Top safety professionals know when it comes to communicating safety protocols and expectations for a given project, the message is essential. But getting that message to stick requires trust and rapport between all partners and project stakeholders.
Joshua Johnson, Corporate Safety Director of Rosendin Electric, says it’s precisely the bond between the crew, the general contractor (GC), and the project owner that he spends a lot of time fostering—especially when he’s out in the field.
“Communication is huge,” Johnson told Highwire ahead of Safety Week 2023. “It’s the most important thing we do, and yet it’s the hardest thing we do.”
Empathizing with crews in the field
Johnson started at Rosendin Electric in 2010 and now oversees the employee-owned electrical contractor’s West Coast operations, including projects in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Hawaii.
Johnson knows safety culture is directly affected by how crews in the field feel about the work they’re contracted to perform, including the working conditions they face, the relationships they form, and whether they feel like managers actively listen to their concerns.
“You’re not going to know what they need and what a job demands from the office,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to get out in the trenches. In Oregon, that means being in the mud; in California and Arizona, it’s being out in the heat. But you don’t know what’s going on by staying in the trailer.”
In other words, crews seek validation from those with whom they work. Johnson explains that fostering a sense of trust and support requires communicating a willingness to listen. And that burden falls on safety managers and supervisors, but also executives. “You’ve got to feel their pain,” Johnson said.
“Coming from a site safety manager and moving up through our hierarchy, I understand what our crews go through,” Johnson said. “I’ve been on the ground, and I’ve completed the large projects—I’ve been there and seen what they’re going through.”
Johnson’s testimony speaks to the essence of this year’s Safety Week theme, “Strong Voices, Safe Choices,” which focuses on empowerment, recognition, partnership, and impact.
Building trust and using feedback to take action
Johnson’s team hosts biweekly meetings with workers in the field to solicit their feedback about safety concerns. Those meetings grew out of the company’s Craft Empowerment Program, giving Johnson and his team valuable insight into problems, which they use to implement changes.
Those problems aren’t always linked to hazards or safety concerns. Sometimes it’s about sprucing up a bathroom or break room; or, as Johnson recalled, getting another employee from an adjacent job site to respect traffic laws—an incident that stands out years later to Johnson. Like clockwork, this red truck would drive erratically through the job site, causing strain on the employees.
“One of my employees was passionate about that red truck,” he said. “So we dealt with it. We had the sheriff stand out there and took care of the issue. It’s not something on our project, but it affected how our crews arrived.”
“In many cases, the morale of our jobs is dictated by the issues our crews face,” Johnson added.
The importance of data
Johnson said his work wouldn’t be complete without access to a system that offers comprehensive safety and risk assessments to inform his team’s management practices. That’s where Highwire comes in.
“When I use Highwire, the first thing I pull up is the summary of findings report so I can see exactly what comments the crew input using Inspect and Tracker,” he said.
Meet our Safety Leaders
STEVE LARUSSA, EHS MANAGER – GOOGLE
GAVIN TAYLOR, CSP, DIRECTOR OF EHS – LEE KENNEDY (coming soon)
JOSHUA JOHNSON, CSP, CORPORATE SAFETY DIRECTOR – ROSENDIN ELECTRIC
DAVID WATTS, EHS DIRECTOR – SKANSKA
SAMUEL PEREZ, SMS, CHST, SAFETY PROFESSIONAL – TORCON
THE SAFETY TEAM – W. L. FRENCH EXCAVATING CORPORATION