By Jeanie J. Clapp
AGC’s Safety & Health Committee meeting, held in Tampa, Fla. in January, delivered key safety information and provided crucial networking opportunities for the more than 140 attendees. The opening session kicked off on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2013, with welcome remarks by the committee’s current chairman, Tommy Lee, CPEA, safety director, W.S. Bellows Construction Corporation in Houston. That began the two-and-a-half day journey of OSHA updates, HazCom standards, training information, drug testing concerns, and more. Attendees rubbed shoulders with other safety professionals, shared best practices, and filled their ‘goodie bag’ with important safety takeaways.
“The Safety & Health Committee meeting is the place to be if you want to learn what’s happening in the government arena,” says Lee, a staple at these meetings, having participated on the committee for the last 29 years. “This group is the liaison between the legislative, government and education subcommittees and all the contractors. It’s important for the entire AGC membership to hear the latest news on the safety front, especially those smaller contractors who may not have a safety officer on staff.”
The hard work at these semi-annual meetings is impressive. There are numerous subcommittees working tirelessly on topics such as government, performance, and professional development and updates are provided throughout the meeting. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Safety & Health Committee carries on throughout the year, meeting with government agencies and collaborating on new rules and standards. Lee has previously testified on three standards, representing AGC and providing valuable input. “It works,” he says. “They do hear you.”
Once standards are released, the committee often creates a video or drafts a white paper, outlining the changes and recommending an implementation plan. Right now, the committee is working hard on the Cranes and Derricks in Construction rule. The standards are hundreds of pages long. The committee breaks the rule down and highlights the major changes so people can dissect them more easily.
“We are on the cutting edge with anything that’s coming down the pike. It gives us time to be proactive, submit our comments ahead of time and then explain to folks what they need to do,” says Lee.
In addition to its legislative and regulatory work, the committee annually recognizes those construction companies that excel at safety performance through the Construction Safety Excellence Awards (CSEA) program, sponsored by global insurance broker Willis. At the January meeting, more than 100 companies participated in preliminary judging, and 69 advanced to the final round of competition, which will occur at AGC’s 94th Annual Convention and Expo in March in Palm Springs, Calif. The winners of the 2013 CSEA awards will be featured in an upcoming issue of Constructor magazine, found on www.constructormagazine.com.
Lee believes that folks who attend the committee meetings are looking to take valuable information back home. “Whether a company is looking to improve its safety program, or a safety officer is seeking to enhance his or her safety career, this is the place to do it,” quips Lee. “Attendees will gain a better understanding of what is going on in the government world by being present. And, they’ll get to hear from other professionals too, from the veterans to the new guys.”
First-time attendee Jodi Wilson, safety director, Crusader Contracting of Lakeland, Fla., wanted to network with others who cared about safety. “The best thing you can hope for when you attend an event is to walk away with a good support system in safety,” she says. “The overall experience of the AGC Safety and Health Committee meeting was great. I met a lot of great people and I walked away with many contacts. Soon after I left the meeting I followed up with some folks and they helped with some valuable resources.”
When Lee first started attending meetings, his boss told him that rubbing shoulders with safety professionals from other companies was the best thing. The bottom line is “we’re here to prevent accidents,” says Lee. There aren’t any trade secrets in the safety world. “We’re all in this together.”
Thanks to the sponsors who made this event possible: ClickSafety, XL Group, Travelers Insurance, Zurich Insurance, MSA, and MMC. Mark your calendars for the next Safety & Health Committee meeting: July 10-12, 2013, Denver, Colo.