“It's a culture,” says Chief Safety Officer Don Rogers when describing safety at RQ Construction Inc. “It's just part of our values. How do we communicate it? Loudly and often.”
This commitment to safety has led RQ Construction, a general contractor that primarily builds for the Department of Defense, to a lost-time injury rate well below industry average, numerous project awards and recognition from the National Safety Council. The company employs eight safety professionals and approximately 215 workers at 10 sites.
RQ Construction's commitment to safety starts at the beginning. Every new construction employee goes through safety orientation, and all workers receive project-specific safety orientation the first day on a new assignment. The company currently has nine authorized OSHA trainers on staff, and employees also must take OSHA 10-hour training, with many then going on to complete the OSHA 30-hour course. In addition, subcontractors are encouraged to take the 10- and 30-hour training and other specialty courses at no charge. RQ Construction even sponsors employees who wish to earn Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) or Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) certification.
In addition, RQ offers monthly CPR/first aid classes, which also are open to family members; a distracted driving course; and “Construction Survival Spanish” and “Excellence in English” courses to break down the language barrier. The company requires 100 percent PPE on all projects; 100 percent fall protection at 6 feet (including scaffolding and mandatory tie-off for scissor lifts); activity hazard analyses from subcontractors; and a full-time health and safety officer for each project, even if not required by the contract.
Rogers, who also is senior vice president and an owner of the firm, took on safety as his sole focus in 2007 in a move that demonstrated the company's commitment to delivering safety starting at the highest level. As chair of RQ Construction's executive safety council, he knows what makes safety tick.
“First of all, communication is key. The communication about safety flows to the other members of the council almost real-time,” Rogers says. “We don't wait to discuss safety until we have a monthly meeting.”
According to Rogers, the safety council allows company executives to access each other's thoughts and examine the bigger picture of workplace safety. “I think the biggest benefit for me in leading is getting a fresh, outside perspective,” he says of the council.
He adds that RQ Construction is working “to move from a safety culture to a culture of safety.”
“The challenge we have in construction is that day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, there can be changes that present hazards,” he explains.
RQ Construction addresses that challenge by thinking ahead and planning for safety in the long-term — not only for RQ Construction employees, but for users and customers, as well.
“We're a design builder. We think there is much more opportunity to incorporate safety into a design by looking at the site, the building, [and] how are the maintenance people going to behave on the project once we're done,” he says. “It's not just during the process, but the end result, and how our customers might benefit by our thinking ahead on their behalf.”
That attitude has helped RQ Construction become a safety leader and to earn a spot as one of America's Safest Companies.
“We're just a bunch of regular guys doing the best we can to put people first,” Rogers says. “At the end of the day, if what we do costs somebody their future, their productivity, their life — it's not worth it. It just isn't. That is something that my partners and I share in the deepest recesses of our hearts.”