Safety: More then a Manual
by Joe Martin, Vice President of Operations
THE FIFTH WALL WAY: SAFETY PILLAR
. . Safety is the promise that literally supports the people of our organization. Safety is all about people. It’s about families. And it means a lot to our professional family at Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems, because it’s a passion and commitment we all share.
This summer we’ve been discussing the three “pillars” of integrity that define the Fifth Wall Way: Safety, Quality, and Innovation. Of the three, safety is the promise that literally supports the people of our organiz
ation. Safety is all about people. It’s about families. And it means a lot to our professional family at Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems, because it’s a passion and commitment we all share.
After a week of camping in the mountains with my son, I’m reminded of my own personal reasons not to take safety for granted. There was a time when I couldn’t have enjoyed this quality time. Prior to my 29-year career with Fifth Wall, I suffered two job-related injuries while working my way through the ranks of the roofing industry. In the first, I lost the tip of a finger and in the second incident, I fell when a section of the roof I was working on collapsed.
I was p
artially disabled for some time, something that takes an unexpected toll on someone in our hands-on industry. Our pride is in our physical work – it’s how we support our families, and it defines our self-worth at least in part.
Recently, an Austin construction company held a coloring contest. The employees’ children were asked to draw a picture about their mom or dad who worked for the company. The winning entry was very simple: just a stick figure drawing of a girl and her father holding hands. When you visit any one of that construction company’s job sites, the first thing you will see is a sign that says, “My dad works here. Please be careful so he can come home tonight.”
Many major industry players that have experienced a job-related loss have changed the industry by passionately transforming their own safety standards and practices. When you lose someone on a job you’re working, you never forget it. You never forget the person or their family, and the responsibility of keeping employees, contractors, and clients safe from harm becomes a personal one.
Today, I oversee the safety program at Fifth Wall. We use OSHA as our base guidelines, but our safety program goes beyond the industry standard in a number of ways.
In order to avoid conflicts of interest between safety and productivity, we hire a third party (Engineering Safety Consultants) to oversee compliance to our strict guidelines. We also hold a monthly company-wide meeting to share safety resources with the entire company, as well as regular “Toolbox Topics” that we discuss once a week, covering items such as heat and hydration, fall protection and lifting, tying off materials and overhead exposures. Our employees receive thorough field training. We also closely manage our subcontractors to ensure that all work being performed on the roof is in the hands of a skilled, safety-trained professional.
If an employee is ever injured, we are there to support a positive path to recovery, creating work in the interim to keep morale high and ease the transition until they are fully back on the job.
Safety is part of our everyday interaction with our clients as well. Prior to beginning any work, we meet with the client to discuss our job responsibilities, safety and work procedures, and to review any potential dangers that the job might present. We make sure any personnel involved—such as the building engineer or facilities manager—understand the work and hazards involved in completing the project. We proactively recognize and minimize any potential exposure to the tenant or to the general public, which may range from blocking off a sidewalk when necessary, or just posting signs to let everyone know we’re there.
Safety is a total team effort that must be supported throughout the company. We hold our foremen to the highest standards, and in turn they apply the same oversight to each employee under their supervision. Every employee at Fifth Wall understands the importance of a thorough set of protective guidelines, and of the necessary caution every day on the job—not just because safety and quality are so closely entwined, but because at the end of the day, everyone wants to wrap up a job well done and go home to their families. Because we all share this common commitment, we trust each other like family. To me, that is a large part of how you create a culture of integrity in any organization, especially one where we often place our lives in another’s hands.