By NASH NUNNERY
From commercial to small-scale residential, construction sites can be dangerous.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, roughly 150,000 job-site injuries occur nationwide each year. With 130 million construction workers on the job at any given time, this number is likely to rise. Of the construction site injuries that take place each year, nearly 5,000 are fatal.
For James Moore Brown, construction site safety is job one. The Associated Builders and Contractors Mississippi Chapter’s 2016 Safety Professional of the Year, Brown says the key is training, education and more training.
The ABC recently honored Brown and nearly 50 Mississippi-based construction companies during the organization’s annual Safety Awards Luncheon. Six Mississippi companies garnered 2016 ABC National Diamond Awards.
“Safety is the No. 1 value in the construction industry,” said Brown, safety director for JESCO, Inc. in Tupelo. “There is certainly a lot of emphasis on training. Lots and lots of training. Taking a proactive approach to safety on the job site will keep your workers safe.”
A former middle school principal and history teacher, Brown is often asked if he misses being an educator.
“I tell them that I never got out of it, really,” he said. “Construction safety is all about teaching and educating our work force on preventing accidents and situations before they happen. And that’s what I enjoy – teaching.”
The ABC Mississippi Chapter launched the organization’s awards program six years ago, according to safety director Herb Ward. Participation in the program has doubled since 2011.
The process for a construction company to be honored with a Diamond or Platinum recognition is stringent.
“We require each company to provide lots of documentation to meet the standards,” said Ward. “The prospective winners don’t just fill out an application and fill in the blanks. Each application goes before the 18-member ABC Safety Committee and the best of the best are selected.”
In addition to keeping workers safe on the job site, Mississippi construction companies also must protect the general public. Openings and holes, falling objects and unauthorized people at work sites can be a corporate safety director’s nightmare.
“It’s huge on the dollar side, when you figure safety into a bid for a project,” said Ward. “We try to instill a collaborative approach with our member companies that helps reinforce safety. One person does not ‘make safety happen’. Every worker at every level needs to be a part of the safety effort.”
Safety on the job site not only saves lives and prevents injury, but also affects the bottom line in the construction industry.
“There is a constant struggle between safety and production,” Ward said. “But if you have a great safety program, you’ll probably get a great insurance rating. The savings can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Safety pays.”
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