
  • Review medical records related to worker exposure incidents.
  • Review the respiratory protection program
  • Review Employee training records
  • Determine if the facility has airborne infection isolation rooms

After an inspection, CSHOs must wash their hands with soap and water, decontaminate supplies and equipment using bleach wipes, dispose of all used, disposable PPE and decontamination waste on site, or bag and clean later.

As we continue through this time of uncertainty, feel free to Ask an Expert with any question and concerns.

From all of us here at HB NEXT, stay safe.

Managing COVID-19 Compliance with SafetyCloud

New Service Offerings and Complimentary Software for COVID-19 Compliance Management

As a leader of workplace safety and compliance, HB NEXT has been working aggressively to create solutions that allow our Essential Services clients to continue work while managing the complexities of COVID safety.  This past week we launched on-site COVID screening protocols for 10 sites across the Southeast and our new COVID compliance module for our SafetyCloud software is planned to launch as early as this week, offered free for all SafetyCloud customers.

With the announcement that the State of Georgia will begin reopening this Friday, there is a feeling that things may finally start to get back to normal. While this is great news for many, business owners and managers are faced with another daily challenge, managing COVID-19 in the workplace.

In March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a list of 16 measures that Critical Infrastructure Entities must implement in their operations to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 among its workforce. These items include screening and evaluating workers, sanitizing and hand washing, prohibiting group gatherings, implementing signage, and allowing teleworking for all possible workers. These measures won’t stop here, and we can expect that these 16 measures are just the beginning of a new norm that will evolve in a post COVID-19 economy.

COVID-19 has infiltrated and upended businesses across the U.S., and now as the economy begins to reopen, companies and managers are given the dauting task of ensuring the virus does not infiltrate its employees and customers. This task is not to be taken lightly as OSHA announced that any confirmed COVID-19 case is categorized as an OSHA recordable incident. This is a scary thought for business owners in construction that rely on a good EMR for landing jobs and keeping insurance premiums as low as possible. So, now businesses must scramble to ensure they are complying with new regulations, keeping the right documentation, and protecting their workers.

HB NEXT On-Site COVID Screening and Software Solutions

To assist our clients with these new regulations, we have already been supporting clients with policy development and implementation, as well as on-site worker screening and social distancing inspections. But, now we plan to roll out a COVID-19 compliance module that will be featured in our newly revamped SafetyCloud Software platform. The module is designed to track the scanning of each worker (on jobsites or in offices), conduct COVID-19 daily inspections, train workers, track sign-offs on new policies, and aggregate data for compliance and management.

This COVID-19 Compliance Module will be offered for FREE to all our SafetyCloud and Compliance Partner customers as a sign of our dedication to protect our clients and ensure compliance across their organizations. We will also be offering a complimentary single-location subscription to all new customers as well, beginning as early as Monday, April 27th in alignment with the State of Georgia’s reopening.

As we enter an uncertain time in a post COVID-19 economy, HB NEXT will continue to provide and implement solutions that will protect our clients and improve their operations.

If you would like to learn more about SafetyCloud or a complimentary single-location subscription, please contact us today info@hbnext.com | 770-619-1669.

 

Complimentary COVID-19 Action Plan

HB NEXT understands the impact of the COVID-19 in the workplace.  So in order to reduce the impact of COVID-19 we want to give you some complimentary COVID-19 preparation tips.

Stay Informed

Stay abreast of guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health agencies. Follow federal and state, local, tribal, and/or territorial (SLTT) recommendations regarding development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks, such as:

  • Increased rates of worker absenteeism.
  • The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing measures.
  • Options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services.
  • Interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.

Protecting Workers

For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:

  • Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with EPA approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, PPE).

Proper response to the current pandemic is vital for all our clients.  We want to provide you with a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Guideline document to help protect you and your company.  If you have any questions about proper practices or guidelines contact us right away.

Click Here to Download Complimentary COVID-19 Safety Guidelines

Outsourcing Your Employee Training: Educational Revolution, or Evolution?

Why partnership with a third-party education provider could be one of the best decisions you’ll make

If you have worked in the construction industry for long enough, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the saying -or some variation of- “an educated workforce, is a safe workforce”. It’s difficult to argue; given that, at the heart of most incidents, is a lack of sufficient training.

