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Leadership & Culture Safety News

National Stand-Down for Safety Week: What It Is and How Your Company Can Participate

OSHA statistics show an average of around five thousand U.S based work fatalities per year. To put that in perspective, that’s about 100 deaths per week, or 15 a day.

That means, approximately every hour and a half, a construction company owner or manager has to call their employees’ family and explain that their loved one won’t be coming home from work that day. That is a call you never want to have to make and you definitely don’t want to receive.

The number one cause of these construction fatalities, year after year, after year, is falls.

What is National Safety Stand Down Week?

May 3 – 7 2021 is National Safety Stand-Down Week to prevent Falls in Construction and is hosted by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR).
The week is aimed at raising fall hazard awareness across the country, in an effort to stop injuries and fatalities caused when working at heights.

What Can Your Company Do To Help the Cause?

It doesn’t matter how big your construction company is, what trade you are in or what your role is within your company, everyone can and SHOULD get involved. You can participate in three ways:

1. Educate Your Workers by Hosting a “Stand-Down”

A Stand-Down is a conversation between the employer, or upper management and their workers. It is a chance to talk about safety and this week, specifically fall prevention.
Dr. Maya Angelo famously said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better”. As the employer, you should take this opportunity to make sure your employees “know better”.

A great way to accomplish that is to start the stand-down with a Toolbox Talk, refreshing your employees knowledge of proper means of protecting themselves from falls.

This more formal training should be followed by an informal conversation, allowing ample opportunity for workers to ask questions and address any safety concerns they may have.

2. Help Bring Awareness to the Cause

You can help bring awareness to the fact that falls are killing construction workers on a daily basis by capturing a picture of your team during your Stand-Down and posting it on your social media accounts.

In the caption, include how your company is committed to the safety of your employees. Encourage your employees to do the same on their personal accounts and use the hashtag #StandDown4Safety

3. Follow Through on Your Commitment to Safety

Hosting a Stand-Down and bringing awareness to the cause is a fantastic start but to really make a difference, safety needs to be incorporated into the culture of your company. It’s hard to know where to start with that, but luckily you are on the right track.
The Learning Center on our website is filled with valuable information for all construction companies, of all sizes and trades. It’s free for anyone to access and share with their teams. It is a fantastic resource to help you “know better” so you can follow through on your commitment to “do better”.

What Harness is Doing to Help the Cause

We’re launching several things in conjunction with National Safety Week:

  • As previously announced, We are making a version of the Harness safety app available for FREE. The free plan includes access to hundreds of toolbox talks, including twelve focused specifically on fall protection. It allows you to document attendance on any device.
  • In order to promote the best practice of inspecting fall protection harnesses before each use, we will be launching another FREE inspections app. More details will be available on Monday May 3rd.
  • We’ll be offering FREE, no obligation evaluations of your Safety Program so you can identify areas for improvement and get valuable tips.

Make sure you are following us on Social Media so you don’t miss out on these announcements!

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Categories
Leadership & Culture Training

Fall Protection Toolbox Talk Topics: A Complete List

OSHA statistics show an average of around five thousand U.S based work fatalities per year. To put that in perspective, that’s about 100 deaths per week, or 15 a day.

That means, approximately every hour and a half, some company out there has to call their employees’ family and explain that their loved one won’t be coming home from work that day. That is a call you never want to have to make and you definitely don’t want to receive.

OSHA also reports, the number one cause of these construction fatalities, year after year, after year, is falls. The good news is, you and your employees don’t have to be a part of those statistics.

How to Avoid Falls at Your Construction Company

First, you need to be aware that there are two categories that falls fall into. See what I did there?

1. Falls on the Same Level

These are most commonly referred to as slips and trips, which result in a fall to the ground. It could also be as simple as an employee stepping awkwardly out of their truck and falling to the ground.

Falls in this category, while potentially disabling, are not considered serious as they are not usually life-threatening.

2. Falls to a Lower Level

This category involves the more serious and more often fatal falls. It includes falling at any height to the ground or a level below where the employee originated from. This could be from a roof, scaffolding, down a stairwell, off a ladder and more.

