Benson Curtainwall was recognized for its safety record for the third consecutive year. The Portland-based custom curtainwall and external cladding subcontractor was awarded the Gold Safety Award from Highwire, which provides software platforms to assess and mitigate safety risks and monitor financial viability.
The award recognizes a company’s safety performance and current safety management systems. It is given to companies with a score between 85% and 95% on the safety assessment. Benson’s glazing operations segment earned 97%.
Benson, which was acquired by MiTek Industries in 2013, was founded in 1926 as the Tom Benson Glass Company. It has several locations throughout the U.S., including California, Oregon and New York. The company has worked on many notable projects throughout the years, including the New York Times headquarters and One World Trade Center in New York.
Glaziers work in various hazardous settings, including tall heights and different weather conditions. Injuries can be common and result from falls, falling glass, exposure to dust and solvents and sharp glass, among other hazards.
“We truly embrace safety,” says Rob Dahl, MiTek’s director of global environmental health and safety. “From the top down, it is a priority. We don’t put anything ahead of safety. We spend time getting the right equipment and managing the right programs. We will stop production, if necessary, rather than force people to be in a hurried state to get the work done and take shortcuts.”
Dahl explains that for glazing companies to embrace a safety-first culture, the belief must first come from the top. The trickle-down effect leads to stringent rules and regulations that enforce safety standards. Benson’s active safety team includes several managers working with superintendents on construction projects.
The team ensures that all guidelines are followed, appropriate training is conducted and the proper tools are provided. Dahl says that while those steps are normal procedures in the glazing world, Benson has found a good rhythm with its policies while ensuring superintendents know what’s expected of them.
“We do our best to try and stay focused,” says Dahl. “We have a strong employee orientation program [so they] learn our way of doing business … We also follow a strong regiment of daily, weekly and monthly training. There are daily job reviews and task planning that go on at every jobsite. There’s a weekly toolbox talk and a safety meeting every week. There’s also separate, more in-depth monthly safety training each month. However, those are all dictated by the field.”
The challenges of retaining a respected safety record are many, says Dahl. One such challenge is large projects. He explains that wrangling a team of 40-50 workers is often difficult, and some jobsites don’t have adequate space to meet. Jobsite meetings can be held in a dirt lot, cramped hallway and even a convention hall.
“It depends on the creativity and ingenuity of the guys on site as well as safety managers to figure out the best way to approach things with that particular crew,” says Dahl.