Our Company Culture: Safety Is Priceless All Year Long

Safety is Tualatin, Ore.-based Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal’s No. 1 core value and a year-round commitment that streams through our entire operation. Just one very small diversion from the rules can cost someone his or her home, business or life. I sleep easy knowing everyone is home safely at the end of the workday.

Employees in the field perform a “Stretch and Flex” activity every morning, led by the foreman, to help prevent injuries.

Employees in the field perform a “Stretch and Flex” activity every morning, led by the foreman, to help prevent injuries. PHOTO: Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal

There are key processes we follow at Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal to ensure job safety:

Every two weeks our employees train with a paid outside safety training consultant, Integrity Safety of Vancouver, Wash. OSHA comes to our facility and our job sites if we have any questions. We keep up on the safety regulations and strive for perfection through staff member Pete Perrin and our safety consultant. In addition to all the safety rules that state and federal OSHA requires, we go beyond in many areas that just make sense, such as tagging all safety equipment, including ladders,
fall-protection equipment, first-aid kits and fire extinguishers, each quarter. Our employees, in the field and in the office, are held to a very high level of responsibility.

Each quarter we have a mandatory “stand down”, much like a military operation. This is when everyone stops all activities and inspects all job-site gear. We examine electrical tools, cords and equipment for proper function and wear and tear. Gear is tagged according to the color of the season as required by OSHA. Additionally, all ladders are inspected and tagged for acceptance. We exchange all our personal fall-protection equipment with each other and have it inspected in accordance with OSHA requirements. It is then tagged with the proper-color tape and worn; damaged equipment is replaced.

In addition, Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal holds a mandatory “Save A Back” training every two years. Everyone, including me, attends a half-day of training on a Saturday. Save A Back is a program that began in New Zealand more than 30 years ago. It explains how to properly lift and focuses on workplace movement design, not just lifting with your legs. This makes it very different from many techniques taught in the U.S. Our employees in the field also conduct a “Stretch and Flex” activity every morning, led by the foreman, to help prevent injuries. Our foremen have been trained via Save A Back, and all the activities we engage in with our employees are moves taught by Save A Back.

All these efforts not only have helped us at work, but also benefit us in our daily lives.

In fact, our employees are encouraged to take safe practices home with them. We encourage personal-protective equipment and processes even when off the clock doing household chores. It is easy to skip following work-safety practices when off the clock, but we explain that everything we teach is for our employees and their friends to take home; it is the Columbia way!

I believe these rigorous safety standards have helped our company achieve a great insurance program and better customers who require low insurance modification rates (mod rates) on workers’ compensation. It also shows our customers we are serious about their safety, as well as ours. We have had two OSHA fines in 18 years in the roofing business. I believe this shows we are “walking the talk”!

We have found being safety conscious is also profitable. You are never “money ahead” making sacrifices related to safety. We spend less time processing claims, talking with lawyers and families, doing light-duty work, dealing with OSHA and losing customers over safety issues. The value of sending home employees and customers to their families in a healthy way—every day—is priceless.

About Mark Carpenter

Mark Carpenter is president of Tualatin, Ore.-based Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal, a company that considers safety its No. 1 priority and, therefore, boasts an exceptional safety record.

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