The suggestions in the remainder of this article focus on protecting your employees from this category of falls as they are the types more likely to result in death. If your current concern is about slips and trips, your focus should be on general site housekeeping.

Specific Topics to Focus Your Fall Safety Training On

We all know that holding regular safety meetings, called Toolbox Talks, is the basis of a good safety program.

The problem for many contractors arises when you find yourself at a loss for relatable, useful topics to cover.

Below, we have sourced out some fall prevention subcategories and the topics you should focus on within them.

1. Ladder Safety

When it comes to falls, falling off a ladder tops the list as the most common. Your three areas of focus should be:

  • Proper setup of an extension ladder
  • 3 Point Contact
  • Stepladders

2. Scaffolding

Anyone assigned to set up scaffolding should have proper formal training in doing so as one mistake on their part could cost their co-workers their life. However, anyone using scaffolding should have at least a basic understanding of the following:

  • Set up of structural components
  • Set up of planks and decks
  • Fabricated Frame Scaffolds

3. Suspended Access Equipment

This subcategory includes all equipment that provides an elevated work platform, such as aerial lifts. Anyone using such equipment should have proper formal training, but a toolbox talk refresher is always a good idea:

  • Calculating counterweight
  • Tiebacks
  • Personal Fall Protection

4. Fall Protection

Some trades are at a higher risk of fall fatalities simply based on the tasks they perform and the frequency at which they are exposed to fall hazards. These trades need to put additional emphasis on fall protection through formal training. However, Toolbox Talk refreshers are also a must. Here are the topics you should be covering:

  • Basic types
  • Guardrails
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems
  • Rope Grabs
  • Warning Line Systems
  • Safety Monitoring Systems
  • Approvals and Inspections

5. Other Causes of Falls

It is incredibly rare for any construction worker in any trade, not to be exposed to a fall from heights at some point throughout their day. We strongly recommend training everyone in at least the basics:

  • Skylights and Roof Openings
  • Floor Openings (Stairwells)
  • High Winds
  • Falls from truck beds

6. Rescue Procedure

In the event that there is a fall on the job site, workers need proper training on what to do. There should always be at least one designated person with First Aid / CPR training onsite but everyone else should also understand their own responsibilities in an emergency. Here are the areas you should cover:

  • Emergency Action Plans
  • Assisted Rescue
  • Self Rescue

Access to all these toolbox talks, and more, in their account library, in one of the many benefits of being a Harness client. If you are not yet a client, you can check with your local trade association to see if they have content on the above topics available to you.

Conducting Safety Training Works

In the 70’s, the average number of deaths per day was 38. Since then, the efforts of OSHA, health and safety professionals, unions and other advocates have brought awareness to construction safety and provided ways to prevent accidents through training.

This has resulted in a significant drop to 15 deaths a day, and proves that training works. The most important contributors to this improvement are the employers who make safety a priority on a daily basis.

Even still, 15 deaths a day that could have been prevented, is 15 too many. In order to get this number down, every single employer must be committed to the health and safety of their workers.

Make the Commitment to Safety

The mere fact that you are reading this article, proves that you are on track to make a difference at your own company. The most successful safety programs are run by companies who create a positive culture or worker safety.

To find out how they do that you need to read:

Top 5 Ways to Foster a Safety Culture in You Construction Business

Categories
Leadership & Culture Safety Best Practice

Top 5 Ways To Foster A Safety Culture In Your Construction Business

If you’re a construction company owner or manager, you understand just how critical it is to create a formal health & safety program for your company.  Perhaps you are already doing some of the basics, such as providing safety training or conducting periodic safety meetings.  

At Harness Software, I’ve been fortunate to work with contractors across North America who have decided to create or build a true culture of safety.  

After hundreds of meetings, dozens of conferences, and over half a million miles flown,  I’ve noticed that the firms that excel in safety all have one thing in common:  A strong commitment from ownership and management towards the safety & wellbeing of every worker.  These companies have happy, productive workers, and they have lower than average worker’s compensation premiums, which gives them a competitive advantage in their industry.

