Safety Survey releases lowest number in a decade

Safety culture an important partnership between contractors, union

CHANTILLY, Va. – Contractors belonging to Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) reported the lowest experience modification rate (EMR) in a decade, according to the association’s 2016 Safety Excellence Awards Program.

“We’re always improving. We’re always looking for ways to get better,” said Mike McCullion, ‎director of market sectors and safety at SMACNA. “It’s important for companies to comply with OSHA regulations, but we encourage them to go above and beyond that to reach that safety culture.”

Helping contractors develop a safety culture is what spurred creation of SMACNA’s annual Safety Excellence Awards Program that recognizes members with the lowest injury or illness rates during the previous calendar year. Information submitted for the program provides a database for evaluating sheet metal and HVAC industry safety performance. Those findings are summarized in the annual safety survey profile report prepared by The Construction Labor Research Council.

For the 2015 calendar year, SMACNA contractors reported an EMR of 0.78. (The lower the number, the better.) The risk analysis takes contractors’ losses due to injury and illness and averages them on a three-year basis. The number can affect contractors’ workers’ compensation measurement. Surveys for the 2017 survey are due May 5, and that data will be released in July.

According to Randall Krocka, administrator of the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT), developing a safety culture requires collaboration between contractors and the union to educate, empower and engage workers.

“A safety culture goes beyond regulations and exemplifies the morals of the company and its dedication to its employees,” he said.

SMOHIT, the safety arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, conducts a Safety Champions Conference open to contractors, trainers, and union members to help promote the benefits of a safety culture. The next Safety Champions Conference will be in February 2018 and should again help attendees understand how safety cultures can be effective.

“It’s a team approach,” McCullion said. “Owners, labor and management need to work together. If a piece of the pie is missing, it doesn’t work.”

Safety ties directly into productivity and quality at a company. If an employee is safe, he or she is being productive and doing quality work. If the same person is doing a quality job, he or she is being safe and productive, because they are all connected, McCullion added.

Conveying that message at all levels is key to creating a safety culture and requires SMACNA to work with craftspersons of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), as well as SMOHIT and the International Training Institute (ITI)—the education side of the unionized industry.

“We encourage our craftspersons to regularly refresh their safety knowledge,” McCullion said. “A well-trained work force is a safe work force.”

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The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) have a labor-management partnership that is more than 75 years old. The goal of these Partners in Progress is to maintain an effective cooperative effort that demonstrates their expertise in the industrial and architectural sheet metal and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) markets. For additional information, visit www.pinp.org.

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