QUadrant Homes is setting a strong example for the industry when it comes to jobsite safety. The Bellevue, Wash.–based company recently became the first home builder in the nation to achieve Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star status, an honor bestowed by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries with federal oversight from OSHA. The 19-point VPP recognizes excellence in work-place safety and health.
Over three weeks, state evaluators interviewed 132 construction workers at Quadrant job-sites, reviewing safety practices, documentation, and work-site conditions. But the reason for the audit wasn't compliance. “This was a way to bring in a third-party partner to review our safety program and bring new ideas forward,” says Quadrant president Peter Orser. “We were working with the consulting side [of Labor and Industries] as opposed to the regulatory side.”
Some 70 contractors in the Puget Sound area participate in Quadrant's safety program, which includes ongoing worker training and a safety pamphlet translated into three languages. With feedback from state labor consultants, the builder recently introduced specialized training in fall protection and utility knife usage.
The proactive approach has proved to have concrete benefits—among them, reduced incident rates (down 50 percent in the last year), improved worker morale, and fewer callbacks stemming from failed building inspections. There's also a trickle-down effect on the consumer side, Orser says, “Our housekeeping is immaculate. The main motivator is safety, but a clean site also says ‘quality' to a home buyer who is driving by at 8:00 at night.”
The biggest hurdle, according to Quadrant safety manager Holly Rainwater, is that VPP Star recognition typically is given to workplaces that are centralized, whereas residential construction is anything but. As a solution, Quadrant has applied for VPP Star status on a per-jobsite basis. Eleven of its sites are now VPP-designated, and three more are under review.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA.