Pushing hard on site prep and safety

By Jeff Winke

Here’s a big question……… Can proper site preparation for an asphalt paving project and strict adherence to safety protocols drive costs down and make employees happy? Big is an understatement. There’s a lot to that question.

“This starts well in advance,” stated Brian Hall, territory sales manager/asphalt training specialist at LeeBoy, Lincolnton, North Carolina. “A quick survey of the jobsite will quickly determine if there are any pitfalls. to be prepared for. Some of these may include traffic concerns, entrance and exit for your machinery or possibly any areas that may need to be coned off for safety of the traveling public. Tackling these tasks on the day of the job can lead to oversites and open your company up for dangerous results. “

Communication among all involved in the project is crucial.

“This is somewhat of an open-ended question since commencement for a paving job is totally different then crack sealing,” said Gary Goldman, Gary S. Goldman & Associates, The Contractors Consultant, Sherborn, Massachusetts. “When estimating the job anything out of the ordinary scope of work should be noted. Communication between the sales, contract administration, and operations teams in most situations would red flag any work that needs to be completed prior to the start date (in a smaller company this may mean that the owner has to make a few trips out to the site and/or communicate with the client). Those companies with good processes and SOPS (Standard Operating Procedures) usually have these situations under control.”

Having things under control will ensure that safety procedures are being followed on a jobsite.

“Worksite safety is paramount in our industry,” stated Mark McLeod, president and CEO, Maintenance Inc., Wooster, Ohio. “Depending on the type and location of the project, contractors should be aware that the driving public does not understand that your crews may at times be in the path of vehicles, trucks, and bikes. You need to make sure your job site is properly blocked off to give the crew a protected, safer worker environment. “

McLeod continued, “Every contractor has a routine and should have practices in place to ensure that the crew is aware of new traffic patterns and directional changes to the flow when they occur, since employing common sense by the driving public is at times questionable.”

Safety is important for workers and the general public as well.

“Most experienced contractors will agree that having a representative in charge of site inspection (Such as your quality control manager) will ensure that each job pre-inspection is completed in the same fashion each time, so that both the customer and contractors feel safe on site,” Hall said “With regard to safety… when talking about best practices with contractors, I invite them to first develop a standard for every job including staging areas, entrance and exit of trucks and ‘off limits’ areas for any persons not properly outfitted with their PPC. Secondly, take these practices to their insurance company as your standard operating procedures. This will most likely result in a better insurance rating, saving on their premiums. Third, make sure that these SOP’s are in every proposal to the customer. This level of professionalism will result in obtaining more contracts due to your standing out from the competition.”

Good safety practices should be a top priority in any company.

Goldman elaborated, “Even the small one-person operation should follow proper safety procedures. Every company should have a safety manual and conduct weekly safety meetings. Prior to arriving on a site the crew should already have in place a safety plan that will keep themselves, and their equipment safe. They need to have a designated spot to stage their equipment and they need to know how the work area is going to be secured and protected. Most importantly they must make sure that your clients, employees and visitors know how to navigate through the work area. The client should be sending out emails to employees to let them know that the work will be commencing, signage, arrow boards, traffic cones and security details may need to be utilized. The size of the job, its location, and the amount of activity around the work area will dictate the scope of resources needed. Once you have the worksite secured, your crews can work freely knowing that, for the most part, vehicle and pedestrian traffic will not be interfering with their work. However, they can never put their guard down.”

Asphalt paving contractors must show their commitment to safety practices.

“Many contractors do spend a lot of money on proper company attire, which can include high-visibility company shirts, long sleeves, orange vests, hard hats where required to keep their crews visible to the driving public,” McLeod said. “Having lighted equipment is very important for safety. If a contractor has all these safety visuals in place, it can greatly reduce the contractors and client’s liability.”

Hall offered a business practice he uses with asphalt pavers to ensure that work is being completed safely: “Before any shift starts, a ‘tailgate meeting’ should be mandatory for everyone working at the worksite. Each job is different, so the safety concerns change with every job. For instance, discussing traffic control and other safety concerns will make sure that all crew members are aware and ready to go. As the manager, being present on the jobsite at the meeting often shows the crew that you care about the culture of safety more than anything else you could do. When you show up wearing the PPC you have mandated to them, they know it applies to all and not just some. Finally, making sure that all crew members realize that pointing out safety concerns on the job is not only accepted, but expected, the jobsite as a whole becomes a place that workers will feel good about and safer to work in.”

Clearly, asphalt paving contractors who conduct proper site preparation for their projects and strictly employ safety protocols benefit in so many ways.