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SafetyCon Gives Construction Professionals New Ways to Stay Safe on the Job

By Stephanie Malench 

EDWARDSVILLE — The Southern Illinois Occupational Safety and Health (SIOSH) annual SafetyCon took place in the Morris University Center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on Jan. 29, 2024.

The conference has been held for nearly 10 years to raise awareness of the importance of safety in the workplace and on construction sites. Over 240 construction, manufacturing, and trades business owners, managers, and leads attended this all-day event that began with a powerful keynote address by business coach Marc D. Braun titled “Creating A Courageous Safety Culture”.

Braun inspired the audience as he shared his experiences as President of Cambridge Air Solutions coaching all of his employees to be leaders in safety by learning from their mistakes and failures and becoming more innovative and creative in solving problems. By fostering this change in employees at every level from assembly line up, the company was able to deliver 4x revenue growth and 10x profitability growth.

Braun said leaders who focus on safety process improvements improve morale, productivity, and the bottom line and encouraged attendees to shift their roles from being controlling managers to encouraging coaches by exhibiting coachability: courage, humility, discipline, and gratitude.

Attendees chose from four different topics offered in three breakout sessions, two in the morning and one after lunch. Topics included Leadership Presentation, Rigging Presentation, Fall Protection, Lock Out/Tag Out, Heat Stress Programs, Tech Update, Managing the Workplace Risks or Marijuana, Energy Based Hazard Recognition, and Traumatic Brain Injuries in Construction. The OSHA refresher and update was available during each session so everyone would have the opportunity to get the most important updates on safety.

Leadership Presentation (Chad Brown and Darren Ault, SENCO Construction Inc)
This presentation focused on the importance of company leaders buying into safety culture at every level by investing resources, time training, and knowledge in their workforce by working in the field alongside their workers. When workers see that safety is important, they will notice and correct their own safety issues and help coworkers from their own company and other trades working on the project do the same.

Rigging Presentation (Terry Driscoll, Mazzella Companies)
This presentation and demonstration showed how numerous types of hooks, ropes, and other equipment work together to safely move materials on the job site while keeping loads secure and employees safe.

Fall Protection (Mark Gaines, ARCHVIEW SERVICES LLC)
This presentation and demonstration provided awareness training, including the hierarchy of fall prevention, suspension trauma syndrome, anchorage support, connectors- lanyards and retractable lifelines (SRL), body support (harnesses), inspection procedure on fall protection equipment, and dropped tools prevention. Key pieces of advice Gaines gave included not altering the webbing of a harness in any way, including writing on the webbing with a Sharpie, placing duct tape on the webbing to write the name or company information so as not to weaken the integrity of the harness. Harnesses should be removed from service when the metal is rusted to the point of pitting or if the webbing is heavily soiled with oils or has been splashed by a chemical.

Lockout/Tagout (AJ Gajdosik, ACUITY Mutual Insurance Company)
Lockout/tagout is a set of practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent hazardous energy release. This presentation covered in depth how the hazardous energy safety standard applies to construction companies, including the components of an energy control program, energy control procedures, and training and audits. OSHA’s standards for compliance were also reviewed, including adherence to an energy control program using lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out, ensuring new or overhauled equipment is capable of being locked out, and ensuring lockout/tagout devices identify the individual users.

Heat Stress Programs (Steve Miller, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc)
This program covered what should be included in a heat stress program to support and protect employees from risk factors such as heavy physical activity, warm or hot environmental conditions, lack of acclimatization, and wearing clothing that holds body heat.

Technology Update and Demonstration (Lauren Van De Mark, Flex-Line Automation, Inc.)
Technology not only makes repetitive tasks safer but increases efficiency. Demonstrations included the MATE exoskeleton suit to improve posture and help with lifting and the upgrades to the Universal Robot.

Managing the Workplace Risks of Marijuana (Andy Martone, Martone Legal)
Although recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois and Missouri, it is still illegal on the federal level. Other issues discussed included workplace drug testing and collective bargaining.

