What are some of the widely prevalent challenges you notice in the Safety and Compliance landscape?
In construction regulations are always evolving and they're becoming more and more technical and complex in nature as far as the requirements for written programs and training are concerned. For instance, recently in California where wildfires were seen smoke employers that work outside are required to have a written program and have a training program in terms of wildfire smoke in case their air quality goes bad. More industrialized companies have an industrial environmental hygienist on staff that can provide a lot of technical assistance to these employees. But on contrary most construction companies don't have an environmental hygienist staff that has the technical expertise to meet compliance with a lot of different safety record. So regulations are becoming more of a focus, penalty amounts are getting higher for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and also California penalty amounts for citations violations are getting higher. So that puts additional burden on employers. Also, environmental regulations are now an issue for construction employers with Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans. The world of construction is a complex especially for smaller contractors who are struggling with compliance issues and then to get support in areas that they need for safety. This forces employers to hire more safety people and to provide the level of support they need to be compliant.
What are the current market trends you see shaping the Safety and Compliance space?
Currently mobile apps are revolutionizing the construction industry. We at Walter & Wolf also use an app to do our safety inspections and ensure safety compliance. Having a customized mobile app that comprises daily safety inspection make it easier for construction managers to mitigate risk and keep jobsites safe with a streamlined approach to identify hazards and environmental issues. Also some of the bigger general contractors and employers are using third party data management systems and third party safety clearinghouse companies but those tend to be a burden on the subcontractor trying to meet the requirements of these different third party safety administrations. It can be a big help to a general contractor but then there's a burden on all their subcontractors and some of the network they assign a letter grade for contractors that submit safety compliance documents. For example, PG&E if their subcontractors don't get a B grade or better then they're not allowed to do work. And so one of the challenges is that the smaller subcontractor that's trying to do work for PG&E they would have to hire a third party company to help them meet the ISNetworld requirements. For these companies that all they do is just help contractors’ meet third party safety database requirements so it can be a big help but it can also be a burden to some subcontractor employers.
What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?
Walters & Wolf is a proud group of companies with thirteen hundred plus employees. I was hired initially a few years ago to just cover safety and there's been
an expanding role that I have a little bit out of my wheelhouse as far as environmental health because my background and experience has always been in construction safety and regulations. So I'm trying to catch up on environmental regulations as well because as the environmental health and safety director my responsibilities also encompass environmental issues and that's been a big learning piece for me for the environmental part. When I came on board we had five production facilities where we make units glass panels and we also make precast concrete panel s as part of our overall business. So within the last few years I've been learning a lot about general industry safety orders and been focusing on regulations that apply to general industry. So that's expanded my role there and has put me out of my comfort zone in a few areas but I'm trying to shore up the knowledge gaps and learn those regulations.
How would you see the evolution in the Construction industry a few years from now with regard to disruptions and transformations within the arena?
Construction companies have to get more sophisticated in using electronic apps or electronic databases to help them manage just the amount of training and regulation requirements. So they have to hire people that understand the electronic real world interface for compliance. This is the biggest challenge because in construction industry there are people that have been in the business for a number of years or may be on the verge of retirement but have had great moral boots on the ground knowledge. Those people are starting to retire and younger safety compliance people are coming in and the good part is that they understand electronics. But the gap is that the construction safety world is a physical environment; serious injuries and fatalities can happen. If the safety person and the management of that construction company don't have a handle on the real physical dangers with systems such as cranes, forklifts (heavy equipment) that can cripple a company. One bad accident for a smaller contractor you put him out of business as far as safety.
What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to your colleagues to excel in this space?
Many people don't understand or want to learn the electronic interface, new apps, and don't want to be adaptable. Dinosaurs are the best example as to what happened to them as they didn't adapt. So you if you're going to continue to work in safety you have to be willing to learn about apps that can help you do your job quicker and faster and once you finally learn the programs you can actually benefit. This is a piece of advice that I would give to safety professionals working in the industry for a long time. For the two safety professionals coming in, yes it's a complex world as far as regulations go. So they need to get a hold on what the regulations are and try to find an older safety mentor that can help them navigate the real world challenges of construction and get some of their technical knowledge and give them back the knowledge of technology.