Now, many companies say they have this commitment.  You can visit the website of any contractor and usually see mention of it.  But they often lack the will to actually see it through.

Jobs that are behind schedule suddenly stop having safety briefings or inspections.  Workers are told, “Just get it done.”  They pick up on the urgency of their management and start cutting corners when it comes to safety –all for the sake of profitability or fear of losing their jobs.  That is not a safety culture.  

Whether you’re the leader of a single crew or an entire company, the first time you prioritize production or results over safety, you will have sent the message loud and clear to your workers that your commitment to safety is just an empty statement on your website.  As a business owner myself, I can understand the pull that owners may feel to focus on results ahead of safety.  It’s natural.  We want our business to succeed, and that means completing work and getting paid.  When it comes to our focus on safety though, we have to play the long game.

How will you motivate your workers to go above and beyond on the next project if they don’t truly believe you have their best interests at heart? 

Top 5 Ways To Foster Your Safety Culture:

 

1. Sign A Commitment to Safety Letter

Write a personal letter that outlines your own commitment to safety and ensure every worker receives a copy when they are hired.  Have each worker acknowledge the letter and add their own written commitment to safety as part of the hiring process.  They could do this via a simple checklist.  Doing this is a great way to hold both management & employees accountable.

 

2. Establish a Joint Health & Safety Committee

Establish a joint health & safety committee of workers from across the organization.  The goal of this committee will be to inform safety policies and identify ways to improve safety over time.  Empower committee members by treating them as equals and not just employees.  Actually implement their ideas so that the rest of your organization and the committee members themselves view the committee as the safety authority for your company.  The best safety programs are ones where workers feel ownership.

 

3. Set A Budget

 

Create a dedicated budget for safety within your organization that can be used for training, equipment, productivity tools, etc. Make sure the amount is appropriate for your company size and review the budget annually.  According to the National Safety Council, every $1 spent on safety returns between $2-$6.  That’s a great investment 

 

4. Talk Safety First.  Results Second.

 

Review safety measures being taken on job sites prior to EVERY production-related discussion. Showing your own personal commitment to your worker’s health & safety in some way every day is a quick & easy way to remind them that you care.  Make it clear that your example should be followed by the entire management team.  It will quickly become a habit and often leads to illuminating discussions that can benefit the company in other areas than just safety.

 

5. Get Advice From The Best

 

Seek out advice within your industry via professional associations or think-tank groups and bring those findings to your safety committee.  National and regional trade groups like the National Roofing Contractors Association, Midwest Roofing Contractors Association, Association of General Contractors, and Mechanical Contractors Association of America are all great examples.  They each have developed safety resources and working groups to promote safety best practices amongst their membership.

 

Bonus Tip:  Celebrate Safety Success.  

 
Provide updates to your organization on your safety record (lower recordable injuries, etc..) to workers on a regular basis, and take the time to point out particular efforts of individual workers.  You could do this by posting on a board in your office, or sending a dedicated email.  You could even use weekly safety meetings to acknowledge the efforts of an individual worker or a group.  

Safety incentive programs that reward employees for certain behaviors can be a good idea as long as they don’t discourage or punish workers for reporting unsafe conditions.  For example, incentivizing workers who complete their safety planning activities thoroughly is better than incentivizing workers for a lack of recordable injuries on a project.  The latter could result in workers hiding injuries or unsafe conditions and that could land your company in trouble with OSHA.  

Celebrating the right behaviors and commitment to safe work is another great way to prove to your workers that your commitment to a culture of safety isn’t just an empty promise.  It’s something that you live every day.

Next Actions

Hopefully, by now you have a better idea of how to foster your company’s safety culture.  

Harness Software is a construction safety app used by thousands of contractors every day to remove the administrative burden from their health & safety program, allowing them to measure success and, ultimately, save money.

If you’d like to see how Harness Software could make it easier for your company to strengthen its safety culture, book a 30-minute consultation & demo.

Otherwise, there are some more fantastic & free resources available on our blog that you can use to create a strong construction health & safety program. Such as:

Categories
Leadership & Culture

How COVID-19 Might Represent A Hiring Opportunity For Construction

 

It’s no secret that the construction industry has been dealing with a labor shortage. Recent studies have indicated that over 80% of construction firms reported difficulty in finding qualified candidates.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on certain areas of the economy represents an opportunity for construction companies to solve this issue.

Where did everyone go?

At the height of the housing marketing, pre-2008, the U.S. added 900,000 construction jobs. However, during the 2008-2011 recession, construction companies shed about 2.3 million jobs.  Many of those workers found positions in other sectors such as hospitality & retail.  Those sectors stand to be decimated by social distancing and other pandemic response measures in the short term.  According to the US Private Sector Job Quality Index Team, over 37 million positions could be vulnerable to layoffs in the near term.  With appropriate stimulus and support measures delayed due to conflicts at various levels of government, a lot of people will be looking for work.

Companies can build a pipeline of candidates now.

Here are a few things companies can do to get started recruiting workers.  Even if you can’t hire them immediately, having a pipeline of candidates for when things turn around is a prudent investment.

  • Be visible in your local markets through social media
  • Share messages about your work culture, compensation, etc…
  • Have a section on your company website to highlight open roles
  • Encourage those affected by COVID-19 to apply
Categories
Leadership & Culture Safety Best Practice

4 Reasons You Should Invest in Construction Safety Technology

 

Making the case for software or other technology investments can be a tough subject – especially if your work can continue without spending that money. It’s one of the big reasons why the construction industry lags behind others in adopting new technologies.

Some who have sought to improve efficiency through technology have faced an uphill battle with upper management & ownership. This helpful guide will provide you with advice to make those conversations go more smoothly and ultimately in the company’s favor.

To land the technology you know your company will benefit from, you’ll need a solid case that outlines why the investment is necessary. If the goal is solely to create safer jobsites, that may not be enough to convince the C-suite to move forward.

4 Ways an Investment in Safety Technology Benefits your Business:

Good news: Investments in technology to improve safety can actually impact departments that span far beyond safety itself. Pointing out potential company-wide improvements can help justify the cost of technology for safety to leadership.

1. Increased Sales

The negative publicity alone from a workplace injury can be enough to negatively impact work.

Certain general contractors, industrial sites, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions simply won’t work with companies that have poor safety numbers – such as your total recordable incident rate, your experience modification rate, OSHA citations, or lost-time incidents – due to the inherent risks involved. They want to hire and work with safe contractors so they don’t have to worry about delays, downtime, injuries, or potential lawsuits.

If you can demonstrate how your technology investment will make it easier for employees to get on board with safety culture, policies, and procedures, then you can also explain that the investment may also pay off in more work due to better safety numbers. Safety is a sales differentiator!

2. Streamlined Finance and Accounting

There are many ways that an investment in technology for safety can make life easier for your accounting team.

To demonstrate the impact your investment may have for this group, provide a few real-world examples of common jobsite injuries and their associated costs. There are plenty of illustrations to choose from (we can provide data that may help, too).

Don’t forget to quantify all related expenses, from production losses and wages for work not performed to damaged equipment and increased insurance costs. Then compare those numbers to the cost of your technology investment. Everyone will quickly be able to see that the cost of technology to improve safety is much lower than the cost of an injury – which is often the result of an unsafe work environment.

Be sure to share information with the accounting team about other potential financial savings that can result from a technology investment as well, including the avoidance of OSHA penalties and a reduction in general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and medical costs.

The right technology can also eliminate the paperwork shuffle for the accounting department, allowing employees in the field to send things like timesheets, packing slips, receipts, and status reports electronically so no one has to track and file hard copies or make sure they get back to the office.

3. Smooth Operations

Being safe on the job site isn’t a productivity bottleneck. In fact, it can have quite the opposite effect. Investing in technology that helps your organization take a holistic approach to safety actually leads to higher worker productivity. Why? Because time and money aren’t lost due to injury or work restrictions.