All companies experience challenges with their training, from the initial on-boarding and orientation of their newest employees, to the continuing education and certifications of their senior-most leaders. In a perfect world, employees would regularly seek to satisfy their job-specific training without financial encouragement, demonstrating initiative, professional curiosity, and a genuine interest in their own personal and professional development. In the real world, many companies have to pay their employees while they learn how to do their jobs; and, this creates an economic condition that unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with some risky and potentially dangerous decision-making.

To train, or not to train?

Budgets will be budgets; and, it’s universally accepted that in the spirit of self-preservation, companies will cut expenses in one area, to realize gains -or, alternatively, to alleviate pains- in another. When you’ve gotten away with avoiding a responsibility (more than a few times), it’s easy to think that you can continue to avoid it, right? Where many companies fall short with regard to their employee training, is not exclusively attributable to consistency in execution, as some might be inclined to presume. Yes, it’s true- many companies procrastinate; and, in other cases, blatantly ignore their responsibility to provide formal job and hazard-specific training to their employees. However, the trouble with employee training in many companies is generally not an issue of employer desire, as much as it is an issue of employer flexibility and versatility. And, that degree of flexibility / versatility has to be considered in terms of both manpower and finances.

If you were to publicly poll the owners of a hundred different companies, you likely would not have difficulty counting close to a hundred resounding ‘YES’ replies, assuming the question was centered around the safety of the workforce being a company’s highest priority.

Now, take that same group of one hundred owners, and change the question to be centered around whether the training of the workforce should be a company’s highest priority. Would you count a similar number of ‘YES’ replies?

They are both of critical importance to a company- safety and training, aren’t they? Is one more important than the other? Can either one be achieved without at least mentioning the other? These are some of the questions and decisions that business owners have to wrestle with, to balance compliance along with the well-being of the workforce and the health of the company finances. Most all companies desire to adequately and effectively train their employees. Not all companies find this responsibility to be convenient or budget-friendly, because they lack the overall flexibility and versatility to respond to training needs either pro-actively, or, with a sense of urgency. Training either costs too much; or, a company cannot spare the manpower to schedule training; or, sometimes, you’ll even see a combination of both. Sadly, in these cases, both the company and the employees suffer. Silently, the industry at-large, also suffers. So, what’s the solution, then?

Lean on Me?

Again, budgets will be budgets.

A simple solution (on the surface) for a company to shield themselves from training costs that exceed their budget, is for that company to exclusively deliver their employee training in-house. This approach yields several benefits; yet, also, may carry with it some obscure pitfalls that can have a balloon-like effect on budgets.

In theory, the most experienced personnel within a company are the most logical choices to train and develop the workforce. However, typically, that vast experience also represents the busiest and least flexible personnel within a company. And, unfortunately, experience does not directly translate in a classroom environment to capability, willingness, readiness, or (here we go again) desire. You may have the smartest, most highly-trained, credentialed and certified leaders in the country managing operations for your company. A field superintendent in construction can have over three decades of experience building structures, while at the same time, having zero years’ experience in a classroom environment teaching others how to build structures.

In a nutshell, great builders… great leaders… great managers… don’t always make great teachers. You can save plenty of money by not paying ‘outsiders’ to train and develop your personnel; but, how much may it end up costing you to educate -and, motivate– one of your own to step into that potentially (and likely) unfamiliar role? How long will it take them to become proficient in this new role? How quickly can you replace their production? How effective can your company training program, or, your safety and health program really be, with inexperienced trainers educating the employees of your company?

We all need somebody to lean on, don’t we?

In construction, carrying loads, even very heavy ones, can be made easy when the proper conditions, personnel and equipment are in place.

Employee training is not terribly different; which begs the question, “Why purchase the help, when you can grow it organically?”

While keeping employee training in-house may be a cost-effective solution, without a proper, manageable training and credentialing program in place, companies expose themselves to levels of risk that can very quickly render their cost-saving efforts ineffective. Naturally, companies with greater financial latitude, have greater maneuverability to avoid the financial pitfalls. One easily overlooked pitfall for companies who elect to keep their training in-house, is legal liability. In construction, when accidents happen and people get hurt -outside of providing the appropriate medical care- assignment of responsibility (or, blame, rather) is generally at the top of the list of consequent actions.

