M&D Mechanical, Decatur, Ala., has more than 100 years of experience serving clients in the industrial, institutional and government sectors. During its legacy, the leadership team has certainly learned a thing or two about exceeding clients’ and employees’ expectations for safety on the jobsite. In December, the company achieved OSHA’s SHARP status—an elite ranking for small businesses that maintain exemplary injury and illness prevention programs. 

SHARP companies must undergo a detailed application process and, once awarded, they are exempt from OSHA-programmed inspections for two years and may achieve subsequent renewal for up to three years. 

Construction Executive interviewed M&D Mechanical’s Safety Officer Eddie Evans about the company’s successes in providing protection to employees, encouraging best practices, creating a safety culture, boosting morale and communication, building a strong industry reputation, retaining staff and lowering workers’ compensation premiums. 

Why were you motivated to apply for OSHA SHARP status?
Our safety program and safety culture have continued to improve over time. We have really focused on the small things. Once we found out about the SHARP process, we felt it was the logical next step toward continued improvement. Complacency can be a real killer of forward progress, and the SHARP process gave us another opportunity to challenge our employees and to maintain the improvement that sustains growth—not only in our safety culture, but also in every aspect of our business.

What were some of the prime requirements of the SHARP application, and how does M&D Mechanical meet those requirements? 
The first step to qualifying is the current lagging indicators as related to our NAICS codes. Accident rates had to be low before Safe State of Alabama would even come to evaluate where our safety program stood with respect to SHARP. Of course, they offer wonderful onsite safety consultation regardless of the current numbers, but to evaluate for inclusion into SHARP, these numbers had to be low already. 

We are fortunate to have an ownership and management team that puts great focus on the importance of a healthy safety culture, and our numbers reflect that proactive attitude. After that first hurdle, a very thorough evaluation of the safety program, including all individual policies, is conducted. We were not without areas of improvement either. We expected that and welcomed the challenge. SHARP inclusion is the thin line in the sand between adequate programs and potentially outstanding safety programs and policies.

As a mechanical contractor, what are some common safety hazards and concerns?
Looking at incident records from the last 10 years, lacerations, ergonomic concerns such as sprains and strains, and particles in the eye were the leading injuries. Hands and eyes are always major areas of concern just from the nature of our work. Hazard assessments are vitally important to ensure that the correct gloves are worn for the proper task. Cut- and abrasion-resistant gloves are the staples of our industry. 

Particles in the eye are hard to 100 percent prevent, even with strict usage of ANSI-approved eyewear. One solution is to effectively train all employees in proper first-aid techniques that involve immediate attention if a particle enters an eye. We also always make sure to have plenty of eyewash readily available and in close proximity to the actual work locations. This is all part of our pre-job planning exercises.

How does M&D Mechanical make safety a priority every day? 
Once safety performance has been identified as one of the major components of a healthy business, the daily priority of doing things correctly becomes ingrained. Buy-in becomes self-sustaining and is as vital to every task as any other aspect of the job. 

Personal protective equipment and hand tools all operate on the same plane of importance when performing a pre-task analysis. Ultimately, every person on the job looks out for the employees around him or her. 

No unique groundbreaking safety inventions are needed to accomplish the type of culture we have at M&D. All that is required is a sustained focus that comes with great employees wanting to be the best at everything. 

Visible, regular management support is a necessary component. The M&D management team came to understand the business advantages of a good safety program, but more than that, our leaders are driven by a moral and ethical responsibility to provide the necessary support to ensure that all employees go home in a condition that might even be a little better than when they came to work. This isn’t lip service, and as our employees began to understand this, the trickle-down effect has had an amazing impact on our overall safety culture.

How will you leverage your award to grow and improve your business?
With reduced margins and increased competition, an effective and quality safety program more than pays for itself; it also increases the bottom line. We’re not spending money on injuries, and we’re saving money with reduced insurance rates. These outcomes can reduce bid costs to ensure a more competitive number. 

We entered into the SHARP process with no other motives than continued improvement of our safety program; however, we are absolutely letting our customers know that having us on the job helps them. We can be the shining example that influences the contractors around us on the job, and this eventually increases the value of employing M&D Mechanical. Our long-term customers already see this benefit, and new customers are quickly seeing that advantage as well. 

Lauren Pinch is managing editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email pinch@abc.org, visit constructionexec.com or follow  @ConstructionMag.