A company was having problems with a Hispanic crew. They were a very good crew with the reputation for working fast and doing quality work. There were a couple of issues however. They sometimes cut corners and didn’t follow safety protocols. Depending on the project and standards of the General Contractor this could sometimes be a big issue. It was common for the safety guy to call their attention to things only to get a smile with a head nod but no actionable change which could be very frustrating.
Was it a communication problem or a cultural one?
When I addressed the issues in Spanish with the sub-contractor, he made excuses. I got the sense he was comfortable getting away with doing things his way and pretending to not fully understand.
One day I randomly returned to a job site to observe the workers after doing a silica training and explaining the importance and legal requirements of wet cutting. I spotted and took pictures of a man cutting blocks while another stood over the saw with a two-liter bottle filled with water. The cap had a hole poked through it and he was squirting the dust with the water.
Silica dust was flying everywhere, and the effort was ineffective. At first, I was frustrated and very annoyed because they should have known better. Or should they?
After thinking it over I had to give them credit. I told them that they needed to wet cut, and they indeed were trying to do just that. I thought I was clear on what that meant, but perhaps I wasn’t.
This time I gathered the group together again and complemented them on their effort. Then I explained that they needed an attachment that worked with the saw to eliminate most of the dust. It couldn’t be home made. They needed to invest some money.
I explained again the dangers to their health and what kind of fines could be expected if they were caught cutting the way I spotted them.
If I was able to take pictures from across the street, so could OSHA.
Working with a crew to make changes requires a good system and follow through. It isn’t enough to have a one-time class. Training is a progressive process that requires consistent observation and adjustment. We always try to reach their heart and motivate them however at times other disciplinary actions are required.