13Feb 2015

URETEK’s Safety Culture

By Robert Armstead posterboy_standing_webuseWorkplace safety is paramount at URETEK Holdings because of the many hazardous environments and conditions the work crews navigate on a daily basis.  Everyone, including all of our clients and customers, wants our crews to be safe on the job.  At one job site the crew may be dealing with power lines over their work space, at another job it could be working in the confined space of a storm drain, or along a busy highway, or rail road, or even working on a barge in the Everglades.  Regardless of what the safety challenges are on each individual project, the URETEK crew is well prepared and trained to keep themselves and others safe on the job site. It all starts by creating a culture built on safety.

Recently, URETEK was given a 0.75 safety rating.  This Experience Modification Rate (EMR) is given by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the nation’s most experienced provider of workers’ compensation information.   A 0.75 rating is considered excellent.  “Basically, it’s as good as you can get,” said Richard Kelecy, URETEK’s Chief Operating Officer.  “We work very hard at making sure everyone is staying safe.”

Keeping employees safe starts with creating a culture based on safety.  It includes offsite safety briefings when evaluating a potential job and onsite safety meetings with the crew who will be performing the work.  Most important, are the numerous safety tools that all URETEK employees use to make sure they stay safe.

URETEK crew on a job
URETEK crew on a job

Culture of Safety

Creating a culture built around safety is at the top of everyone’s mind.  Safety is always the first topic and priority at even the highest level.  It is the first topic of discussion at every board meeting and every operation’s meeting.  The number one question is always, “What can we do to keep our employees safe?”  To incent employees to work safe, employees receive a quarterly bonus if there are no safety incidents that quarter.  The safety record also becomes part of a foreman’s and supervisor’s annual review.

Third-party safety trainers are brought in on a consistent basis.  One of the trainings is OSHA’s 10-hour Confined Space Training, which includes a test and certification.  Another specialized training the team completes in Florida is about the hazards leading to heat stress and how to prevent heat exhaustion.  Other trainings go over standard operating procedures to remind the crew of best practices and even teach new tips and tricks.  Other established trainings cover everything from safe driving practices, to using a ladder properly, to working around power lines. Crews are expected to follow these guidelines, as well as other standard safety procedures, such as no smoking on job sites, or around the polymer material.

URETEK subscribes to J.J. Keller’s services to obtain compliance guides, newsletters, OSHA requirements, and video-based and online safety training for its employees.

Offsite and Onsite Safety Meetings

Communication is key to staying safe.  At URETEK, it starts with the first visit to a potential job site when the sales engineers huddle with the client on the jobsite to discuss potential safety issues.  It continues with a safety briefing in the office after a job has been accepted and, once again, on the job site, right before the crew starts work on the job.  Sometimes there is training that is specific to a job.  For example, the URETEK crew earned a specialized Rail Safety Training Certificate before working on an Amtrak job in Baltimore. This was particularly important because they were using a boom truck with an electrified rail overhead.

When a new employee is going through “on the job training,” they become an extra crew member and are closely supervised and trained by a foreman on possible hazards before they are allowed to perform any high-risk tasks.

Because many of URETEK’s jobs are performed in storm drain pipes and other confined spaces, the crew often works in a buddy system in a confined space and utilizes two-way radios to communicate with the team on the surface.  They are all trained in the proper way to enter a pipe and are always prepared for an immediate extraction in case of an emergency.

Toolbox Safety

Every employee has a safety toolbox outfitted with steel toe shoes, hard hat, reflective safety vest, safety gloves and eye goggles.  Other items in the safety toolbox are face shields for the pumpers, reflective cones and barricades for working in high traffic areas, large fans for maintaining proper ventilation, gas meters for testing the air quality of suspect environments, and even life vests for working around water.

Because URETEK works with polymer materials that can travel across long distances underground and there is a potential for a material blowout, the work crews are taught to watch and listen during injection of the polymer.  The injection crew uses a box to surround the point where the injection gun is injecting the material – just to be on the safe side.

While URETEK’s culture begins with providing a work environment where its employees are safe from serious physical harm, it is testament to all of the URETEK employees that the company continues to improve upon its safety rating year-after year.