Workers who are afraid of getting hurt may produce less as they attempt to avoid potential hazards. Employees are more productive when they work on jobsites they trust to be safe – they don’t have to worry about avoiding certain tasks or areas.

An investment in technology for safety can help field staff be more confident about installation practices and the tools and equipment they use. Technology that puts this information in the palms of their hands means they don’t have to waste time searching for answers to questions, discussing with others, or waiting for callbacks from a safety director. This keeps projects moving forward as planned.

The right technology can also speed up the approval process for things like energized work reports or change orders. When an employee in the field can complete forms electronically, document their plan, and submit everything electronically for authorization, work continues without delays or holdups on the approval process.

4. Reduced Employee Turnover

Recruiting and retaining top talent are easier for organizations that care for employee well-being and provide safe workplaces. A strong focus on and investment in safety demonstrates to employees their importance and value, which can reduce employee turnover and absenteeism.

When employees know that their own protection comes first, they’ll feel more loyal and be less likely to look elsewhere for work. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for a company that makes investments to improve safety and protect employees?

The Return on Investment

We’ve mentioned now a few times that safety management systems like Harness lower incident rates, and lower incident rates lead to reductions of your workers compensation and insurance premiums. If you are going to use this as part of your pitch to implement technology with your management team, you’d better be prepared to explain how.

Luckily, we wrote an entire article on understanding how this works through your company’s Experience Modification Rating. Click the button below to gain a better understanding of EMR.

Categories
Leadership & Culture Most Popular Safety Best Practice

How KPost Solved Its Labor Problem With Technology

 

KPOST Roofing & Waterproofing is one of the most successful roofing contractors in the U.S.   They’re also one of the most forward-looking.  They were an early adopter of Harness because they wanted to better manage their safety program so they could improve the lives of their workers while also saving time & money.  They’ve continued to search for tech-based solutions to other urgent business problems.

The Labor Issue.

Even KPOST isn’t immune to the problem of finding enough skilled workers. So, when they were awarded the contract to build the 8000 square-foot roof for Facebook’s new data center in Fort Worth, Texas they were excited and concerned at the same time. If the project didn’t keep to the bid schedule, how would they allocate the workers the job required without a negative effect on their other projects?

Technology to the rescue.

Steve Little, a KPOST founder who calls himself “Head Coach” and his staff began discussions with manufacturers of modified bitumen for tools that could reduce the labor required on the rooftop. They found a tool that was primarily being used in Europe and Canada that can apply roofing membrane in a way similar to how a paver applies asphalt to a road. The machine is called a Mini-Macaden® and it’s manufactured by SOPREMA®.

The type of system being applied at Facebook’s data center would ordinarily take a crew of ten people. The Mini-Macaden that KPOST would employ reduced that number to six people. That’s a 40% labor savings!!!

Additionally, this new technology reduced the amount of material waste, propane used and increased safety on the site because there were fewer open flames.

With fewer workers on the job, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume that the job might take longer. But that’s not the case. The Mini-Macaden used by KPOST was actually able to apply the roof system faster so the job is currently ahead of the roofing production schedule.

Doing more with less.

According to SOPREMA’s website, with traditional welding techniques, a crew can average between 5 to 9 rolls per hour. SOPREMA predicted that a four-member team using the Mini Macaden could be expected to install over 20 rolls per hour. KPost is getting more like 16-17 on this Facebook project in the side open areas. Still an amazing improvement.

“Completing our projects much faster allows KPOST to move our crews to the next job quicker, maximizing our revenue potential during the construction season,” says Little.

With a huge segment of the workforce nearing retirement and fewer younger workers entering the construction trades, technology can be the silver bullet. Companies like KPOST have realized this and it’s given them an advantage.

Will your company follow their lead or will you fall behind?

Categories
Cost & Pricing Definitions Leadership & Culture Most Popular Safety Best Practice

Your Ultimate Guide To Experience Modification Ratings (EMR)

After labor and materials, insurance is the third highest cost for a construction company.  That’s why it’s important to understand — and monitor — your experience modification rating (EMR).   EMR has a direct correlation to how much you pay in Workers’ Compensation Premiums. The lower your EMR, the less you pay in premiums.