When your people get hurt; and, it is determined that you were responsible for delivering their training, you can rest assured that the wolves of compliance will feverishly pursue the root cause, starting at your establishment’s front door. If your safety and training programs are underdeveloped when faced with managing an employee injury or fatality, you can prepare to buckle up for a long, uncomfortable and expensive ride through the legal system. Or, you can choose to partner with an expert that understands your company operations, has the experience to relate to your struggles, understands the industry you work in, and, one that has an assortment of products, services, and solutions that can be quickly adapted to fit your company’s varied degrees of flexibility and versatility.

Well, what’s the best solution for my company?

In conclusion, the mechanics of your company training program can be, and should be, uncomplicated.

A company’s workforce must be sufficiently and regularly trained to maintain active compliance with the federal, state, and local rules applicable to their operations. You have a responsibility to offer initial training; and, you have a responsibility to offer re-training, when necessary. Simple, right? With the pace at which the construction industry is currently moving, agility in training deployment is critical to keeping the workforce safe; and, providing them with the ongoing training and education that is relevant to their work, and current with the most up-to-date industry rules and regulations.

For companies that do not have full-fledged training or education departments, manufacturing that agility internally, is not as simple (or, inexpensive) to achieve as it might appear. To address this challenge, companies have to make an honest self-assessment of their program(s). Some companies may benefit more from having electronic or online training options, because their crews lack the flexibility to attend training during a regular work week. Some companies strongly believe in, and demand instructor-led training for their employees. Some companies would be more than happy to incorporate both types of training to build versatility into their existing program; but have limitations imposed on their budgets which preclude that ability. Some companies lack the technological capabilities or square footage to deliver training to their employees in an appropriate setting.

The list of restrictions and limitations are seemingly endless; yet, the requirement to operate safely while in compliance never really changes, does it?

The most effective solution for your company, will be the one which enables you to quickly respond to your employees’ training needs, without sacrificing your budgets, schedules, quality, leadership or productivity. As the industry evolves and continues to integrate technology to improve operational efficiencies and increase profits, your ideal training solution may be in the form of online training, instructor-led training, or -what you can expect to see gain popularity in the future- the adoption of pre-developed course-ware customized to your company’s operations and/or brand.

If your company needs help implementing or evaluating its current training program, HB NEXT can help. To learn more about solutions for optimizing your company’s training program, please contact HB NEXT today.

Electrical Safety: Aware and Prepared

The month of May is recognized as Electrical Safety Month; and, although electricity is a power that should always be understood and respected, it is often taken for granted, leaving countless victims in its wake.

Did you know that electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries each year among the U.S. workforce?

Electrocution ranks sixth among causes of workplace fatalities in America. Nearly half of the approximately 175 deaths caused each year in the electrical trades occur in construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Electricity is the cause of more than 140,000 fires each year; and, contributes to approximately $1.6 billion in property damages.

OSHA confirms that construction workers are most commonly killed by falls, blows or crushing from heavy objects, and electrocutions. So, how do we protect ourselves from this danger? We can start by pre-planning, inspecting and eliminating potential hazards.

Here are some safety tips:

 

Indoors:

  • Check electrical cords for fraying or cracking. Replace cords that may be damaged, and don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Remember extension cords are intended to be temporary; they are not intended as permanent household wiring.
  • Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs and don’t tack or nail cords to walls or floors.
  • Keep electrical appliances and tools away from water. Never reach for or unplug an appliance that has fallen into water; instead, turn the power off at the breaker before you unplug the appliance or remove it from the water.
  • Never put anything other than an electrical plug in an outlet. Use outlet covers or caps to protect children.
  • Keep your home’s electrical system in good repair. Contact a licensed electrical contractor if you have flickering lights, sparks, non-functioning outlets, or need wiring repairs or upgrades.
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protected outlets whenever possible.

Outdoors:

  • NEVER touch downed power lines!
  • Always call your local utility, or, 911, if you observe any power lines down.
  • Watch for overhead lines every time you use a ladder, work on roofs, trees, or when maneuvering elevated loads. When enjoying time at home or away from the workplace, be sure to keep kites, model airplanes, and metallic balloons away from power lines.
  • Know what’s below before you dig. At least 2 days before starting any digging or excavating project, contact 811, the National One-Call Center, to have underground utility lines, pipes, and cables marked for free.
  • Avoid planting trees underneath power lines or near utility equipment.

