Take 5 for safety

Jan. 22, 2008

Each task on Kenny Construction Co.’s to-do list, regardless of its size, begins each day with a “Take 5 for Safety” meeting. The schedule and scope of work anticipated for the day is carefully outlined, and hazards inherent to these activities are itemized and discussed.

The meetings are one way that Kenny Construction showed it was a winner when it came to safety. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, together with CNA, recognized their efforts with the ARTBA-CNA Contractor Safety Award, which honors those with strong safety programs.

Each task on Kenny Construction Co.’s to-do list, regardless of its size, begins each day with a “Take 5 for Safety” meeting. The schedule and scope of work anticipated for the day is carefully outlined, and hazards inherent to these activities are itemized and discussed.

The meetings are one way that Kenny Construction showed it was a winner when it came to safety. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, together with CNA, recognized their efforts with the ARTBA-CNA Contractor Safety Award, which honors those with strong safety programs.

Kenny Construction was the top winner of the award, which was developed to promote the concept that worker safety and health is a core value of the transportation design and construction industry.

Through a PowerPoint presentation, finalists explained their safety programs based on seven key criteria: management commitment, employee participation, incident investigation, audit procedures, safety planning, management review/implementation and risk assessment.

Kenny Construction, a family-owned general contractor founded in 1927, proved itself to be the best of the best. Kenny’s daily jobsite exposures include energized power transmission and distribution work to 765 KV; tunnels and shafts to depths of 350 ft; high-rise, residential construction to heights of 400 ft; and road, bridge and infrastructure construction in both rural and urban areas throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

“Kenny Construction faces complex and highly hazardous risks every day, and we continue to lead the industry with our safety results and new benchmarks of success,” Kenny said in its PowerPoint presentation. “Kenny’s effect on our enrolled subcontractors has empowered them to surpass all previous benchmarks of safety, while positively impacting the entire construction industry. More than 200 subcontractors, such as electrical, carpentry, masonry, HVAC and steel erectors, are included.”

Kenny Construction Vice President of Safety Dan Zarletti believes two key factors contributed to their achievement: one, total buy-in—senior management dedicating time and resources to a corporate-wide cause, so everyone in the company is aware of what is happening; and two—dedicated, qualified personnel.

“There are many contractors that have safety personnel, but they’re not necessarily dedicated to safety. They do other things,” Zarletti told Roads & Bridges. “In this case, these people are safety professionals assigned full-time to administration of safety culture—they have no outside responsibilities.”

In 1997, Kenny Construction’s Corporate Safety Program received an “extreme makeover.” First, employees made an assessment as to having the right controls in place to achieve their goal of performing all work incident-free. Every aspect of the program was renewed, including a complete revision of the corporate safety manual, job descriptions and measures for personal accountability. They emphasized interactive participation at all operational levels in the development of job hazard analyses and regulatory compliance control and enforced the Take 5 meetings.

Since that time, Kenny has reduced its incident rate by 90% and its lost-time incident rate by 95% while increasing its self-performed man-hours by 300%.

“This is the direct result of the relentless pursuit of perfection while maintaining nearly supernatural patience through the pangs of radical change,” Zarletti said. “This is an ongoing, day-to-day, 24-hour effort—not for the lighthearted. People don’t take well to change, but if the way they’ve been doing something is unsafe, change or leave. We have zero tolerance—everyone has to actively participate in the change.”

Part of the revamped safety protocol includes drug tests and safety orientation for every employee and subcontractor employee.

An intensive supervisory safety education matrix has been initiated for over 200 first-line supervisors, project managers and executives.

Kenny has invested nearly $2 million to “raise the proficiency level” of all key personnel through job analysis and hazard-specific programs over the past decade.

“We retooled the entire safety effort,” Zarletti said. “During that proc­ess, we redeveloped a safety culture that is now company-wide. Before, we had a program that had been in place for a number of years, and no problems seemed to come with it, but when the company started growing, it started showing signs of being outdated, so that’s why we did a complete restructuring.”

As a result of Kenny’s safety activities, they have designed an aggressive safety culture throughout all six operating groups in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, which gives them a wall-to-wall look at what they’ve done, Zarletti said.

Since 2001, Kenny Construction’s safety program has improved the overall safety performance of over 200 insured subcontractors by more than 70%. “Results like these cannot be achieved single-handedly,” Zarletti said.

Kenny Construction has been awarded for their efforts in the past as well. In 2003, they received the Green Cross for Safety Medal from the National Safety Council. The medal honors an organization that has distinguished itself over a period of years for outstanding achievements in workplace and off-the-job safety and health, community service, environmental stewardship and responsible citizenship. Kenny was the first contractor in America to receive this coveted award.

