Constructor - May/June 2017 - 29
(l-r) Tony Mansoorian, chief operating officer;
Laura Bellows, president and chairman; and
Tommy Lee, VP of safety, at the BLVD place project.
BY KATIE KUEHNER-HEBERT
FOR A SAFETY PROGRAM to be top notch, contractors have to
continuously tweak and innovate to keep every new generation
of worker interested in safety, says Tommy Lee, vice president of
safety at W. S. Bellows Construction Corp. in Houston, the Grand
Award winner of the 2017 Willis Towers Watson Construction
Safety Excellence Awards (CSEA).
"We're never satisfied with our safety program - we keep
developing new things," Lee says. "And we keep it simple so
that the workers get it. We keep evolving the program to help
our workers return home safely each day to their families."
Bellows Construction, a member of the AGC Houston Chapter,
showed the CSEA award judges a host of safety innovations,
including a number of new engineering controls. While working
on an oil company jobsite, the contractor developed a system
that requires workers to tie off while climbing scaffold ladders,
gang ladders and ladders over 10 feet. The firm has also installed
handles at the top of gang ladders to allow safe access while
climbing on and off of them.
Bellows Construction also developed a fall protection system
that consists of a cable barrier installed six feet away from the
perimeter of the building and all open shafts, in which the
posts are put in place prior to concrete being placed on a floor.
Another engineering control is putting in elevator divider beams
before forms are taken down so the workers can install them
on a deck instead of having to erect scaffolding floor to floor.
The contractor has also instituted mandatory rest periods
and cooling stations on jobsites during the hot Houston summers, in which the firm serves water and Sqwincher hydration
solutions to workers. And to make safety second nature, workers
are continuously reminded of the "Zero Zone philosophy," which
teaches each worker that every action taken needs to occur so it
will not harm them, any of their coworkers or any other person.
It's important to innovate, but it's critical that companies
never let up on selling workers on the importance of safety,
"If workers really believe what you are telling them, such
as why it's good for each employee to work in the Zero Zone,
and if you can show them, for example, how to climb a ladder
correctly and why it's important, they buy in," he says. "They'll
learn that performing their work in a safe manner makes their
work so much easier and productive by not being injured."
There are other critical components to maintaining a successful safety program, including having an intensive training
program based on written materials, reinforced in regular
meetings with all workers, including those of subcontractors,
@Constr uctor Ma g
The safety team holds an open and collaborative superintendents' breakfast meeting every other month for the management
team and superintendents to have a step-by-step discussion of
any incident that occurred on the firm's jobs or on the jobs of
other companies and implement preventative measures.
On the alternate months, a hands-on safety training meeting
is held that includes the management team, superintendents and
foremen. At this meeting, the safety team reviews recent safety
news in the construction industry, covers special safety topics
and conducts ongoing competent training. Safety topics have
included fall protection, crane and derrick standards, excavation,
demolition, steel erection, our hazard communication program,
hurricane procedures and scaffolding.
"We often feature an expert guest speaker to cover topics that
relate to construction safety, such as the recent silica standard
changes," Lee says. "The importance of regular jobsite safety
evaluations is reiterated to superintendents and foremen as
well as their responsibility to ensure that subcontractors are
adhering to Bellows' - and often times the owner's - stringent
It's also very important to inspect to ensure safety is infused
in all actions.
"If our safety team sees something that isn't right, for instance,
incorrectly installed scaffolding, we explain the issue to the
worker and have him or her re-install it correctly," Lee says.
"In taking time to explain how to do something correctly and
safely, we have helped retrain a worker."
GOT YOUR BACK
Above all, safety managers must have the complete backing
of the company's management to make a strong safety program
happen - something the family-owned company has done
throughout its 103-year history.
"We've been focused on safety for years," says Laura Bellows,
who also represents the family's third generation of owners as
president and chairman of the board. In 1936, the contractor
installed handrails on the forming systems of Houston's San
Jacinto Monument project - "and that was before OSHA was
"We are family-owned and led and that caring family culture
permeates our company; we care for and look out for each other,"
she says. "Safety is more than a priority for us at Bellows; it is
a foundational principle."
Bellows walks jobsites monthly to personally touch base
with the firm's superintendents, foremen and workers. In addition to attending all superintendent and supervisory safety
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