Remember, any electrical device used on a house wiring circuit can, under certain conditions, transmit a fatal current. While any amount of current over 10 milliamps (0.01 amp) can produce painful to severe shock, currents between 100 and 200 mA (0.1 to 0.2 amp) are lethal.

ALWAYS make sure you have plan when working around electricity.

Let’s avoid workplace complacency this month by making sure that safety is top of mind while performing any electrical task!  Electrical safety concerns can often be avoided and with the help of a On-Site Safety Consultant, you can be sure that electrical safety won’t be a problem.  If you have any questions feel free Ask HB NEXT.

Underground Utility Damage Prevention: Know What’s Below

Working around buried utilities is a very challenging task. Every 4 minutes an underground utility is struck and damaged by mechanized equipment, potentially causing harm to persons, property and causing the interruption of utility services. The Common Ground Alliance, a stakeholder-run organization dedicated to protecting underground utilities reports approximately 379,000 utility damages occurred in 2016, resulting in an estimated cost of 1.7 billion in property damage as well as countless number of injuries and deaths.

Why are there so many underground utility strikes?  According to the Common Grounds Alliance there are several re-occurring causes: Notification not made to the One-Call-Center, Insufficient locating practices, unmarked facilities, mis-marked utilities, inadequate utility marking, inadequate excavation practices, improper bidding of jobs, improper equipment used during digging, digging with mechanized equipment without first exposing buried utilities using manual digging methods, and the list goes on.

Utility damages impact everyone directly or indirectly. Contractors are affected in terms of a break down in safety, profitability, insurability, productivity, legal and civil liabilities. Utility Owner/Operators are affected in terms of utility repairs and loss of resources. Lastly, everyone is inconvenienced by the interruption of vital utility services. In the state of Georgia alone, between 2015 – 2017 an estimated average of 29,257 utility damages occurre each year.

Excavators, locators, utility owners and the Utility Protection Center all share equal liability in the avoidance of utility strikes. There are some best practices that should be adopted to mitigate damage and avoid utility damages which are:

  • Start at the very beginning: Employees should be trained properly on locating underground utilities and the correct use of equipment and digging techniques, including when to use radar to detect the presence of underground lines and hand-digging and soft-digging techniques. They should also emphasize the correct type of equipment to use for every situation during the excavation.
  • Contractors should follow job site checklists and provide adequate on-site supervision as well as ongoing safety awareness and training.
  • Estimate jobs properly: Job estimates should include costs for allowing the time to locate underground utilities and verify marking, document 811 marking, dig around lines, use radar and have downtime in the event of a strike.
  • Review the site plans and call 811 at least 48 hours before digging. Check the Positive Response Information System to verify excavation request has been processed.
  • Review flags and markings prior to starting the job to determine the proper equipment for the job.
  • Identify, if possible, whether there may be additional lines that are not on site plans and/or are not marked.
  • Document the job site with photographs prior to commencement of digging, taking photos of flags and markings and showing the scale of where you’re digging.
  • Don’t assume the depth of utilities. Digging at a deeper depth than marked utilities does not always solve the problem. If you are not sure, dig slower and use manual tools to expose the utility and determine the tolerance zone.
  • If a utility damage occurs cease excavation, contact 811 and the utility owner, and conduct a damage investigation.
  • Most importantly, use your industry knowledge, common sense and always keep a focus on safety!

The cost of utility damages is a trickle-down effect that is paid by us all. Having a clear excavation plan and knowing what’s below can save lives, money time and property. For a guide on Underground Safety & Damage Prevention click here.

Remember, before excavating on any track or parcel of land, “know what’s below”. If we all do our part everyone wins.  If you have any more additional questions or want to learn more about preventing underground utility damage, check out our Damage Prevention (GUFPA) (811) class.

Does your contract require an onsite safety manager?

Over time, we have learned that project managers and safety directors alike have limited resources to identify and provide short-to-medium-term onsite safety solutions for their projects that are cost-effective; and, that can offer the credentialing and expertise required to meet a variety of project specifications.

In the midst of a booming construction market with a high demand for safety professionals, you simply don’t want to wait until post-bid to determine rates and availability.

 

Advantages to using a third-party for onsite safety are:

1. Frees up supervisory personnel to concentrate on budget, schedule, quality and personnel.

2. With safety as their primary focus, third-party providers are typically more up-to-date on OSHA regulations and updates.

3. They typically have broader experience with managing various types of safety issues.

4. They are typically more ‘in the know’ as to OSHA’s current focus in the industry.

5. They have often seen multiple methods for achieving both safety and compliance objectives, in various circumstances.

6. Eliminates potential for conflict of interest between production and safety personnel.

7. Third-party professionals are less likely to ignore violations due to relationship, friendship, etc.

8. They can spend more time in the field identifying unsafe acts and unsafe conditions, since they are not having to spread their time across multiple projects like a typical safety director would.

 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Many employers feel that job site safety eats into their bottom lines, profits and productivity. While the cost of providing a safe job site for your employees does come with a price tag, on the contrary, consider the cost of one job site accident. Injured employees, workers compensation costs, increased Experience Modification Rates (EMR), higher insurance premiums and OSHA citations can all eat away your company’s ‘pot of gold’.

Onsite Safety Consultants can help protect your workers, your company, and your investments.

Contact HB NEXT today to learn how we can help staff an Onsite Safety Coordinator for your next project!

Avoiding Friendly Fire on the Job: Understanding the Risks Posed by an Undertrained Workforce

When budgets get tight -and let’s face it, most of us have experienced that crunch at one point or another- we naturally start looking for ways to curtail our spending and to eliminate those expenses we deem non-essential, or, just unnecessary altogether.

Nothing triggers the need for a detailed analysis of a company’s finances quite like a blown budget, or, an unexpected loss of revenue / profit can. In construction, budgets are often tight; and, as a result, decisions have to be made frequently that force leaders to make difficult choices between multiple necessities that, of course, are not exactly budget-friendly.

So, what happens then?

Historically (in times of lesser economic prosperity), safety and training-related expenses have been among the first line items on a budget to undergo some type of change. Sometimes, those changes are small, insignificant… Other times, change can represent a total departure from the spending allocated to those expenses and expenditures which are generally considered essential to a construction company’s day-to-day operations. In an industry that suffers from hundreds of fatalities -and even more injuries- annually, can companies really afford to short-fund their budgets for safety and training? Well, surprisingly, the answer is yes; and, depending on who else you ask, the answer is also a resounding NO.

Training in the construction industry can be both economical and budget-friendly; but it is rarely inexpensive for companies to train their employees. When considering the cost of hiring a certified or credentialed trainer, productivity loss (from the workers being out of the office or field) and the cost of paying employees to physically attend training, a company sometimes has to decide whether that safety course is an immediate must-have; or, if maybe it can wait for a while. And, until disaster strikes, that’s (normally) a safe gamble. Until it isn’t…

An undertrained workforce is a potentially unsafe workforce.

In an economic climate where time equals money, construction companies have the exceedingly difficult challenge of meeting intense budget and scheduling demands, while keeping everyone safe; and, without cutting any corners on quality or compliance.

While many of the construction trades offer thorough and ongoing task training for their workforce -which includes some trade-specific safety- that training is often, unfortunately, not focused on compliance with the safety regulations applicable to our industry. This sometimes leads to companies adopting a false sense of security with regard to the training they offer to their personnel. Because turnover in the industry can often force the need for a new associate’s training to be fast-tracked, companies will often pair new laborers with technician or journey-level craftspeople to help those new associates get ‘up to speed’. A common result of crash-course training such as this, is that associates will learn the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their tasks and responsibilities; but will often neglect -until later- to learn the ‘why’. And, in construction, not knowing the ‘whys’ behind a task can be potentially dangerous; and sometimes, even fatal. The buddy system, while proven successful over time, does have limits to its effectiveness as it relates to educating around accident prevention. Quite simply, you can’t be effectively prepared to manage hazards that you haven’t been trained to recognize, avoid, or eliminate.

Ignorance of the rules is never an acceptable excuse.

While many knowledge gaps can be addressed for workers by spending time with and observing a skilled technician or journeyperson at work, there must be some formal, structured classroom training to supplement and reinforce the training offered on-the-job. As the old saying goes: if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.  In the case of unsafe acts / conditions that lead to injuries or fatalities on the job, a lack of job or task-specific knowledge resulting in the harm (or, death) of a worker can be ruinously expensive for a company that is otherwise financially healthy. As many companies are recognizing this and are starting to be proactive in providing essential training for their employees, many companies are still training their employees reactively; and, only when faced with suspended work or legal action, do they really start taking it seriously.