Kenny received the Contractor of the Year Award from the Associated Subcontractors of America in 2005 and has received numerous Build America Awards from the Associated General Contractors of America.


Positive protection
FHWA issues rule that should encourage safer work zones

Every work zone in the U.S. is reflective.

Whether it is in use at night or during the day, all construction jobs set up on a road or bridge are reflective of the contractor’s safety strategy and, at least for another year, reflective of how much a contractor is willing to spend on safety.

In December, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asked every builder to empty their pockets with the passing of the final rule on the use of temporary traffic-control devices in highway work zones. Perhaps the biggest provision falling from the set of guidelines deals with pay items. The rule, which will go into full effect in 2009, requires separate pay items for tools like positive protective devices and law enforcement. The move should keep scales from tipping during the bidding process.

“The ones who put up very minimal barriers, they are going to spend a lot less on safety than those contractors that would say, ‘Hey, we are in a high-speed environment and I think we need concrete barrier out there,’ or ‘Hey, this is a high-speed, high-volume road and I need a police officer out there with lights,’” Brad Sant, vice president of Safety and Education at ARTBA, told Roads & Bridges. “In many situations the contractors that are safety-conscious would pay for it themselves. It wouldn’t be something that would be reimbursable directly out of the contract.

“However, in the bid process they might be underbid by those that aren’t spending as much.”

The final rule, an offspring of SAFETEA-LU, will require state DOTs to establish policies and procedures for consideration of using positive protective devices, uniformed law enforcement and exposure control measures and will establish a list of factors DOTs must consider, but does not place any mandate to use these practices.

“Most states already have requirements or specifications in place on when they are going to deploy positive protective measures,” David McKee of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) told Roads & Bridges. “What this ruling does is it gives the states a number of options and a strong encouragement to employ these options to better protect those working in highway construction.”

The FHWA did not come to the table offering a lot of acreage to state agencies. In fact, according to McKee, the notice of proposed rule making carried some rigorous requirements for the deployment of positive protective measures. The states responded with the need for more leeway, and FHWA was willing to accommodate. ARTBA also suggested a hierarchy of control when dealing with the exposure of control measures, but that idea was turned down.

“Our initial recommendation was to close the road,” said Sant. “If for whatever reason they couldn’t do a full closure, then they would move down to the next tier, which would be positive separation. If they couldn’t do positive separation, then they would execute typical traffic control with, say, attenuators.

“Our preference is, if you can close down the roadway, that is ideal. The rule does not give that. It is more like a Chinese menu that says, here are all of your options so pick the one that works for you.”

The final rule has a series of main courses, which break down accordingly:

  • Positive protective devices: In determining whether to use positive protective devices, the rule directs the use of an engineering study. The rule also establishes minimum criteria for considering the use of positive protective devices such as the availability of escape routes, the duration of the project, anticipated vehicle operating speed, workers operating close to open travel lanes and roadside hazards.
  • Exposure control measures: State DOTs are directed to consider exposure control measures such as full road closure, ramp closures, median crossovers and detours.
  • Uniformed law enforcement: The rule spells out factors that should be considered when making a decision about the use of uniformed law enforcement such as high-speed traffic without the use of positive protection, traffic-control setup, complex changes in traffic patterns, night work and history of crashes in the area.

“What the rule does lay out is it requires the contractor to start working with the agencies and come up with some kind of an agreement on how they are going to work together,” said Sant.

  • Maintenance of devices: DOTs are directed to implement policies to maintain the quality and adequacy of temporary traffic-control devices.

“Most states do a great job in this area,” said McKee, “but this final rule gives a pretty strict guidance that they should do that. The inspection criteria are a stronger component than they did in the past.”

As for protecting workers inside the work zone, the new FHWA rule does not attempt to lay out any guidelines, leaving that duty to OSHA. Sant believed it could take some time before the safety agency came out with any means to improve safety among workers.

“[The FHWA rule] does give us something to hang a hangar on because they are talking about vehicles entering and exiting the roadway,” he said. “NIOSH is doing a lot of research and is making recommendations. That is not going to be regulatory but will be the best-practice type of guides that will go a long way toward worker safety.”

As far as what is now established for temporary traffic control, progress could not be more prominent.

“We haven’t reached the solution to all our problems,” said Sant, “but we now have [FHWA] on paper dealing with regulations that really cover how they are going to pay for traffic control, that the agencies do have to deal with this and there is now some oversight to it.”

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