Consorting With The Enemy?

By Steve Hudson | September 28, 2010

Safety's a big topic at our house these days. Youngest Son has reached the Age of Driving, so ol' mom and dad here never pass up the opportunity to preach the good gospel of safety to the kid as well as whichever of his buddies happens to be within earshot.

The conversations typically involve one of us grown-ups saying some variation of "be careful," with many admonitions to be a defensive driver, to plan for the unexpected, to anticipate, and so on. The response is usually some variation of "Yes, Mom" or "Yes, Dad," combined with that patiently indulgent half-grin and ever-so-subtle roll of the eyes that's so familiar to parents of young drivers far and wide.

Are we telling them anything new? Well, no, not really. It's pretty much the same safety cliché stuff that we heard when we were kids too (back in the previous millennium, you know).

And now that we're doing the telling instead of the listening it all takes on a whole new meaning. If you've got kids of driving age, you know what I mean.

Do I beat the safety drum too much? Possibly so, especially if you ask a teenaged driver, although when the drum is safety I don't know if you can err on the side of excess. Anything that promotes safety is a good thing, in my book, and it does my heart good when I see safety sitting squarely in the spotlight.

Spotlight On Safety In Gwinnett

Given that predisposition, you can understand why I was so pleased to see some recent news from over Gwinnett County way.

Gwinnett County, which is my neighbor across the Chattahoochee River, is where they're building the new Gwinnett Braves AAA minor league baseball stadium. It's going to be neat, and it's scheduled to be completed this spring. Plan to take in a game there — after all, what's not to love about minor league baseball!

Anyway, I'm pleased to see that safety is in the spotlight on that project, too, thanks in part to a safety partnership involving OSHA, Barton Malow Construction, and Georgia's Tech's On-Site Consultative Service.

Consorting With The Enemy?

What? Partner with OSHA? For the construction industry, isn't that kind of like consorting with the enemy?

Some still think so. And to be sure, many jokes still include "oh-no-here-comes-OSHA" somewhere in the narrative. But that attitude's a shame. As many contractors have come to find out — often to their great surprise — working with OSHA can be a good way to enhance safety on all sorts of construction sites.

After all, enhanced safety invariably means greater return and increased profitability — important things these days, as just about any contractor will tell you.

The goal of the Gwinnett partnership, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is to "ensure the highest level of safety and health for employees during construction of the Gwinnett Braves Stadium."

"Primary goals of this agreement are to reduce injuries and illnesses, as well as eliminate fatalities during construction of this $45-million project," noted G.T. Breezley, OSHA's Atlanta-East area director.

That pretty much covers it.

"The partnership will focus on increasing the number of employers in the construction industry that have effective safety and health management systems and incident-prevention programs," the Department of Labor notes. "Emphasis will be on construction industry safety and health principles and practices, as well as communication of safety and health information to employees of contractors working on the site."

The agreement also requires participating employers to provide adequate training to non-English speaking employees.

Make A Resolution For 2009

As we move into 2009, contractors are sure to be facing challenges. Why not make this the year that you resolve to deal proactively with the challenge of safety? Maybe one of those Strategic Partnerships could be just the tool you need.

OSHA's Strategic Partnership Program is part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's ongoing efforts "to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative relationships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and employees." More than 1.4 million employees and nearly 28,000 employers across the United States have participated with OSHA in more than 580 strategic partnerships since the program began in 1998. Are they working? There are many factors involved, of course, but the data for 2007 (the most recent available) shows the lowest national injury and illness incidence rate that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has ever recorded.

Why not contact your local OSHA office to learn more about such programs and see how they can benefit all involved? To find out more about what's happening in the Atlanta area, give a ring to OSHA's area office in Tucker, GA, at 770-493-6644. Elsewhere, contact your local OSHA office or visit