Harold Sattison is the Vice President of Brandt Construction, Inc., which recently received a General Contractor Safety Leader Award from the Metro Indianapolis Coalition for Construction Safety, Inc. (MICCS). In this interview, Sattison, who has 25 years of experience in the construction industry, explains how safety, health and environmental (SH&E) practices are an inherent part of Brandt's corporate culture. He also discusses the importance of SH&E investment, training and proper compliance within the construction industry.
Brandt Construction, Inc. recently won a General Contractor (under 300,000 man hours) Safety Leader Award from the Metro Indianapolis Coalition for Construction Safety, Inc. (MICCS). How did Brandt Construction, Inc. qualify for this award? Has your company received similar safety awards in the past?
We qualified simply because we are a contractor with a safety program. MICCS does not require companies to be MICCS members in order to qualify for the Safety Awards Program. As charter members of MICCS, we have been involved in the awards program from the beginning. Past awards we have received include eight Safety Achievement Awards and one other Safety Leader Award in 1996. We also received a Zero Injury Award in 2003.
How is safety promoted within Brandt Construction, Inc.?
Safety is promoted continuously at new employee orientations, daily superintendent inspections, weekly toolbox talks, biweekly progress meetings, monthly management inspections, monthly safety committee meetings and biannual all-employee safety meetings. Continuous promotion has allowed safety to become a part of our culture.
Brandt Construction, Inc. is a smaller contractor without full-time safety professionals on staff. As Vice President, you address many of the SH&E issues. What is your perspective on this?
As a company grows, it becomes necessary to have a full-time safety professional on staff, and we are reaching that point. To date, shared safety responsibilities throughout our company have been successful.
There are hazards and exposures in the construction industry that are not prevalent in other industries. What process does Brandt Construction, Inc. use to identify hazards and exposures and to abate them?
We establish policies and conduct training directed at these unique hazards and exposures to create awareness and to prepare our employees. Each project presents different safety issues and planning needs. We address these issues during the estimating and preconstruction phases of the project. Appropriate professionals are consulted when necessary.
Brandt Construction, Inc. has not been reluctant to invest resources in SH&E. How has this impacted the company's bottom line?
This has positively impacted our company's bottom line. Obviously, committing to safe jobsites requires a safety budget. Some safety costs are directly project-specific and can be passed on. Other costs are recouped indirectly through more productive jobsites and reduced workers' compensation premiums. Our current Experience Modification Rate (EMR) of .67 discounts our premiums by 33%.
Do you view SH&E practices as an investment or as an expense?
As an investment. We cannot properly serve our clients if we do not invest in the proper tools and equipment to make us efficient and productive. Likewise, we cannot properly service our clients if we do not invest in safety training and equipment to provide a safe work environment.
Brandt Construction, Inc. has worked on commercial, industrial, institutional, residential and religious construction projects, and it has experience in historic restoration. What kinds of safety challenges does your company face in each type of construction project?
While each project can present unique challenges, the common denominator usually includes trenching, fall protection, scaffolding, boom and scissor lift work, housekeeping and personal protective equipment (PPE). Unique challenges, particularly in restoration work, include asbestos, mold and lead paint.
What measures does Brandt Construction, Inc. take to ensure that it complies with state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations?
All managers and supervisors are ten-hour OSHA-certified. Craft persons are safety-trained, and subcontractors are contractually bound to abide by our regulations.
How does Brandt Construction, Inc. enforce MICCS Industry Standards?
By enforcing OSHA standards and by providing the necessary training and certifications for craft persons. MICCS's mission is to eliminate construction accidents, injuries and job-related illnesses. As members (i.e. owners, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, designers, etc.), we are committed to continuously improving our safety standards and programs.
How does Brandt Construction, Inc. train its project superintendents and project management staff?
We require ten hours of OSHA training, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid training, and all supervisors must complete the same task safety training as craft persons.
Which Brandt Construction, Inc. project (past or present) are you most proud of and why?
Personally, I am most proud of every church project we have completed. Religious projects have special significance.
What do you believe is the greatest safety concern facing the construction industry today?
Generally, that safety on a project is not sacrificed for the sake of fast schedules and low costs. There are still and may always be too many owners, contractors and craft persons who want safety to be someone else's responsibility.
What recommendations can you make to companies who wish to improve their own safety programs?
Keep the programs simple and focus on the training that directly benefits your company the most. Promote safety continuously until it becomes part of your corporate culture. And joining organizations like MICCS and tapping into their resources would not hurt either.
Harold Sattison is the Vice President of Brandt Construction, Inc. With 25 years of experience, Sattison has had the opportunity to work on various projects, including high- and low-rise office buildings, tunnels, sky bridges, churches, monuments, restaurants, retail stores, tenant finish outs and building restorations. His responsibilities at Brandt Construction, Inc. include estimating, safety and field operations. Sattison holds a bachelor of science degree in construction technology from Purdue University.