Beware of (and, supportive of) the Newly-Hired Employee

New employees -often being eager to please, and, to demonstrate their value to a company- can inadvertently help or harm a company with their individual level(s) of training (or, lack thereof). Most of us know what it feels like to be asked a question that we don’t know the answer to; but at the same time, not wanting to appear unknowledgeable in front of a group of our peers and/or superiors. And because of this fear, with the nod of a head, many of us at some point in life, have openly proclaimed our knowledge of an unfamiliar task, topic, or rule as if we’ve known it for years. It a bad habit that unfortunately can be exhibited by new employees and seasoned employees alike.

People seldom seek opportunities to be publicly identified as someone who doesn’t know what most everyone else in the room already knows. This can be tolerated somewhat in low-risk environments (take classrooms, for example) where the likelihood of danger to a person’s life or health is not high. In construction, there are potential dangers to life and health at seemingly every turn. Consider confined spaces in construction, which is largely considered a safety-sensitive topic. In a classroom, if an instructor asks a trainee if they know what constitutes oxygen-rich and oxygen-deficientin a confined space -and that trainee replied, “yes”, but truthfully, did not know- regardless of whether that trainee knew what those terms meant, there’s a good chance that their life or health wouldn’t be threatened in that classroom due to their lack of knowledge with regard to confined spaces. Now, let’s say that same trainee goes to work the next week, and is asked by his or her supervisor to enter a confined space on a job site. Let’s also assume that this trainee still does not have a clear understanding of how oxygen levels in a confined space affect entry requirements; but, being eager to please, jumps right in the confined space to perform his or her work without testing or ventilating the atmosphere prior. A traditional four-function calculator might be insufficient in helping your Safety Director compute the different ways things could go wrong in that scenario… See the difference?

In conclusion, untrained or undertrained workers can be as much of a danger to themselves, as they are to the people around them. New associates who learn things the wrong way, may end up becoming leaders in your company who teach others to do the same. The couple to few thousand dollars a company might save in foregoing training for their associates will pale in comparison to the potentially several thousand to millions of dollars a company may stand to pay out, in OSHA penalties and legal settlements following a major injury or fatality that occurred on their watch. Responses in a court case such as, “I didn’t know” or, “I was never told about that”, are more likely to significantly harm one’s legal defense, than they are to help it. Try seeing what reaction you might get from a compliance officer, prosecutor, judge, or parent of a child that died on your job, when you claim ignorance or attempt to rationalize why you never sufficiently trained your personnel. Or, you can choose to be proactive-

HB NEXT 2018 – A YEAR IN REVIEW

2018 proved to another great year for HB NEXT. Tony Middlebrooks, President and Co-Founder of HB NEXT, reflect on the year that saw changes and growth across all 7 of the companies operating business units.

“I want to personally thank our customers and our staff for what has turned out to be another record setting year for HB NEXT. Without the loyalty of our customers and their trust in allowing HB NEXT to support their growth, we would not be able to reach our goals. Without the dedication and determination of our HB NEXT employees, we would not be where we are today.”

In 2018, we continued to demonstrate to our customers and the market, how HB NEXT brings together expert labor and deep industry knowledge enabled with real-time data and technology to deliver innovative solutions to our construction, utility and general industry customers. At the core of everything we do is Sequence, our SaaS (Software as a Service) technology platform which powers all of HB NEXT’s professional services and operations. Additionally, HB NEXT licenses various industry specific versions of Sequence directly to end-use customers and service-based companies throughout the US.

As one of the nation’s premier cloud-based solutions for construction and general industry, our SequenceSM Software products have continued to evolve rapidly in 2018.

To enhance our professional services and deliver unique data tools to our clients, HB NEXT has upgraded the internal software solutions that we use in our daily operations.

Additionally, we have expanded our Software offerings to include four subscription-based products (SafetyCloud, StormCloud, OSHA 300 Cloud, and CMT Cloud). As we move into 2019, these products are set to emerge as the preferred SaaS solutions for construction and general industry.