But to be able to use your EMR to effectively control costs, you must first understand how it works.

What is an EMR?

In a nutshell, your EMR compares your workers’ compensation claims experience to other employers of similar size operating in the same type of business.

It’s the method for tailoring the cost of insurance to the characteristics of a specific business, but it also gives that business the opportunity to manage its own costs through measurable cost-saving programs.

How is EMR Calculated?

The actual process of calculating the EMR is sometimes complex, but the purpose of the formula is pretty straightforward. Here’s how it works: your company’s actual losses are compared to its expected losses by industry type. Factors taken into consideration are company size, unexpected large losses and the difference between loss frequency and loss severity.

EMR usually takes into account three years of claims history, excluding the most recent policy year. For example, the EMR for a policy period beginning January 1, 2018, includes claim costs for the policy periods beginning:

  • January 1, 2014
  • January 1, 2015
  • January 1, 2016

Who Gets Assigned an EMR?

Not every business is large enough to have an EMR.  Your workers’ compensation premium has to be above a certain dollar threshold specified by your state before your organization will be assigned an EMR. This minimum premium amount is usually around $3,000-$7,000.

What are EMR Classifications?

A workers compensation classification represents a group of employers that conduct similar types of businesses.  Classifications are usually represented by four-digit codes.   Examples of classifications are Roofing (5150) and Plumbing (5183).  All employers assigned to the same classification pay an identical rate (if they are located in the same state).

Classification systems are based on the idea that workers employed by similar businesses are prone to similar types of injuries. For example, employees who install roofs are subject to injuries caused by falls, burns, sun exposure, and lifting heavy objects. The types of injuries these workers sustain are relatively consistent from one roofer to another. Thus, all employers whose business consists of roofing installation are assigned to the same workers compensation classification.

Who Calculates Your EMR?

Your EMR is calculated by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) or in some states, by an independent agency.

When the NCCI or a state bureau issues an experience modifier, the agency provides an experience rating worksheet. The worksheet shows how your modifier was calculated. It lists the relevant class codes and applicable payrolls, claim numbers and losses used in the calculations. Note that if you have incurred a large loss, only a portion of that loss is typically included in the calculation of your modifier. If you have incurred several small losses, all of those losses might be included in the calculation.

Pro Tip: Your modifier is generally more adversely affected if you have incurred numerous small losses rather than one large one.

How Does My EMR Affect my Premiums?

Your EMR represents either a credit or debit that’s applied to your workers’ compensation premium. An EMR of 1.0 is considered to be the industry average. While an EMR of more than 1.0 is a Debit Mod, which means your losses are worse than expected and a surcharge will be added to your premium. An EMR under 1.0 is a Credit Mod, which means losses are better than expected, resulting in a premium discount.

Here’s an example of how this works:

Premium

EMR

Modified Premium

$100,000

.75

$75,000

$100,000

1.00

$100,000

$100,000

1.25

$125,000

As you can see, an EMR of 1.25 would mean that insurance premiums could be as high as 25% more than a company with an EMR of 1.0.

How Can You Achieve & Maintain a Low EMR?

Of course, this is the question every business owner wants to know the answer to. So here is a list of things you can do to be more proactive when it comes to lowering your EMR:

  • Contact your insurance agent or review your policy documents to verify your current EMR is accurate. You might be paying more (or less) than you should due to incorrect or incomplete data.
  • Remember that EMR is influenced more by small, frequent losses than by large, infrequent ones. So the fewer losses you have, the better.
  • Create a strong, well-documented safety program that incorporates best practices such as toolbox talks, daily safety analysis, frequent site inspections, and safety training.
  • Use analytics to determine ways you can be proactive about injury prevention.
  • Also create or improve an effective return to work program to help lower your EMR.
  • Make sure that all injuries are reported promptly. Studies reveal that prompt injury reporting reduces the cost of claims.
  • Implement an active claims management program to manage outstanding reserves and focus on efficiently resolving open claims.
  • Train front-line supervisors and managers how to manage injured employees. Supervisors play a key role in managing the injury and recovery process. When there’s a good relationship between the injured employee and the supervisor, chances are you’ll get better results.
  • Practice due diligence during the hiring process. Hiring an employee who is not fit for the essential functions of the job will increase the risk of an injury. Of course, you’ll want to take the appropriate, and legal, steps in your “screening” process.

