How do builders address the question of safety for Hispanic workers on the jobsite?

Tim Mason, vice president of risk management for Hovnanian Enterprises, in Red Bank, N.J., says that "the turnover and number of Spanish-speaking people make it virtually impossible to train them. That is the responsibility of their employers." But he adds that during the past five or six years, Hovnanian has paid for three to four thousand employees and subcontractor supervisors to take the OSHA 10-hour safety course. "We insist on [subcontractor supervisors] passing the training on," Mason says.

Robb Pigg, vice president of operations at Shea Homes, in Walnut Creek, Calif., concurs: "The trades come and go. We extend training to supervisors because they are there more continuously -- we don't train their workmen."

Spanish language materials, meanwhile, have become commonplace. When Town and Country Homes, in Lombard, Ill., hires a new subcontractor, the builder provides a copy of its safety program in English, Spanish, and Polish. Andy Konovodoff, Town and Country's executive vice president of operations, says, "If there were a need for another language, we would translate."

McMillin Homes, in National City, Calif., and Morrison Homes, in Alpharetta, Ga., among others use bilingual signage on construction sites. At Morrison, Greg Lorenzetti, formerly the company's safety officer and now president of the Dallas division, adds, "We reimburse and bonus builders for taking Spanish courses" in an effort to improve jobsite communication, with some success.

Frequent meetings emphasizing safety, safety audits, and inspections that involve subcontractor supervisors is another strategy used by Hovnanian, McMillin, Shea, Town and Country, and Castle and Cooke Homes of Los Angeles. Shea also established safety councils -- one for each Shea division -- made up of subcontractor representatives who are expected to be safety advocates and to work on risk engineering.

Town and Country rates the safety performance of its construction teams quarterly. The team with the highest rating wins a pizza-party certificate for all of its trades. The company also views OSHA standards as minimums, which it has upgraded to more stringent levels for its own benefit. "Our goal is 100 percent compliance [to OSHA standards]. We are trending toward 97 percent compliance right now," says Konovodoff, noting that the company has never received a safety citation.

If contractors fail to practice standard safety procedures, builders such as Hovnanian will make their own citations, including fines. If the violations continue, Hovnanian fires the contractor and removes him from the worksite.

At Town and Country, a subcontractor's first violation of safety practices merits a verbal and written warning. A second violation results in firing and replacement, but the company has only had to do this once. "We manage the [safety] process so well that it becomes a way of life," says Konovodoff. "We have a vested interest in safety."

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