Professional safety management. Going beyond the standard

Proper systems and processes or standard operating procedures (SOP) are critical regardless of the activities being performed

Professional safety management. Going beyond the standard
Vince Kerr

With the pressure to produce, tighter cycle times, rising material and labor costs, and worker shortages it is easy to get caught up or in a hurry and take “risks” doing something that is not safe. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I have been working on a jobsite and hear that so and so got hurt and when asked what happened they said, “I or They have done ___it____ many times just like this for years but this time I or They were not paying attention and I or They ended up falling and got injured”.

I think that most of us would agree we find many of the accidents we hear about, unfortunately, are when a person or crew takes risks that they should not take. Statistics released by the Ontario province’s chief prevention officer (CPO) in late January 2021 on construction deaths and injuries, point out that the highest fatality figures since 2016 were in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Of concern were the months of March, August, November, and December with the highest totals of fatalities. Commercial construction and single-home construction were the most dangerous sub-sectors, registering the highest number of deaths.

Proper systems and processes or standard operating procedures (SOP) are critical regardless of the activities being performed. For example, it is important that every spray foam insulation company has clear written, trained, and practiced SOPs with respect to safety, and hazard communication. It is equally imperative for applicators to participate, practice, and police the protocols as set out by their companies’ safety program. Applicators should remember that safety is set up for their benefit and if any activity that is being performed is not safe STOP the activity and bring that forward to their company’s safety manager to help in finding a safe way to continue.

Valuing safety and making it a priority on-site is something we can all do a better job at. Demonstrating safety is about how we act on the job - it’s how we appear on the job; it is being a leader and encourager; be polite some folks just don’t know its not safe. “Please, don’t do that! It’s not safe. Wear your mask!”. If workers do witness an activity that is not safe, it is not their right, it’s their duty to say something and try to stop it. 

Instilling safety means also humanizing it, when there is an accident, someone (someone’s son, daughter, mother or father) was injured. There are no skipping steps when it comes to safety. I consider it imperative both internally and externally to play a leading role in imparting safety knowledge to our contractors/installers. Regardless of where we are in the world, no matter what activity we are doing, we all need to practice proper safety every day, in every activity, and on every job site.

A hierarchy of safety controls

It’s difficult with a “standard” to cover everything when it comes to safety. There are many variables when work crews go from one job to the next, the next job might have an entirely different set of circumstances. A “standard” is a guide and getting the crew to understand that they must create safety based on that “standard” or “guideline “is significant. One suggestion that we teach to crews is to remember the Hierarchy of Safety Controls* when it comes to any activity in question.

Start with a walk-through and do a safety inspection to identify any potential hazards. Which hazards can be eliminated / removed outright?  Which hazards must be substituted / replaced with a safer way of working around them? Be aware of others on site, even though they may not be part of your crew, safety is still safety. Use engineering controls such as isolation and ventilation to reduce their exposure. Use administrative controls such as warning signs at all entrances to the spray area to raise awareness. Do not work alone – work in two (or more) person crews. Wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect yourself against exposure. The ultimate item to remember is STOP and call your supervisor if something is not safe or not clear on how to do safely. 

 At companies such as Huntsman Building Solutions, our technical service field team assists customers through trainings and jobsite support. This approach demonstrates a manufacturer’s participation in a collaborative and educational safety process with the spray foam contractor. It’s important not dictate or provide actual safety programs but share suggestions and guidelines to consider as customers build and maintain their own safety program. In the end, it’s not about managing or providing another customer’s safety program, it’s about better communication to eliminate possible exposures to people who are not trained or set up with personal protective equipment and good safety practices. When safety standards are understood and embraced throughout the entire building process, from crew to end user, all customer expectations are better managed with regards to safety.

To conclude, you can give yourself a safety conscience check. Note this example:

  • Check 1: Do you always wear eye protection? Example: shaving of foam
  • Check 2: What do you do during application of foam when someone walks in with no PPE on?
  • Check 3: Do you check to make sure all your PPE is available and in good working order?