J.F. Brennan, a marine construction and environmental remediation company based in La Crosse, Wisc., often has jobs spread out across the entire United States.
The company does everything water related, from structural work like locks and dams to remediating polluted bodies of water to building bridges and railroads. They also have one of the largest hard-hat dive teams in the country.
That means they also deal with a lot of regulating bodies.
“We have as many governing bodies as you can imagine – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the Army Corps of Engineers, you name it. Our biggest obstacle is that we’re so spread out.”
J.F. Brennan adopted HCSS Safety to help out with all those regulations and to gather all its job sites’ data into one place.
HCSS Safety, a safety management software program that features pre-built meetings and inspections; immediate safety observations, near miss, and incident reporting; skills and certifications tracking; searchable data and reporting capabilities; and more, was just what the company needed to sort through and make sense of all the safety data it receives each week.
From the HCSS Safety mobile application, Vice President of Health and Safety Luke Ploessl said he receives approximately 70-80 safety observations each week, which are submitted electronically with descriptions, photos, dates, and times of the observations.
“We bring them all in, put them in an Excel spreadsheet, attach pictures and everything, and then we redistribute them on a weekly basis through a global safety meeting,” he said. “We’ll talk about the observations and especially try to hit the ones that go across the board, company-wide. We make sure that every employee gets them and that we’re having discussions on them.”
J.F Brennan, which was an original adopter of HCSS Safety during its Beta testing period, has lowered its Experience Modification Rate to a .61.
This has allowed them to have lower worker’s compensation insurance premiums and win more work.
But Ploessl said it’s more than just the observations that have helped the company be safer.
“The skills and certifications are a huge part of the system,” he said. “We have over 110 different certifications in the company for around 400 employees. We had over 1,500 certifications in the system the last time I looked.”
Because the company does so many different kinds of marine work, there is an abundance of certifications and skills that require tracking and maintaining.
While they can be backlogged into HCSS Safety to begin tracking immediately, Ploessl said there were too many for them to do at the onset, so they have added them as they’ve come due.
“We do a lot of in-house training and a lot of external training,” he said. “It’s huge for us to be able to click on a class or type in ‘confined space’ and go right to it, and for us to have the alerts to everybody coming due so we can notify them, rather than going through old paper files and multiple spreadsheets.”
Ploessl said the previous method of tracking this data involved Excel sheets for each class offered, kept in common drives on the company’s network.
“Now we just set our limits to 30 days or 10 days (prior to due date), whatever we need as parameters on that class, and we get the pop-up alerts when someone is due,” he said.
J.F. Brennan’s training program is one of its core safety initiatives, so important that they takes time during the slower winter months to provide in-house training to all employees.
Ploessl said the safety department will spend more than 70 days straight in its own training center teaching 18 different courses.
“It allows us to train with just our employees so we can talk about the risks associated with our work, versus going out and getting a bland training from an instructor who is trying to encompass everything in construction into one course,” he said. “We get a lot of communication and safety discussions because it is limited to our employees, and we learn a lot from that.”
The company also places high value into its toolbox talks. HCSS Safety holds more than 600 built-in toolbox talks and meeting topics to choose from, but Ploessl said they added many more of their own to focus on the specific work J.F. Brennan does, like diving and dredging regulations and inspections.
“The daily toolbox meetings have become more of a work agenda for the day,” he said. “We don’t just pick a topic randomly and discuss it. Our foremen and superintendents are awesome – they say, ‘Here’s what we’ve identified as the hazards of the day because of the work you’re doing.’”
The foremen can also take photos at the safety meetings and send them back to the office, directly from their iPhone or iPad. Ploessl said the photos they used to take before HCSS Safety would sit in the truck for 10 days before someone mailed them back to the office.
The entire adoption of HCSS Safety and mobile devices in the field was relatively smooth for J.F. Brennan.
“When we went to the iPad system, there was a little resistance at first because it was new and shiny and unfamiliar,” Ploessl said. “But once they realized how easy it was to use the information in there, it actually took work away from them to open up and have all that information provided for them.”
Ploessl said any important rules or regulations have been uploaded to the system too, so employees can easily access them in the field.
“We even went so far as to utilize the program to put crane assembly procedures in there as a safety meeting,” he said. “As they’re performing their work, everything is spelled out for them. That’s the good thing about these inspections and safety meetings – pretty much anything they want to search, it’s in there. Not only do they not have to go look it up in a book, they have the ability to talk about a rule and have all the information right there, in print.”
While improving the health and safety of its workers and job sites is top priority for J.F. Brennan, Ploessl said the company’s reputation for safety, and the ability to showcase that to potential clients, certainly hasn’t hurt.
“We’ve shown it to a number of clients to show them what we’re doing in the field,” he said. “A lot of our clients, especially dredging people, are very impressed with it. We use it in our presentations too. If there is a $30 or $40 million contract we’re trying to land, we’re definitely putting HCSS Safety into our presentation.”
J.F. BRENNAN OVERVIEW
- Marine construction, environmental remediation, and harbor services
- 400 employees
- 12 safety team members
- Job sites in 50 states
- Delayed receipt of safety observations gathered on paper from the field
- Job sites with four or five employees spread across 50 states
- Time-consuming transfer of observation data by hand into spreadsheets for company-wide dissemination
- Software to compile and track all safety information across many projects in a timely manner.
ENTER HCSS SAFETY SOFTWARE:
- Safety Observations
- Skills and Certifications
- Toolbox Talks and Inspections
- Pre-Task Planning
“We’ve shown it to a number of clients to show them what we’re doing in the field. If there is a $30 or $40 million contract we’re trying to land, we’re definitely putting HCSS Safety into our presentation.”