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February 25, 2011
Nevada Employers Are Betting on Safety

You Hit the Jackpot—Easy, Effective Ways to Protect

In 2009, the state of Nevada made safety and health headlines. Federal OSHA responded to two formal complaints about state plan operations by conducting a review of the program, which it released in October of that year. The report recommended changes in how the state handles willful violations, staff training, the role of unions in inspections, and involving victims’ families in investigations.

As the state addresses these deficits, most Nevada employers continue to be relatively unaffected by the controversy. Rather, they continue to focus on identifying and addressing hazards. This Compliance Report highlights three workplaces designated by Nevada OSHA as SHARP sites. SHARP (Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program) is an OSHA consultation program that recognizes excellence, especially among smaller employers.

For these employers, the focus is on practical, affordable safety strategies, such as stocking a jobsite vending machine with safety gear or using yellow floor paint to indicate where protective eyewear is required.

CLARK CONSTRUCTION, NEVADA

Clark Construction is the 11th largest construction company in the country with nearly $4.7 billion in annual revenue. Clark, a 100-year-old firm, is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. The Nevada regional office works on large projects of typically $30 million and above.

Safety Manager Matt Moody explains that the Nevada division is currently focused on construction of a new VA hospital in Las Vegas. The 7-story, 790,000-square-foot medical center will house a 68-bed inpatient care unit and a 22-bed mental health facility. Once completed, it will be the largest VA hospital in the country.

Moody says a clue to understanding the Clark safety culture is to look at the hard hats worn by employees and contractors on the jobsite. Many choose to apply a “family decal” to their hats. The decal includes a color photo of a smiling family and the words Safety Is a Clark Family Value.

Says Moody, “We wanted everybody to feel like their actions could affect someone else’s family. Sure, we’re all here for a job, but these people are the reason why we’re working.” The program was introduced in 2009, and several contractors have borrowed the photo and applied their own logo.

From the Get-Go

Communicating the commitment starts at orientation for all Clark and subcontractor employees. Participants must complete the session in order to receive a sticker, which permits them to enter the jobsite. The content ranges from egress routes to awareness of desert animals, medical reporting requirements, and personal protective equipment (PPE). The sessions are specific in terms of location, job tasks, and hazards, but also introduce new hires to the Clark safety culture and expectations.

Clark supervisors are well trained and well equipped. They are required to complete OSHA 10- and 30-hour courses. Many of them, as well as everyone in the safety office, are required to be certified in the Safety Trained Supervisor program offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Project superintendents have another high-value tool—tablet PCs programmed with Latista (www.latista.com) software.

Latista is a field management program that, according to Moody, provides excellent safety benefits. Clark superintendents use the tablets to photograph unsafe or problematic working conditions and immediately e-mail these images to the relevant contractor. The devices also provide for electronic maintenance of punch lists, corrected hazards, and other data.

Although safety is part of every shift and task, Moody has introduced what he calls a monthly “mass safety meeting.” It’s an opportunity to focus every individual working on a project squarely on safety concerns. Internal and outside speakers make presentations, and that month’s safety incentive is awarded in a raffle. Employees with no recordable incidents, no safety-related write-ups or suspensions, and participation in weekly toolbox talks are eligible to win. Moody says he’s also handed out iPods and TVs.

Eliminating Excuses

Among innovative practices making a difference at Clark Construction’s Nevada operation are:

  • Safe vending: Moody worked with a supplier to create a jobsite vending machine stocked with safety gear. The machine dispenses reflective shirts, seasonal apparel, safety gloves, and glasses. Fixed pricing by the vendor keeps costs down and, combined with the accessibility, makes for a popular offering. The machine eliminates delays in getting traditional vendors to deliver their gear.
  • No-excuse rental: Similar thinking led to an on-site safety equipment rental program. In this case, the vendor, Ahern Rental, approached Moody about establishing a rental compound on land behind the hospital construction site. Like the vending machine, the on-site rental option reduces the chance for excuses by vendors that say they cannot do a particular procedure—or do it safely—because they lack equipment. Machinery for rent includes scissor lifts, generators, forklifts, propane lifts, and safety fencing.
  • Manpower boards: This low-tech, but valuable, idea helps management keep track of employees on the vast site. It’s a collection of white boards with designated space for all subcontractors and the name of the foreman and safety manager for each company.
  • Every morning, subcontractors are required to enter the number of employees on the job that day. “That way, if I have to evacuate the building, I know how many people I’m looking for on the count,” says Moody. The system was put to the test during a bomb threat at the hospital worksite.

