“We see all kinds,” says the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division Associate Director Walter Jones, speaking of worksites audited by the Division’s staff. “This was a good one.”

In Illinois on other business, Jones was contacted by David Raikes, Business Manager, LIUNA Local Union 393, and asked to visit two Moline, Illinois, worksites of LIUNA signatory employer Civil Constructors, Inc. The company had had two recent, non-fatal accidents and welcomed the opportunity to hear an assessment of its safety program from an outside professional.

“At the first site, Shawn Meier, the Safety Director, explained that the cause of the more recent incident was poor communication between an operator, new to the site, and the injured Laborer,” recounts Jones. “What was out of the ordinary was the fact that Civil Constructors shut down all of its Moline office projects for a day after the injury.”

Because the accident followed another recent injury at a different bridge project, the company called in all its area supervisors for a safety meeting to step back and review everything the company was doing to keep its sites safe. According to Meier, the meeting identified three areas for additional focus:

  1. Planning and communication – conducting pre-job safety assessments, daily morning meetings and site-specific toolbox talks
  2. Human resources – assigning the right person to the job, giving supervisors more control over make-up of work crews and moving the better workers to other Civil Constructors projects as current projects wind down
  3. Safety training – holding compliance refreshers and focusing on safe decision-making

Jones conducted a walk-though of each site, observing work situations and talking with Laborers. “Discussions showed that the workers sincerely believe that Civil Constructors is concerned about their safety,” says Jones. “They report that the company has ‘no budget for safety,’ meaning that workers are not expected to cut corners and that Civil Constructors will spare no expense to complete a job safely and right the first time.”

Jeralyne Cunningham, a supervisor and member of Local Union 393, explained that the company aggressively and compassionately responds to injury accidents and how that attitude is key to the company’s history of completing projects early, under budget and safely.

Looking around each site, Jones found that guardrails were in place to provide fall protection, and concrete barriers were used to protect workers from traffic. All workers were wearing safety shoes, reflective vests and hard hats. The sites were clean and orderly. Workers sawing or drilling were wearing safety glasses and hearing protection. Everyone appeared to comply with standard safety practices.

“My only suggestion was to strengthen fall prevention strategies for work on leading edges,” says Jones. “Bridges present special challenges because they don’t always offer a ready opportunity to tie off, and, in some situations, a tie-off may not be technically required. Still, we recommend the task-based approach to safety. Accept the need to tie off on all leading edges and be creative about finding an effective way to do it. We also suggest that access be limited during leading edge work.”

Jones summarized his assessment and recommendations in a report to Meier, LIUNA Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager John Penn and Angie King, Director of the Midwest Region Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund.

Site visits are a service provided by the LHSFNA and can be scheduled when a LIUNA signatory employer and the local union jointly support a request. To make a request, contact the LHSFNA’s Executive Director, Joe Fowler, or the Assistant Executive Director, Lisa Sabitoni, at 202-628-5465.

[Steve Clark]