Harness Can Help Your Company Lower Your EMR & Save Money

If you want a stronger health and safety program with better documentation and more efficient workflows, Harness is your answer.

Categories
Leadership & Culture Safety Best Practice

How KPost Roofing Uses Harness

KPost Roofing & Waterproofing was recently named 20th overall on the Top 100 Roofing Contractors list. The Dallas company also has the enviable title of “Official Roofer Of The Dallas Cowboys” and 2017 Contractor Of The Year. Founded in 2003, the company has grown to over 400 employees and a whopping $65M in annual revenue.

KPost founders Keith Post, Steve Little, and Jayne Williams worked for another local roofer and struck out on their own with a philosophy of creating exceptional customer experiences and a company culture based on respect & support. That philosophy continues to this day and the results speak for themselves.

The Problem

KPost has dedicated health & safety staff that provide training & coaching but they were struggling to get participation from field staff, manage paperwork, and know where they should be focusing their time & attention. This led to a higher risk of incidents.

The Harness Solution

Harness worked with KPost to create customized electronic forms for job site hazard analysis, safety inspections, incident reports, and more. Coupled with our toolbox talks, training records management, and document storage features, KPost now has a single place to house all of its safety program information. All their safety stuff can be accessed anytime, anywhere from any device.

Field staff complete a weekly toolbox talk based on a topic sent out by the safety staff via Harness. They also complete a daily job site hazard analysis that covers how to avoid the risks that they might experience that day. Safety staff follow up with safety inspections to verify that safe work practices are being used.

All information submitted into Harness is fed into custom dashboards that show KPost management insights such as;

  • Who is & isn’t participating in the program
  • At what the rate are safety deficiencies occurring on their job sites
  • What types of deficiencies are occurring along with their severities

The Results

KPost had a few objectives when they chose to use Harness to better manage their safety program.

  • Reduce time spent on administration
  • Increase safety program participating & compliance with policies
  • Lower risk & workers compensation premiums

One year into their Harness deployment, KPost has achieved the first two objectives. They expect to achieve the third in the next two years as Harness provides the intelligence they need to further strengthen their culture of safety. For KPost, even a small reduction in their EMR will provide them with hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings each year.

“Harness helps our team complete their safety tasks easier and provides me as an owner real-time views of what’s going on. Harness is also helping us fulfill our goal of keeping our workers returning safe to their families each night.” – Steve Little, President of KPost

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Categories
Leadership & Culture

Why Your Construction Company Should Break Up With Email And Use Slack

Why Are There So Many Darn Emails?

Since it came of age in the mid-1990’s, email has been the most heavily used communications tool in business.  Over 269 BILLION emails are sent and received worldwide each day and the average office worker receives somewhere around 121 emails per day. 

Emails were useful because they allow for (usually) short concise exchanges with co-workers, clients, and more.  But is email still the best method for all types of communication?  Might there be better tools out there?  Finally, what would be the advantages for construction companies in particular that choose those different tools?

The average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business.

Do a quick scan of your inbox.  How many of your email messages are conversations amongst your team?  How many of them are communications with outsiders like suppliers or clients? 

Independent research by Atos Origin highlighted that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business. In short, your employees might only start working on anything of value from Wednesday each week. 

US-based studies by Siemens Group point to the value of this “lost” time.  They estimated that a company with 100 employees loses the equivalent of $528,443 each year.

Organizations with effective communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.

Since email is the primary communications tool for most companies, if a company has a problem keeping workers engaged, they MUST consider that the method of their communications could be a contributing factor.   A lack of engagement certainly seems to be a factor.  According to a 2015 Gallup study, only 32% of US employees feel engaged with their companies.  This disengagement leads to poor productivity, high turnover, and what could be aptly described as a negative company culture. 

