Save Lives

The Importance of Your Safety Program

Did you know that your safety program is an important part of your new business strategy? Potential clients want to know about your safety program as part of their request for proposal (RFP) screening when accepting bids on a project.

John Meola, Pillar Inc.’s Safety Director, recently published an article in Construction Business Owner magazine about this very subject.  When accepting bids on a project, clients no longer ask the simple question “Do you have a safety program?” They want pages of information about every detail of your safety program and proof that your company is committed to safety.

Part of the reason for this is that OSHA has intensified its accountability process and revised the violation fine structure, making it very costly for those not following safety guidelines. For that reason, it’s important to know what clients are looking for when it comes to information about your safety program. Some of those items include:

  • Evidence of leadership and a commitment to safety. Your company website should even have a policy statement that bidders can refer to if they visit your site.
  • Proof that you have trained and credential staff members on your team in your specialty discipline
  • Display your commitment to your business’ safety committee  
  • Describe the processes that take place if there is a spill on your construction site. You can even include pictures and other visuals.

These steps only scratch the surface of what your company should supply when bidding on a project. For more details about the importance of safety language and how your company can plan ahead, read John’s full article about “Understanding The New Safety Language”.

Save Lives

Work Safety Regulations 2016 Update

Most folks would rather endure a root canal procedure than attend a safety meeting. And that’s perfectly fine, as long as you are confident that you know all there is to know about doing a job safely. Admittedly, most safety meetings are mind-numbingly boring. That’s largely the fault of the safety community. We need to change that failing.

Safety is boring, unless and until, of course, you’re sitting in the ER Waiting Room. Now THAT can be the definition of boring. By the way, those ridiculous highway signs bragging about ER wait time in minutes are total fiction. You’re going to be there for hours. Minimum.

All of which is to emphasize that there is no middle ground on most of this safety stuff. You are either committed to it and a true believer, or you are comfortably in denial and planning to remain there.

In July the Virginia Safety Police (VOSH) issued a press release about an alarming spike in workplace fatalities. We are about 18% ahead of this time last year. That’s a big jump in funerals. All preventable. No particular industry is to blame, they cover the waterfront. Industrial, construction, educational, agricultural. No one is immune.

Antidote: Make sure you are saying the word “Safety” to your people at least daily. More often if the work is high hazard, i.e. fall protection. Rub their noses in it for emphasis. The message needs to come from the most senior people in your organization; in other words, show commitment and leadership. The more detailed the message, the better.

Telling a worker to ‘Be Safe’ is pretty lame. Telling them to ‘Buckle Up’ and burn daytime running lights is better. Telling then to leave a lot of space to the guy in front of them is better still. Putting a dash board camera and GPS on their rig is really sending the message.

Hispanic worker populations? Make absolutely sure the safety instructions they hear are translated, comprehensible and meaningful to them. Inclusivity is the goal. For extra credit, start pushing for basic English as a common language.

Ideally, your safety process will include the concepts of empowerment, enabling, self-directed ownership of the process, contributing, and participation. Safety Committees are an important organization-building formative step. If you plan on being in business five years from now, these concepts need to be on your agenda – short and mid-term.

OSHA, the federal Safety Police, has been busy lately as well. They recently increased their penalty structure by a lot. And they are on the way to require electronic reporting of all Recordable Cases. Meaning: your clients can easily check on your safety record. Along with your Workers Comp insurance Mod (EMF). No place to hide now.

These are all pretty good reasons to ramp up your safety mantra. The most compelling reason is to put those Emergency Rooms out of business.

Save Lives

Safety Summit 2016

Hello friends, colleagues, and clients,

I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting at the 3rd Annual BLR Safety Summit, held April 4-6, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

I will kick off the Summit with a Preconference Workshop on job hazard analysis and risk management, explaining how you can go beyond basic hazard identification to examine your workplace’s biggest safety and health hazards.

During the main conference’s Strategic Safety Management breakout, my session will focus on developing a behavior-reinforcement plan to identify key outcomes and position workers for success.

The Summit will also feature EHS metrics, safety culture construct, job hazard analysis, emergency planning, OSHA’s new rapid response investigations, mobile technologies, and so much more! This powerful conference is crafted for safety and risk managers, consultants, and HR professionals who need to stay up-to-date on the latest workplace safety management and compliance strategies.

I’d like to extend an exclusive discount on conference registration. Use coupon code SPEAKER50 to get an instant $50 off. (And if you register before February 1, you can also take advantage of the $100 early bird discount!)

Visit the Safety Summit website to register or learn more!

I hope you’ll join me and the most progressive leaders in occupational health and safety at this unmatched event.


John J. Meola CSP, ARM

Save Face Save Lives Save Time

Snow and Ice Control: Roadway Winter Preparations

Pillar, Inc. offers consulting services to Public Private Partnerships, specifically regarding the many different Operations and Maintenance services these specialized procurements include.