Beyond our Software Services, HB NEXT has 7 business units that bring together the power of SequenceSMwith years of hands-on industry experience to help our clients works smarter, safer and cheaper. The 7 business units are: Safety, Environmental, Training, Legal, Energy Solutions, EMC Green, and Erosion Control (specifically in Northeast Florida). Each of these business units work together across clients and industries allowing HB NEXT to offer construction, general industry and power utility customers an unparalleled set of technology enabled services.

Our Safety business unit’s unique Compliance Partner Program (CPP) that provides turnkey outsourced safety, saw a growth of nearly 50% in 2018. In this program, HB NEXT virtually manages a company’s safety program at a fraction of the cost of traditional in-house management. The compliance partner program brings together software, field & professional services, legal, and training to create an affordable bundled package that saves our customers money while giving them more safety tools and resources. Aside from this, we continue to service commercial, general industry, and residential clients with mock OSHA Inspections, loss control, full-time on-site safety services, and safety program development, implementation & updates. Due to increased scrutiny from OSHA in the residential construction industry, we have seen an increased market demand for Safety Inspections & support services with regional and national homebuilders. Additionally, orientation automation, has become a major area of focus for mid-sized commercial contractors, manufacturing companies, and large residential contractors. Overall in 2018, our Safety business helped over 500 companies improve employee safety and reduce the cost of on-the-job incidents and accidents.

The Environmental business unit continues to support some of the largest national homebuilders, plus many other companies in the US, providing weekly and in some cases daily NPDES inspections and SWPPP preparation. We also expanded our NPDES Inspection Services with one of the largest power utilities in Georgia. Currently, we provide boots on the ground services for the entire States of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina with some coverage in Alabama and Tennessee.

The Training business unit saw a banner year in the area of Workforce Development and Leadership Training. Currently, we have six workforce development programs in full swing. As of December 2018, almost 1000 students have been trained and credentialed through the Construction Ready Program, and we’ve placed 930 into full-time, entry level jobs, for a placement rate of 93%. Also, the retention rate after one year is about 75% as well.In addition to this, we continue to educate around 5,000 students per year via Public and Private classes, and we opened a second training location in Covington, GA.

The Legal Business Unit has worked on several cases in 2018 to help clients mitigate and in some cases, eliminate OSHA and EPA fines imposed on them. This year, we have been able to successfully contest OSHA citations by showing that a different employer was the responsibleemployer for the hazards andemployee exposure at those jobsites. This was one of the trends we found for 2018. However, to make this defense successfully, clients need good contracts and oversight for their subcontractors.

This year the HB NEXT Energy Solutions business unit outgrew our corporate office location and completed a re-brand. We launched a web-site for this business unit. www.hbnextenergy.com.The business unit is located in Covington, GA. Energy Solutions, continues to morph as more power utility companies find out about our services. We recently added the second largest EMC to our customer list. Now, we can proudly say we provide services for 4 of the top 5 EMCs in the state of Georgia and the largest power utility company in the Southeast. In addition, we added a telecom services group that worked on the renovation of Phillips Arena that is now the State Farm arena. In late 2018, we began a state-wide small cell network deployment for the largest power utility company in Georgia, and this project will have tremendous growth in 2019.

The Erosion Control Business Unit has added several top tier residential customers in the Jacksonville, Florida area. We continue to be the market leader for erosion control installation and maintenance in Northeast Florida.

The EMC Green www.emcgreen.com was launched in 2018 to offer our EMC and Power Utility partners a company that they can trust to perform an in-home Energy Analysis to their residential customers to help them lower their power bill. The company quickly evolved into an energy efficiency focused renovation company, offering window replacement, insulation, automated thermostats, roofing, gutters, siding and solar solutions to clients all across Georgia. In its first year EMC Green helped over 250 customers reduce their energy usage, lower their energy bills and increase the comfort of their homes.

In August we held our annual company dinner at the Gwinnett Stripers ballpark and want to give a special thanks to our corporate sponsors (Ginn Chevrolet that provides our fleet of over 50 vehicles, HR Strategies that provides and handles our payroll and 401K, and Sterling Seacrest that provides our corporate insurance) that helped us make this possible.

In summary, it has been an exciting 2018. We look forward with great anticipation and excitement for 2019. The future looks bright and we have been truly blessed. We value all our client and vendor relationships. Please contact us if we can help you solve your latest construction challenge.