Demolition has always been a dangerous job because of staffing requirements, the use of heavy equipment and the nature of the materials being processed.
State of the Industry survey respondents ranked the most important factors contributing to a safer workplace on a scale of 4 (very important) to 0 (not important at all). Promoting an emphasis on continued safety training and having proper safety oversight and personnel on each job tied for being the most important factors, followed by hiring experienced workers, having laws and industry regulations enforcing safety standards and implementing new technologies and equipment.
According to Dennis McGarel, vice president of Chicago-based Brandenburg Industrial Services, there is no replacement for individual accountability and in-house training in helping enforce safety standards within a company.
“We do a lot of in-house training, and we've taken advantage of a lot of the online training,” McGarel said. “We've even gone so far as to have a trainer who can train the trainers. That's how much we are doing in house. We have an annual refresher where we bring every single person in from the company to train, and it's all led by upper management, who have to push the importance of safety within the organization.”
In addition to regular training, Knightly said oversight and communication on the job site is also critical for maintaining safety standards and compliance on the job.
“It's about safety, it's about productivity, it's about caring for the guys that are working for you, and we've done a lot of education on this end,” Knightly said. “One of the things that we've found that has been instrumental is we've hired a really good director of safety who can communicate well to our entire staff. Having ample safety personnel on the job is important because you have to watch and you have to be there to observe what’s going on. You have to have enough people on-site, but they’ve also got to be quality people.”
McGarel continued to say that an important part of maintaining comprehensive safety standards is knowing which jobs to take on and who to do business with.
“There's no shortcut for choosing who to do business with wisely,” he said. “We are never going to [go after] the developers who take the three-page proposal off the pile, and the first thing they do is turn it over and look at the number on the back page. We don't market to them, we don't solicit them, we don't go after their business. They might have some absolutely beautiful sites that would be fantastic from a demolition perspective, but we have to work for the companies that will pay for doing it safely.”
Barker agreed, saying while safety is an evergreen industry concern, working for companies who are paying for proper oversight is the best way to stay out of the headlines for on-the-job accidents.
“I think that's one of our greatest challenges,” Barker said. “I don't know how to fix [the issue of developers going for the lowest bid] other than just educating the clients that if safety really matters to them, they are going to pay an extra 2, 3, 4, 5 percent for a contractor that has a safer history and a safe approach. If they are going to go with the low bid at the cost of safety, these developers can take all the safety slogans off the wall and throw them in the trash.”