In Recognition of National Safety Week, REDCOM’s General Superintendent and Safety Officer Donald Gumm Shares His Thoughts

Safety is top of mind for me every day. I’ve spent more than a couple decades on construction sites, and to me safety is a way of life. As it’s National Safety week, a few thoughts came to mind about what safety is and common near misses on construction sites.

First, what it is. Safety is more than a set of rules. It is a mindset and practices that are embedded into the fabric of an organization’s culture and operations. At REDCOM, my discussions with site supervisors are a daily ritual that end with my mantra, “Be safe and make sure everybody else is.” This mantra is a cornerstone of our safety culture, ensuring that everyone from the ground up maintains a vigilant and proactive approach to safety. Because at the end of the day, either you’re working safely or you’re not. There is no gray area.

In terms of near misses, risks that I see frequently on job sites involve ladders and visitors coming onto a site. Extension ladders and step ladders are high risk, so I restrict and must approve their use. I prohibit carrying materials up or wearing work belts on extension ladders, also an OSHA prohibition. Workers must secure extension ladders before use, a non-negotiable practice even if the ladder will only be used for a short amount of time. I also strongly advocate for the use of safer alternatives to ladders where possible such as electric, gas, and boom lifts which significantly reduce the risk of falls and injuries.

Visitors to a job site also present a unique set of safety challenges. Visitors are particularly at risk on a site, as they are often unfamiliar with the nuances of heavy construction. My protocols for visitors include:

1. Pre-arrival Communication: Visitors must inform site supervisors of their arrival to coordinate safe parking and to avoid interfering with operations on site.

2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Visitors must don PPE immediately upon exiting their vehicles.

3. Situational Awareness: Before stepping onto the site, visitors should observe the activity going on around them. Are cranes in use? What heavy equipment is in operation? Recognizing the movement of heavy equipment and construction tasks that surround them can prevent accidents. Also, when stepping into a building, visitors should take note of what is going on above, below and around them. Is welding or bolting going on above them? What is beneath their feet? Are there ground-level hazards like open holes that could result in falls? Awareness is key to prevention.

Safety is at the center of how REDCOM operates, and it’s a discipline that I keep top of mind with our project crews daily. Safety is a necessity ingrained in how we work, and I encourage everyone to place a premium on it as well. As I like to say, “Be safe and make sure that everybody else is.”

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