J.F. Brennan’s safety program has always prioritized getting its field employees involved.
The company accepts voluntary field observations submitted by employees from job sites and work areas, which it then distributes to the whole company to discuss.
But getting these submissions on paper, often days or weeks after the observation occurred, left little time to address important issues as they were happening.
J.F. Brennan, a marine construction, environmental remediation, and harbor services company with job sites in all 50 states, is often spread pretty thin.“The biggest obstacle we face is that we are so spread out,” Vice President of Health and Safety Luke Ploessl said. “We have so many crews all across the country, but we still only have about 400 employees. So we might have four- or five-man crews working in 30 to 40 different locations at one time.
“The company has weekly, corporation-wide safety meetings every Thursday to discuss the observations the safety department has received. Everyone from the field workers to the CEO of the company can call or video conference into the meeting.
“The fact that we can bring all of our work together and tie it together to talk about at our weekly global meetings is really huge,” Ploessl said. “Those are really important to us. It’s the one thing that really ties all of our divisions together.”
But it was often weeks after a job was finished that they would get around to discussing that job’s observations.
But when J.F. Brennan adopted HCSS Safety, with its mobile Safety Observations feature, that lapse began to disappear.
“The ability to do those observations on mobile really changed things,” Ploessl said. “It’s a huge upgrade. It’s cut down a lot of time in our safety department because we essentially just copy and paste them into Excel and send them out. It saves my admin person at least four hours a week.”
Before HCSS Safety, Ploessl said his field workers would submit them on paper, either retyping them later to email in or turning them in at the end of a week or a job. The majority, he said, were scanned at a later date.
“The quality of the submittals we get has gone up,” Ploessl said. “People are much more likely to take photos, and it saves the guys in the field a couple of hours a week. They’re construction guys – they don’t want to do all that extra work.”
Ploessl said the safety observations program is strictly voluntary, and employees are not required to submit a single observation – much less meet a quota.
However, the safety department still receives approximately 70 to 80 observation submissions each week.
“We use the safety observations so heavily that sometimes it has replaced our near-miss reporting,” Ploessl said. “We just want the information coming in, so we’re not too stern with how it’s classified. But it’s allowed us to get out in front of things more quickly.”
J.F. Brennan has lowered its Experience Modification Rate (EMR), the number insurance companies use to gauge both past cost of injuries and future chances of risk and assign worker’s compensation insurance premiums to companies, to a .61. That low number means less indirect costs to J.F. Brennan when bidding on jobs, allowing them to bid work at a lower cost.
“The safety observations are a very key part of that because they are critical to what we were doing before,” Ploessl said. “But the most critical part, to us, is being able to have everything centrally located and tying it all together. I have 12 safety guys on board, so on probably half of our jobs, we might have a full-time safety guy. The rest – maybe more than half – we don’t. So it’s critical to have that information from the field.”
Receiving safety observations immediately, as they are captured and as the observed event is occurring, is important to be able to address issues in a timely fashion, Ploessl said. It also allows them to retrieve old information quickly and easily.
“A lot of times we work short-term and may go work a job for only four to six weeks,” Ploessl said. “Another contractor on that job might be audited, and then they come back and ask us for safety information four to six months later. I don’t have to go digging around in folders for meetings, inspections, forms, and all that. I have it all in one place. I can type in that job number and bring up everything that has been submitted in one job.”
And for a job that is only a month-long, capturing an observation on the first day and being able to address it in the global meeting the same week means the potential to stop an accident from occurring.
“It allows us to look at the leading indicators that the industry is really pushing now,” Ploessl said. “Rather than gathering information after the fact and trying to hindsight things, all that information is there in real-time for us to use. We can classify it and use our time to get some leading indicators, rather than using that time just to gather information.”
“Rather than gathering information after the fact and trying to hindsight things, all that information is there in real-time for us to use.”