Lake Forest-based United States Alliance Fire Protection (USAFP) takes safety seriously, and the results are demonstrated by the company’s numerous association safety awards and extremely low .59 Experience Modification Rate (EMR), incident and frequency rates, and overall losses.
Employing approximately 400 people, USAFP has achieved a “rare feat in the construction industry” – a staggering 2.8 million work hours – or 2,042 workdays without a lost workday accident, says Dave Curran, director of safety and risk management.
In other words, no one has had to take even an hour off work because of a job-site injury since 2009 – and this is at a business where employees must often work at extreme heights, and in difficult locations. After all, fire sprinkler systems need to be installed and maintained within industrial or commercial buildings where there can be many risk factors and obstacles.
USAFP has also won the Chicago Builders Association Best Safety Performance Award for five consecutive years.
Nevertheless, Curran isn’t satisfied. “We are always looking toward being better,” he said after the Builders Association Safety Stand Down Week, where the company rolled out its safety message “throughout the company, and at all the different sites where we were working.”
As far as Curran is concerned, any safety-related incident, even if it doesn’t result in an injury, requires attention and remediation.
The company’s goal – “zero preventable losses” – is based on these guidelines:
- Zero accidents – all accidents can be prevented;
- Zero injuries – All injuries can be prevented;
- Zero recordables – All recordables can be prevented;
- Zero water losses – All water losses can be prevented; and
- Zero re-work – All re-work can be prevented.
The latter two guidelines are key elements of USAFP’s safety management system. “Re-work” – returning to an area or site because the initial work plan has changed – is inherently more risky than the original work plan, says Curran. Often additional obstacles and live systems have been introduced. Similarly, systems should never be “live” when USAFP workers are on the site – so that means any water escaping from the fire sprinkler system can have serious potential problems. (USAFP employees always trust but verify first with a sure-off tester before working to make certain they don’t receive an unplanned water release.)
USAFP safety messages are emphasized through regular newsletters, follow-ups, assessments, and training, he says.
“Everybody has the power to stop work if they observe unsafe work conditions,” he said.
The business is competitive, and Curran knows not everyone has the same attitude towards safety. Inherently, the quality-first attitude – reducing error-based rework requirements – helps contain costs while providing a much safer work environment. Curran and other USAFP employees will at times observe other contractors/employees not following safe practices, and call them aside to point out how to be safer on the job.
“I’ve never seen a project in 27 years in the business that had enough profit in it to cover a catastrophic injury or loss,” he said.
“Safety is more than just a reference to our commitment to jobsite safety; this word also implies the unique sense of team that we have built; we want security and well-being for all our employees.” Curran said.
In recognition of the Safety Stand Down Week, USAFP gathered all of the team members for a celebration thank-you breakfast. At the event each team member was given a specially designed safety shirt for the event, and each field member was given a pair of safety work boots.
Each day during the Safety Stand Down Week, a special safety Tool Box Talk and video was shared with every participant. The messages covered such topics as Accident Prevention, Fall Prevention and Protection, Driving Awareness, Material Handling and Hand Safety.
In observing the no-loss workday record, USAFP president Chad Huennenkens said: “We are extremely proud of our unrelenting commitment to safety and risk management and that every one of our team members goes home at the end of the day to their families, safe and sound.”
“This mark is not a finish line, but rather the start of something even more impressive,” he said.