A separate study found that moving a “disengaged” employee over to “engaged” could add over $13,000 in value to your company.  In the construction sector, where labor shortages are rampant, the need to keep workers engaged is even more important.  Companies must strive to improve communication if they want to attract & retain engaged workers.  And it’s not even just about engagement.  Organizations with effective communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.

Introducing Slack

In 2013, a small Vancouver, Canada based company called Tiny Speck decided to stop development on a failed online video game and instead launch an innovative chat-based communications tool they had built to facilitate communications between their Canadian & US teams. 

Called, “Slack” as an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation & Knowledge”, the service grew to become one of the fastest growing products in the history of software.  Slack is now in use by over 8 million people every day.

“The world is in the very early stages of a 100-year shift in how people communicate, and we’re determined to push the boundaries,” said their founder & CEO, Steward Butterfield.

Slack is a cloud-based communication tool so it works on all types of devices and allows teams to communicate with each other by sending short messages to the whole team, subsets of the team, or individuals.  Over the past few years, messages have become much richer than just text and Slack is now used to exchange documents, images, and other information seamlessly.

Teams across the world have found that Slack helps them:

  1. Collaborate online just like they would in person.
  2. Bring the right people and information together in one place.
  3. Communicate efficiently, stay connected, and get things done faster.

At Harness, we use Slack to focus our internal communications around “channels”, a core feature of Slack.  For instance, we have a channel for discussions between our development team, a channel for marketing, and a channel to collaborate on customer issues.  We even have a channel where we post our latest sales wins. 

Channels can be either public, meaning they’re available to anyone in your organization or they can be private.  Generally though, Slack works best when the majority of communication happens in public.  Channels all have one thing in common; they contain the entire message history of the group in a searchable archive.  This means, for example, that any new member of our “development” channel could get insights from past discussions or search to find a specific topic of discussion without having to ask a colleague.  When a more specific conversation is needed, team members can direct message each other, start a video chat, or connect via phone right from within the app.

Slack integrates with nearly everything which makes it even more valuable.  For example, our “new-deals” channel at Harness is populated with messages automatically whenever our CRM system records a won opportunity.  Sharing good news has never been easier.

Slack In A Construction Context

Slack’s early adopters included digital agencies, software companies, and other “high-tech” industries but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a great tool for construction companies.  How many of your company’s internal discussions revolve around individual projects?  If you use Slack, each project could have its own “channel”.  All discussions for that project now have a central location accessible to anyone on your team.  Things you might put into Slack could include:

  1. Change order details & approvals
  2. Daily progress photos
  3. Copies of submittals, plans, or other documents
  4. Production issues that need resolving with input from others

Slack makes sure these conversations are easy to have and that each team member is aware of the outcome.  No need to worry about not including someone on an email chain.  The fact that some of your team will be in the field and some others in the office doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of communication.

Let’s say that there needs to be a heavy discussion surrounding an issue that could cause significant delays or cost increases on a project.  The foreman on site could initiate a video chat that could include the project manager, superintendent, or even the owner.  Each of those team members could be in a different location.  The details of the discussion could be recorded and posted in that projects Slack channel so that it could be referred back to later by anyone who wasn’t on the initial call.

Oh Yeah…It’s FREE!!

Probably the greatest thing about Slack is that you can start using it for free. Unlike some “free” products, you’ll get all the features that you need to experience the power of Slack. When you’re ready the paid plans start at $6.67 per user per month. With those plans, you get a longer searchable history and some more integration options, along with the group calling & screen sharing. Slack is definitely worth it in my opinion. But I’m not the only one that feels that way…

Construction companies are made up of teams in the same way as tech companies like Harness. So why can’t we use the same tools for internal communications? Better employee engagement, more complete communications, better productivity. These are some of the many reasons why you should break up with email and try Slack.

Next, click the button below to you read our article on how to select and implement technology at construction companies.