Integrating Quality and Safety Programs

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Integrating quality and safety into a single program streamlines operations and creates synergies that improve results.

May 01, 2001

 

Edward Caldeira, Director of Quality Services, NAHB Research Center

 

Most construction companies manage quality and safety as two independent programs. But this is not necessarily the way to achieve the good results from these programs. Integrating quality and safety into a single program streamlines operations and creates synergies that improve results.

From a management and control perspective, there are similarities between quality and safety programs: Both ensure that work is done the right way, and each program has a system of performance standards, verifications and corrective actions. You can capitalize on these similarities.

"We have a safety system that has earned national recognition," says Craig Steele, president of Schuck and Sons, a Phoenix framing contractor. "We also have a quality system based on ISO 9000 principles, one of the first to be certified by the NAHB Research Center. Now, as we evolve, the next horizon is to include safety in our quality system."

To create a single system that serves both quality and safety, start by specifying materials, equipment, work procedures and job rules that lead to the desired results. Related training can present employees with the right way to work that addresses both quality and safety together.

Quality inspection procedures can be expanded to encompass safety concerns. Existing inspection procedures can be adjusted to track and record the presence of trained personnel, the use of safety equipment, compliance with work-site rules and work conditions.

As inspections uncover safety problems, draw from the quality improvement processes to prevent recurrences. First, use quality methods to uncover root causes and follow-up by planning changes that prevent recurrences. This could involve changing equipment, materials, construction methods, work rules or company policy. Regular toolbox talks can communicate changes to field personnel.

"We have toolbox talks every week with every crew," says Hank Zolkiewicz, manager of Del Webb Contracting Services, Sun City West, Ariz. "Our topics reinforce safety procedures and construction details. When hot spots come up, they go on the list, and we talk about them, too."

When quality and safety are combined, management and employees can usualy identify with a much simpler plan. For management, there is only one system to oversee, one that fully integrates quality and safety into company operations and continuously improves performance. For employees, it is easier to work within a management framework that presents a single message about the right way to work.

Request the free "Quality and Safety Fact Sheet" by calling the NAHB Research Center’s ToolBase Hotline at 800/898-2842 or e-mailing toolbase@nahbrc.org. Visit www.nahbrc.org/quality.

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