How Webcor Got it Right

MORE than ever, construction companies are under pressure to provide both employees and subcontractors with effective safety training. OSHA and many states mandate safety training for employees, and recent laws such as California’s AB 1127 hold contractors responsible for the safety of on-site subcontractors. Adding to the incentive to provide safety training for workers is the realization by most companies that helping to ensure employee safety is simply good business.

California-based Webcor Builders is one such company. “Our company culture is one that puts employee safety at the forefront,” said Sarah Cole, Webcor’s safety manager. “Our absolute priority is to ensure that our workers return home to their families every night injury-free.” Cole also admitted the price for not complying with OSHA and California safety regulations can be high.

“Too many citations can have a real impact on a company’s bottom line. Following good safety practices is part of running a good business, especially in the construction industry,” she said.

During the past 30 years, Webcor has constructed many of California’s landmark commercial, residential, and office buildings and complexes. With clients ranging from The Home Depot and Oracle to Ronald McDonald House and Boeing, Webcor has seen its growth explode in recent years, resulting in a constant influx of new employees. Concurrently, government regulations and increased industry awareness have made safety training a priority.

In the past, Webcor had to send its employees off site to weeklong OSHA 10- hour and 30-hour compliance courses to help meet its commitment to safety training. When the company analyzed its accidents, it became clear that most happened to employees on the job less than six months— an issue compounded by Webcor’s rapid growth and increased pace of hiring.

“We realized that we needed to do a better job of emphasizing safety as part of our new-hire orientation,” Cole said.

The answer for Webcor has been online, anytime safety training. Cole said the company had several goals in mind as it began considering shifting to Webbased training. “We wanted to increase the number of OSHA 10/30-trained workers from a handful to hundreds, eliminate weeklong off-site OSHA 10/30 training for safety managers, shift job site safety training away from busy superintendents, and maintain incident and severity rates drastically below industry standards,” she said.

After considering several options, Webcor turned to a seven-year-old company offering Web-based learning and documentation solutions that are currently helping some 5,000 organizations meet their training objectives. The company offers 180 online courses covering a wide range of safety-related subjects and the first 100 percent Web-based 10-hour and 30- hour construction safety courses authorized by OSHA. This makes it easier for Webcor employees to meet OSHA requirements.

“Our employees can now access courses from any computer at any time,” Cole said. “We used to have only a few people OSHA 10/30-trained. Now, we have over 100, and that number is increasing. It has raised us to the next level in terms of overall safety.”

On-Site Training Kiosks Work Well
Webcor is not offering its employees OSHA 10/30 training alone. Virtually every safety training course in the training company’s library is available to employees through its online university. In addition, the course Cole said is making the biggest impact—a job site orientation program developed specifically for Webcor—is available at job site kiosks. The course includes core safety orientation plus site-specific hazard information.

“By providing on-site training to new workers, we have enhanced our ability to make a significant reduction [in] incidents for workers on the job for less than six months,” Cole said.

She said one of the key advantages about online training is that it is so convenient for employees to access and to participate. New employees and subcontractors simply use laptops with headphones to take the job site course, for example. And the course is available in both English and Spanish.

“Employees must achieve a 100 percent score on the test to receive their hard hat stickers,” she said.

Nicole Leifeld, Webcor’s training coordinator, noted participation is easy to document and the course is simple for employees to navigate. “We are able to document everyone that has been through the course. The superintendents are happy because it takes a lot of pressure off them. And the supervisors like the online training because employees fill out the paperwork, take their orientation course, and drug test in one stop. It’s been a huge success,” she said.

CALIFORNIA’S AB 1127 On Oct. 6, 1999, California Gov. Gray Davis signed AB 1127 into law. Effective Jan. 1, 2000, AB 1127 amended the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA) to add the most substantial civil and criminal penalties ever found under an occupational safety and health law. California employers are now subject to much larger civil and criminal penalties for violations of Cal/OSHA regulations.

Webcor turned to the same provider for help with its “Pride of Work” incentive program. The program’s aim is to ensure all projects are completed with the highest standards of care, worksmanship, cleanliness, quality, and safety, Cole said. Webcor and subcontractor foremen fill out daily checklists noting how well workers did that week. If, as a team, workers receive a score of 92 percent or better, all get a $10 credit that weekto be redeemed for work wear.

The training provider is managing the incentive portion of “Pride for Work” for Webcor. Each week, it sends a communication to all employees and subcontractors on a job site. When it’s time to honor the participants, Webcor can award the incentive with a click of a button.

Results: Preparedness, Consistency
Has online safety training met provided the results Webcor was looking for? Cole, the safety manager, said more than 4,600 employees have satisfactorily completed the job site orientation course since the implementation of Web-based training, and the number continues to grow. Busy superintendents are happy because the burden for training has been shifted to the online courses. They also know that subcontractors are now well prepared to start work safely.

Just as important, Cole reported that the number of OSHA 10/30-trained employees has increased significantly without the need to devote a week off site for each employee to attend a course.

Webcor is also high on online instruction because it helps to ensure that all workers, including subcontractors, are receiving a consistent message. “It’s vitally important that all workers receive the same training,” explained Gregg Davis, Webcor’s senior vice-president/CIO. “Your life depends not only on your actions, but on those of workers around you. With online instruction, we can be certain that the training is delivered consistently 100 percent of the time.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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