For the paving contractor there is no equal in importance

By Jeff Winke

Asphalt paving is dangerous. Heavy equipment, high temperature materials, and the pressing need to quickly produce quality results can prove challenging.

“The most important responsibility a paving contractor has is to complete the work safely,” stated Douglas Dolinar, president of Guidemark, Inc. Pavement Marking Contractor, Souderton, Pennsylvania. “From planning the work, traveling to the jobsite, preparing for work activities to completing all the tasks. Every aspect of the project must be viewed through the lens of ‘Safety First.’ Paramount consideration must be given to worker safety and the safety of the public. Only then should the work commence.”

It all revolves around a project safety plan.

“Preparing and Implementing a comprehensive safety plan which addresses potential hazards, and outlines safety procedures and protocols for all workers is crucial,” said Mark Estrada, senior VP/co-founder of Marathon Solutions Group, LLC, Harris County, Texas. “This plan should be communicated to all employees and subcontractors.”

Estrada continued, “It’s also important to provide the necessary safety equipment and training. Your company must ensure that all workers have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, safety shoes, and high-visibility clothing. Additionally, your company is responsible for providing adequate training on the proper use of equipment and procedures to minimize accidents and injuries.

“Conducting regular safety inspections which includes inspecting equipment, machinery, and work areas for any defects or safety issues that need to be addressed is key. Overall, an asphalt contractor’s responsibilities regarding safety on the jobsite center on creating a safe working environment by providing necessary equipment and training, enforcing safety protocols, and taking corrective actions to prevent accidents and injuries.”

Safety practices should start before the job actually starts.

“A safe jobsite starts well before stepping foot onsite via training, setting the expectations and defining what a safe jobsite looks like and creating your SOP’s (standard operating procedures) for everyone to follow,” stated Todd Eichholz, owner/CEO of A&A Paving, Roselle, Illinois. ‘Then, by providing hi-vis work wear and safety apparel such as ear, eye and hand protection, your team is ready for the jobsite.

“Our responsibility to the general public is often protecting them from themselves. We have all been on jobsites where a customer will move cones or barricades because they want to get through and aren’t paying attention to what’s happening on the job site. We recently paved a Dunkin’ Donuts store that had an impeccable job site traffic plan with a flagger, cones, barricades with flashing lights and it still wasn’t enough. After being turned away from our crew, an unruly customer drove over the curb and sidewalk and through the grass and over a second curb to get to the drive through and then was shocked that myself and our crew was screaming and running towards him. Even best laid plans can’t help that special someone, but you need to be prepared because it will happen.”

Insurance plays into a contractor’s operation and safety plan. Paving contractor business insurance provides essential protection for heavy equipment accidents, asphalt injuries, client lawsuits, and other costly incidents.

“Insurance will vary depending on the location and the size of the company’s operation,” Estrada said. “But to start, the following coverages are important:

  • Workers’ Comp is a must, this is essential to provide financial protection for employees in case of work-related injuries or illnesses.
  • General Liability insurance protects the company against lawsuits or claims arising from property damage or bodily injuries caused to third parties such as the general public. It also covers legal defense costs, settlements, or judgements safeguarding the company’s assets and reputation.
  • Commercial Auto insurance provides coverage for accidents, property damage, bodily injuries, or theft related to company-owned or leased vehicles.
  • Umbrella insurance coverage is an extra layer of protection beyond the limits of your general liability or commercial auto policies. It helps cover the costs in case of a catastrophic event or large-scale claim, sheltering the company’s financial security.
  • Pollution Liability insurance is not mandated, but is wise to have. It covers costs associated with pollution cleanup, property damage, and third-party claims resulting from pollution-related incidents.
  • Contractors’ All Risks insurance provides comprehensive coverage for property damage, theft, accidents, and injuries occurring during the construction process.”

Estrada continued, “When you maintain these insurances it establishes adequate protection for employees, subcontractors, and the general public, which mitigates potential risks and liabilities associated with your operations.”

For the asphalt paving contractor, safety is critical.

As Dolinar stated: “Safety saves lives. Safety is a message to workers that their employer respects them, cares about them and knows that what they do is important. And safety precedes growth, prosperity, and security—you can’t have any of those without safety.”

Estrada concluded that “safety is a big deal for an asphalt contractor because it ensures the well-being of employees, prevents workplace accidents and injuries, reduces liability risk, improves productivity and efficiency, and maintains a positive reputation in the industry. It is crucial for contractors to prioritize and promote a culture of safety among their workforce and beyond.”

Eichholz identified three things a contractor should know about safety: “Ultimately, the buck stops with you. It is your responsibility to provide a safe work environment and jobsite. Second, yes insurance is expensive, but lawsuits cost even more… get the proper coverage. And lastly, don’t think of safety as a cost but as an investment for your team, your clients, and the public where you work. You want everyone to be safe.”