  • Drill on tape. Clark’s Nevada operation conducts full-scale evacuation drills about every 6 months on large projects. A recent evacuation was videotaped and made into a production that not only depicts the drill but also explains how to plan and execute such an exercise. The result was so successful that OSHA requested a copy of the finished video for the agency’s training library.

BOYD GAMING CORPORATION

Boyd Gaming owns 16 properties including hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The Las Vegas Boyd’s nine properties, including Jokers Wild and Eldorado Casinos, Fremont Hotel and Casino, and Suncoast Hotel and Casino, are Nevada SHARP sites. The goal is to have all Nevada sites become SHARP certified.

Protecting its 15,000 employees, as well as casino guests, is a daily focus. “It’s a big priority because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s a good business practice,” says Dennis Siano, corporate vice president for safety. He cites safety-related improvement in morale, productivity, and profitability.

Although Boyd is a publicly traded company, leaders say the organization feels more like the family-owned business it once was. That family-style of operation, characterized by respect for all who work at and visit the casinos, is reflected in the concern for employee well-being.

Hazard recognition and consistent training are the pillars of the company’s successful safety program, according to Siano.

Slips, trips, and falls are the biggest employee risk. “We are evolving in terms of recognizing hazards by conducting root-cause analysis,” he explains.

Any injury or incident results in an analysis by the supervisor or department head in the affected department. Findings are written up and shared with the property’s on-site safety manager before reaching Siano, who reviews each case. He uses the findings to determine what additional training or other means are necessary to prevent a similar incident.

Local safety managers are responsible for training site employees and any outside workers. Traditional training methods will soon be augmented by an online system. It is being developed in-house to meet OSHA, other regulatory, and Boyd training requirements. “This will free up our safety managers to do other things like investigations, safety inspections, and helping employees improve safety practices,” says Siano.

The computer-based system helps with recordkeeping and ensures that no employees fall through the cracks. Courses can be taken by supervisors and other managers at their desks, while frontline workers will use on-site computer labs. Although the instruction is done electronically, an interactive feature lets employees submit questions directly to their site safety managers at any time.

Don’t Go There

Boyd Gaming reduces risk for employees by preventing them from entering any permit-required confined space unless it has been reclassified. At the casinos and hotels, such spaces include large air-conditioner cooling towers and grease traps.

For example, in an air-conditioning system, the primary hazard that makes it permit-required might be moving parts. If the hazard can be mitigated through lockout/tagout procedures, the space can be temporarily declassified as non-permit-required. A supervisor must affirm in writing that the hazards have in fact been eliminated.

If reclassification is not possible, Boyd calls on specialized contractors to enter these spaces and perform necessary work. In such situations Boyd personnel are on-site, using a specialized checklist to ensure that the work is being done properly. “There have been times when we’ve told contractors to leave and come back when they’re better prepared,” says Siano.

Safety committees are an important resource for hazard awareness and elimination. The site-based committees, which meet monthly, include employees at all levels from all departments. Members review safety statistics, perform inspections, review policies and procedures, and serve as safety advocates.

The committees are also responsible for managing local incentive programs. Siano says programs like Safety Bingo have become popular. Every employee receives a bingo card and for each week of no recordable accidents, the total winnings increase. Asked about the criticism that such programs can discourage reporting, Siano doubts that any employee would think that his or her chance of winning could be improved by not reporting an incident.

Recognition for working safely is coveted within the Boyd organization. Competition is stiff among sites for two annual awards—the President’s Trophy for the safest property and the Most Improved Trophy for the site that’s made the most progress in improving OSHA TRC and DART rates.