In order to better educate our partners, as part of our Continuous Improvement philosophy, Pillar periodically provides these informational O&M fact sheets to interested parties. 

NOW is the season to order your stockpiles of salt, abrasives, and pre-treatment liquids. Actually, this order should have been placed back in July, but we’ll bring you up to speed just the same.

Asset Managers are tasked with taking care of infrastructure, such as roadways and related facilities. This includes budget, cash flow, finance, credit, etc. Basically, here is some advice from our school of experience to help you manage cash flow with a minimum of pain and a few easy to execute tips. 

Salt. A simple chemical and relatively inexpensive, but in the quantities we use it, with prices from $75-$125 per ton, we need to manage our stockpiles carefully. Industry standards call for having at least 100% of your “worst case” winter inventory on hand before the season starts. While this is a good rule of thumb, it can be costly both in inventory holding costs as well as capital outlays to build a larger than necessary containment facility.

Consider the following operational tips:

If your project is located within a reasonable distance (1-2 hours) of the shipping point, consider ordering less salt at the beginning of the season and being very proactive in re-ordering salt. In order to do this, you must do it with forethought, not a guess.

Place a resupply order a day before the next event happens. You can estimate the salt you will use during the event and simply order that amount before it snows. Your project will be first in line to receive salt after the storm while other projects are ordering after the event and waiting longer.

If your project is too small to demand “first priority” delivery, negotiate this into your purchase agreements; it may cost more per ton but save you the corresponding outlay for facility and holding costs.

Delays in shipment are usually due to lack of trucking availability, especially at the rate negotiated by the salt supplier with their independent carriers. Consider an FOB price to provide flexibility and redundancy: You go pick up the salt with your own truck fleet rather than wait for non-guaranteed resupply by the vendor’s trucks.

Consider keeping the doors of your facility open at offhours or weekends. Many DOT’s will only receive salt between normal operating hours of 8am-4:30pm Monday-Friday, thus creating a bottleneck in the supply lines. If you tell the shipper “we’ll accept your salt 24-7” you’ll probably get it quicker.

The extra few dollars in staff overtime is minor compared to the cost of not having the salt.

At some point the shipper’s dispatch personnel will call you to confirm shipment. Have your on-call staff save this number into their phone. It is likely this trucking company will be your exclusive supplier. You can get more up-to-date delivery information from the shipper than going through your supplier, who is only going to contact the shipper and email you back. Short circuit the runaround.

Use less salt. This seems elementary, but you would be surprised at how much salt can be wasted by ineffective salting strategies or uncalibrated or out-of-adjustment equipment.

  • Salt at the right time.
  • Re-calibrate your equipment if usage seems excessive.
  • Use a well thought out and sufficiently detailed pre-treatment plan to minimize the usage of salt.
  • These are all standard procedures, probably already written into your O&M Plan, but is it really happening on the project?

What is the “right” time to apply salt? There are now rugged and accurate sensors available to measure the slickness of pavement in real time.

Instead of guessing when to put down salt, you can now accurately and remotely measure pavement friction and apply salt if needed, not when it “feels right”. Keep an eye on the temperatures. Salting at 9am at 31 degrees on a slushy road is not cost effective if the forecast is for sunny skies and a high temperature of 40 degrees.

“If we have it, let’s use it.” This mentality is a problem with oversized inventories of any material. It’s just human nature. If your client gave you their existing facility, remember that facility may have been sized to service more road network than you now have. Resist the urge to fill it up.

What is your real “worst case” winter scenario? Re-examine the assumptions used to calculate your annual usage. Is it a case of “that’s how we have always done it”? How much salt is left every year to sit all summer long? If it’s more than 1/3rd of your annual usage, you are probably buying too much. That’s a lot of money sitting there in a pile all summer.

While these ideas may sound counterintuitive to some readers, remember that we are managing the road, our crews and our materials and should be looking for efficiencies and improvements wherever they may exist. Because a lot of money goes into snow & ice control, it’s a good place to look for improvements. If you are satisfied with your current results and expenditures, then keep doing it. Our Asset Management philosophy at Pillar tells us to keep looking for improvements. We think there are methods and techniques to reduce or delay capital expenditures without affecting performance.

Pillar, Inc.’s staff has been involved with highway maintenance and incident response on many different projects with 40+ years of combined experience. We can help write an O&M plan including Snow and Ice

Control procedures for your next project. Please do not hesitate to contact us!

Dan Dennis, PE | Senior Project Manager / P3

To download a PDF version of PillarTalk 2015 please click here.

Save Lives

Violence In The Workplace

In the US, public health authorities and OSHA have identified violence as the fastest growing occupational safety hazard and are taking steps to address this issue. Some worker populations are more at risk than others, such as delivery drivers, cab drivers, health care workers, social workers, mental health workers, and others who carry cash or deal with large numbers of people. Practically all working persons have some degree of exposure to violence simply because we spend about 30% of our lives ‘on the job’.


