No strategic business plan is complete without health and safety management

Violating OSHA safety regulations can be costly to your firm. Table 1 lists the top 10 citations and financial penalties levied by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on electrical contractors for violations of federal safety regulations after 886 job site inspections during the year ending September 2002. More than 1,900 citations were issued with penalties totaling more than $1.28 million.

Criminal charges can also be applied. In December 2002, a large electrical contracting firm and its parent corporation were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly causing the deaths of an apprentice lineman and a journeyman lineman who were working on two separate high-voltage transmission towers. The four-count indictment alleges “the employer willfully violated numerous federal workplace regulations that are designed to protect employees ...” If convicted, both the employer and its parent corporation face a maximum penalty of five years probation and a maximum fine of $1 million, or $500,000 on each of the two counts. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney prosecuting, said, “It is our intention [to] remind employers of the extraordinary responsibility placed on them to ensure the safety of their workers ... wilful disregard of federal safety laws will have the most serious possible consequences the law permits.”

Safety kudos

The daunting challenges in federal construction and electrical safety regulations of sections 1910 and 1926 of 29 CFR, (Code of Federal Regulations) did not deter Sargent Electric Co. (www.sargent.com) from taking its responsibility seriously. Sargent Electric logged 1,626,525 hours in 1999; 2,046,755 hours in 2000; and 2,439,889 hours in 2001 without a lost time accident. The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based electrical contractor manages many projects in multiple states in commercial, industrial and utility markets.

“The commitment of all our supervisors at every level to achieve our safety goals is key to the success,” said Greg Woodworth, corporate safety director who oversees the program with the help of trained safety managers. “We reward our people through our registered-trademark incentive program called We Prize Safety. Through it, all of our electrical workers are able to win monthly, quarterly, and annual prizes for safe work practices.”

Developing your plan

No strategic electrical contracting business plan is complete without a plan for safety and health management. One qualified individual needs to be the designated corporate safety officer, with authority for planning and conducting the program. The plan should include three basic elements: 1) a corporate commitment to safety, 2) competent safety training, commitment of supervisors at every level to assure implementation. Companies with more than 100 field workers may consider hiring a full-time safety manager. Smaller companies may consider engaging a part-time professional safety consultant. Either person should belong to the American Society of Safety Engineers and, preferably, have earned the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) qualification.

Subjects for a typical safety management plan for small construction companies are listed in Table 2. Additional subjects may be needed to fit needs of your company. Help in preparing a safety management plan is as close as your Internet connection. Just type “OSHA compliance plans” into your Internet search engine and you will find many consultants who will help write your plan and suppliers of mandated information posters. OSHA will supply a consultant free of charge, although scheduling may be indefinite (www.osha.gov). NECA offers support to its members through its national safety program (www.necanet.org).

Also, check with your risk insurer for possible safety management help. OSHA and the insurance industry are collaborating to provide training for small businesses to help them create a safe work environment, encourage high productivity, and lower workers’ compensation costs. EC

TAGLIAFERRE is proprietor of C-E-C Group. He may be contacted at 703.321.9268 and e-mail lewtag@aol.com.