TRIPP PLASTICS, INC.

Tripp Plastics provides contract thermoforming, machining, engraving, and engineering services primarily for the gaming industry. Deric DeBenedetti, director of Finance and Human Resources, explains it this way: “If you’ve ever seen “Wheel of Fortune” (and who hasn’t?), we make the wheel.” Officially, the devices are known as “top boxes” and are placed on wheels, slot machines, and other gambling machinery.

Safety is an official “big deal” at the plant, where 125 employees make the plastic assemblies. The Tripp compound includes a machine shop, routing department, a sheet metal department, and a full assembly line.

The process differs from injection molding, which is used for TV sets and other large-volume appliances. Instead, says DeBenedetti, “We take sheets of plastic, heat them in an oven, and backform them around a tool, then add holes and precision routing.”

New employees are advised in clear terms of the plant’s commitment to safety. During orientation, they are provided with a policy that states what Tripp will provide (PPE, training, a safe work environment, etc.).

The statement also describes what’s expected from employees—¬following safety rules, keeping work areas clean, and wearing protective gear. Workers are asked to commit to “maintaining habits and attitudes that protect them and other employees.”

Check This

For every piece of equipment in use, Tripp creates a safety checklist that must be completed and signed by any employee using that equipment. “So in the case of a CNC router, the checklist might be a couple of pages long,” says DeBenedetti. “It includes everything from how to turn the machine on and off, to lockout/tagout procedures, to where and how the operator should be positioned.”

Supervisors maintain a matrix that describes which employees are allowed to use which pieces of equipment. The sign-offs are maintained in a safety file maintained for each employee. Periodic recertification keeps these records up to date.

Safety is built into the Tripp operation in several ways, including the hiring of experienced operators and using only state-of-the-art equipment with the latest safeguards. A proactive preventive maintenance program keeps that equipment at its peak and helps protect the people who work on it.

Although the maintenance team performs major equipment overhauls, daily maintenance is part of the operators’ duty. Here, too, a checklist ensures that it’s done right. DeBenedetti says that putting operators in charge of a machine in this way gives them greater familiarity with the equipment, which boosts confidence and safety.

The plant’s maintenance manager chairs Tripp’s safety committee. As part of every monthly meeting, the six-member group divides in half. Each team of three conducts a surprise safety audit of one department. Regular visits by the Nevada OSHA state consultation division have helped hone the checklists the safety committee uses. And it has helped improve the awareness members bring to these inspections.

Members are also asked to pair up and perform an informal walk-through of the three main buildings on the site before each safety committee meeting. Although it’s not an in-depth assessment, these walk-throughs help ensure that aisles are free of clutter and that parts are properly stacked. It’s a low-key way to keep employees and supervisors on their toes.

It All Adds Up

Vigilance is the hallmark of the Tripp safety process. Among other high-value strategies in place:

  • Watch where you step. The manufacturing floor is marked off with yellow striping. All areas within the striping can be entered only by people wearing safety eyewear. Equipment is placed well within the yellow lines so that someone walking through without protective glasses would not be at risk.
  • Got a license for that? All forklift drivers must earn a certification license administered by Tripp. Certification requirements include performing daily maintenance, adhering to speed rules, and honking around corners. Fork truck drivers are recertified every 3 years.
  • Spread the word. Line employees clock in and out at computer kiosks throughout the plant. They also post electronic messages about safety and quality. Safety is a regular feature of the company’s internal newsletter.
  • Ask for help. Tripp frequently turns to the Nevada Consultation Division for assistance. For DeBenedetti, using the consulting helps the company “control our own destiny rather than face an enforcement audit. We want to know what we need to work on and [how to] avoid any surprises.” The facility joined SHARP in 2009 and was a pre-SHARP site for several years before joining.

Why Gamble?

A consistent, daily approach to reducing risk has helped the three businesses profiled here reduce accidents and incidents. Strong policies, active safety committees, and reliance on state consultation are part of their no-gamble formula for safety success.

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