In 2016, the chances of a construction worker dying on the job were about one in five, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Three Red Oak-based companies decided that statistic was still just too high and, by prioritizing communication and safety policies, have been recognized for their efforts.
Texas Mutual Insurance Company, the state’s leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance, recently honored LP Sundance Construction Inc., ChasCo Enterprises Inc., and Leland Collier Electric Co. for their obligation to workplace safety.
“These awards demonstrate Texas Mutual’s commitment to promoting workplace safety and educating employers about safe work practices,” Richard Gergasko, president and chief executive officer of Texas Mutual Insurance Company, stated in a press release. “It’s important that companies are recognized for their commitment to employee safety, and we are happy to lead the way with these awards.”
To qualify for this honor, a company must demonstrate its commitment to workplace safety by implementing an exemplary safety program and controlling workers’ compensation losses.
This year, Texas Mutual distributed 200 safety awards to policyholders throughout the state who have exemplary safety record and outstanding safety programs.
Two safety managers describe their responsibilities and how workplace safety has changed over the years.
Before Bobby Scholfield was the safety director for ChasCo Enterprises, he served as a firefighter in North Richland Hills and Haltom City. After an injury, he retired from firefighting but continued his business in safety.
He has served as the director for the past three years and admitted to learning something new each day.
With his firefighting knowledge, Scholfield is familiar with routine checks. He also checks the workers to see if they are suited in safety equipment and maintain power tools. Also, anytime a worker is elevated six feet in the air or more, safety protection is required meaning handrails are installed, and harnesses are strapped.
When working on upper levels, barricading the work area is important, so his guys do not fall off.
“I had to shut a job down the other day because handrails weren’t up,” Scholfield disclosed.
Other than safety checks, Scholfield conducts safety meetings. The main topics lately focus on heat stress. With the hotter months, Scholfield is continuously communicating with his team about the symptoms and differences between heat exhaustion and a heat stroke and how to prevent it.
When speaking with the construction workers, Scholfield is frank and stresses the impact. It is important to him to relate to the workers and explain worst case scenarios.
“I tell them to go easy on the tequila and the cerveza. Alcohol draws water,” Scholfield relayed. “You know if you drink too much you get a big headache — it’s severe dehydration because your brain floats in water and when you don’t have water up there your brain is banging around.”
Scholfield’s advice for those who are experiencing heat stress is to wet towels or rags with tap water and place them in the armpits and groin area. He emphasized that tap water is essential because ice water will put the body in shock.
Along with communication, respect is another aspect that makes his job go smoothly. Depending on the project, he can oversee anywhere from two to 30 people on the job and has about 50 jobs going on at once.
When he heard about the recognition, he said, “It means a whole lot to me, especially over of 70,000 other companies and only 200 got it. And the Texas Mutual rep named Mike said ChasCo was in the top quarter of the 200.”
For Richard Gonzalez, the safety manager for Leland Collier Electric Co., his priority is to get his workers home to their families at the end of the day. He has been with the company for 14 years and prides workplace safety on his continuous communication.
“Your number one thing is going to work and coming home to your family,” Gonzalez emphasized. “That’s our number one goal that we tell our employees. Because no one is going to work to get hurt. We go to work to make money and take care of our families.”
With more than a decade under his belt, he noticed how workplace safety has evolved over the years and two aspects stand out to him. He also pointed out in 2007 safety protocols took a turn for the best.
Before 2007, the primary focus was for individuals to focus on their own safety and now the philosophy is look out for yourself and everyone around. Gonzalez thinks it has a lot to do with when deadlines are nearing, and workers want to work quickly and cut corners, “and that’s when accidents happen.”
“The best thing that I’ve seen more than anything is the general contractor who is in charge of the whole job, and he’s looking out for everybody there," Gonzalez elaborated. "Everyone has their own safety program, but theirs is overlooking everybody. It’s awareness now. There are so many newsletters with changes in OSHA that you need to be aware of.”
For Leland Collier employees, weekly meetings are held, updating people about finishing a job on time while keeping everyone safe. Gonzalez also mentioned in the past safety pep talks would only occur at the beginning of a project where instead now the discussions are frequently exchanged.
Leland Collier is an electric subcontractor, and the business works on schools around the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. Gonzalez noticed the more common injuries include lacerations and falls.
When he heard about the safety recognition, he was proud. He expressed how seriously he takes his job and always assures his workers make it back home to their families.
“As far as the award, I was flattered, and I couldn’t believe it, but we’ve had a real good couple of years where we didn’t have but a few injuries — cuts and bruises, which really happen every day for a lot of people,” Gonzalez expressed.
*A representative for LP Sundance Construction Inc. was unable to comment before the deadline for this article.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450