Energy Based Hazard Recognition (Nick Martin and Chad Tislow, Marathon Petroleum Company)
Energy sources have been used as a tool for identifying workplace hazards for years. Tools such as the Energy Wheel find 30% more hazards than workers alone (45%).

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Construction Industry (Dr. John Gaal, Missouri AFL-CIO)
Between 20023 and 2010, 25% of fatalities in construction came from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) according to the CDC. This seminar covered industry efforts to reduce the incidents to TBI.

OSHA (Dustin Miller, Fairview Heights Regional Office)
When the OSHA Act was passed in 1970, 38 fatalities occurred each day due to workplace accidents. In 2021, that number was reduced to 14. Programs OSHA puts on each year include National Grain Stand Down, National Work Zone Awareness Week, National Fall Stand Down Week, Construction Suicide Prevention Week, Safe + Sound Campaign, and the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

Illinois is in OSHA Region 5 with Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio with the regional office located in Chicago and the area office in Fairview Heights. In the year ending Sept. 30, 2022, there were 150 workplace deaths. During the year ending Sept. 30, 2023, there were 114, 35 of which were investigated in Illinois. The top 10 violations in General Industry during Fiscal Year 2022 were:

  • Respiratory Protection
  • Hazard Communication
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • General Requirements, Electrical
  • Control of Hazardous Energy, Lockout/Tagout
  • Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use
  • Maintenance safeguards, and operational features for exit routes
  • General Requirements, Personal Protective Equipment
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • Healthcare
  • The top 10 for construction during FY 22 were:
    Fall Protection
  • Ladders
  • Scaffolds
  • Fall Protection Training
  • Eye and Face Protection
  • Head Protection
  • General Safety & Health Provisions
  • Aerial Lifts
  • Excavation Requirements
  • Fall Protection Systems

On Jan. 15, 2024, new maximum penalties were issued, based on three levels of violations. Serious and Other-Than-Serious Posting Requirements went to $16,131 per violation, Willful or Repeated violations are $16,323 per violation, and Failure to Abate $16,131 per day beyond the abatement date.

During lunch, Illinois Department of Labor Industrial Hygiene Supervisor Mica Chunes reminded attendees about the purpose and benefits of the Illinois OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), which is free for businesses to request. They are under no obligation to do anything with the report unless there is a serious violation that has to be remediated within a specified length of time. The advantage for companies that participate is they are exempt from having OSHA come in for an inspection unless an injury or death is reported. Companies that choose to participate in VPP have to submit annual reviews and undergo rigorous on-site evaluations, but the rewards are worth the time.

After the last breakout sessions, attendees had two hours to network with industry leaders and vendors, including the Illinois Department of Labor Onsite Safety & Health Construction Program, Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, Occupational Safety & Health Consultation Program, Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Archview Services, Flex-Line Automation, Inc., SIH Work Care White Cap Supply, TVG-Medulla L.L.C/Chiro One Wellness, and TekSolv. Attendance prizes were also given out at this time, including a $500 cash prize, two $250 cash prizes, six $100 bills, six $50 bills, 10 $100 gift cards to Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s, an 18 oz Yeti hopper with lid, 12 oz Yeti hopper with lid, a Yeti lunch bag, four Milwaukee Sawzalls including battery kit, 3 Milwaukee M18 hammer drill and impact tool kit.

Event sponsors included 5-Star Sponsors: Senco Construction, Inc., Marathon-Illinois Refining Division, Phillips 66; Platinum Sponsor: Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc.; Gold Sponsors: Guarantee Electrical Company, River City Construction, L.L.C.; Silver Sponsors:  Plocher Construction Co., Inc., Widman Construction, Inc., icon Mechanical, Byrne & Jones Construction, Limbaugh Construction Co., Inc., Groundworks Contracting, Inc., USI Insurance Services, and Laborers’ Local 773, and Bronze Sponsor: CCSFI

A variety of hooks on display at the rigging breakout session during the recent SIOSH SafetyCon. (Photo by Stephanie Malench)

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