The most obvious targets are persons whom seem likely to have cash or valuables in their possession. The amount doesn’t matter. This is why a lot of vehicles are marked with ‘Driver Carries No Cash’ signage. Or convenience stores, where we can see the sign posted stating ‘Not more the $20 in the till’ or other limitations. Drop safes are also used there to limit the amount of cash on hand.

Sadly, many unbalanced people seem particularly fixated on resolving even minuscule disputes with a firearm. Maybe this is due in part to our upbringing in a culture based on Hollywoodstyle lessons of violence and guns. Firearms are relatively easy weapons, which has the effect of making a bad situation worse. A less reliable method, for example, would be poisoning your boss because he fired you.

We have learned a few basic truths about what drives some people to become violent toward their coworkers, but human nature is infinitely changeable, and keeps coming up with even more unpredictable behaviors.

Very often, there is a history or pattern of bad behavior preceding the blowup. This pattern is often ignored or ascribed to strange personality or otherwise dismissed. No one wants to be confrontational over it, because we all want to ‘get along’, right?

Take threats seriously. If someone is unbalanced, they will often vocalize their revenge, 2/3 anger or fantasy. It’s part of their relief mechanism.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Late night, remote areas, drunk or impaired motorists, disoriented people, vagrants, criminal activity, drug deals, etc. These are all elements of potential trouble.

Be proactive against danger. Getting out of work late into a dark parking lot? Use your car alarm fob as a warning device.

Stay connected. Listen to the local radio or at least have the emergency alert app loaded on your phone. Social media is increasingly being used to make wide notice of events. (Remember to NEVER text while driving!)

Protect yourself at all times. Usually by maintaining distance, such as avoiding the scene of an event unless you have no choice. This is a judgment call based on a lot of factors

Keep in mind, EMS or police response via 911 calls are not always exactly on target. Your location may not be known or found with any degree of precision. Be mindful of your exact location address and definitive landmarks and directional clues for describing your exact whereabouts.

Do not engage a situation. With something like Road Rage, further engagement usually only worsens an incident.

The ‘disabled motorist’ scam is a common ruse used by criminals. Although, most of us ‘want to help’,remember, we are not ‘Road Rangers’ or AAA.

Report unusual incidents such as highly suspicious behavior, unauthorized presence, someone following you or making threatening gestures, brandishing a firearm, random gunfire, unusual or other unpredictable behavior, etc. This is highl judgmental, but be aware of your situation at all times. If there is no report, the police cannot “connect the dots” to reveal a pattern or establish a presence or timeline.

Many workplace incidents are gradually precipitated by some type of domestic or romantic issue or other underlying psychosocial dysfunction in a persons life. “They’re a loner” or “They’re weird.” The ‘job’ itself usually does not have enough emotive power over a person to cause the snap.

The grudge is usually not about work or money, it’s about respect, personality, cred, affection, custody of the kids, etc. Work is just the most convenient place to make it happen. Plus, there’s a built in audience, and maybe more opportunity to harm others.

Preventive planning includes preemployment screening, simple behavioral psychology tests and questionnaires, reference checks, etc. If it’s a highly sensitive position, you should consider doing a hair sample test for drug use history.

Offering counseling as part of your benefits package is kind of like putting padlocks on the pantry door they keep out the honest thieves. But it might help an individual with mental difficulties.

Defensive planning includes having a ‘safe room’ that has strong locks on any doors, a means of communication and defensive objects. Large offices with long shifts would potentially benefit from a safe room.

If something happens, record the details like time, place, descriptive information, etc. Take cell phone pictures or video only if it is safe to do so. Carjacking: Give the keys and walk away. Do not try to defend your vehicle. Report the incident immediately. Law enforcement will take over.

Criminal robbery: Surrender your cash or property without question, do not try to fight back, unless there is no alternative. Report the incident immediately. Get a description as 3/3 best as possible.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, display of expensive bling, etc. We all want to look good, but this encourages criminals. Save it for when not in public.

Avoid common hazards: drug deals, meth labs, using /smoking dope in public, etc. Avoid involvement, do not acknowledge and do not interfere. In other
words, mind your own business. Report the incident in detail as soon as it is safe to do so. Protect the scene or evidence.

For what it’s worth, remember the old expression: “Jack Frost is the best cop in the world”. Translation: the colder it is, the less erratic or criminal a person’s behavior. This comes from the realm of junk science, but a lot of law enforcement folks will back it up. BTW, this winter is supposed to be ‘mild’.

Some of this advice is counterintuitive to our culture of independence and may be distasteful to some people. It is not normally in our nature to ‘give up’ and not defend ourselves when threatened. However, statistics have shown that nonaggression will generally offer the greatest avenue to safety.

PILLAR Inc. was established in 2002 with the goal of providing a unique and systematic approach to civil engineering, surveying, management, and safety to ensure the efficient and successful completion of projects large and small for the betterment of our community. Please do not hesitate to contact us!


Download September PILLAR Talk PDF Here!