New volunteer safety program begun for state’s construction industry
In what is the first such program in the country, the Associated General Contractors of Virginia (AGCVA) has partnered with Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program to create a volunteer safety initiative.
The BEST Program, which stands for Building Excellence in Safety, Health and Training, is designed to encourage and recognize AGCVA members who implement safety and health management systems to benefit construction workers.
“We firmly believe that it will make construction job sites safer, resulting in fewer injuries, better employee morale and reduced costs,” said Steve Vermillion, a spokesman for the group, which has 610 members.
C. Ray Davenport, the state’s commissioner of labor and industry, and Mike Cagle, chairman of the board for the AGCVA, signed the strategic partnership agreement on Oct. 13. “We applaud the AGCVA for undertaking this first of its kind partnership with the VOSH Program to recognize AGCVA members who implement safety and health management systems that protect construction workers and set a standard of achievement for the construction industry in Virginia,” Davenport said in a statement.
So far this year, Davenport’s department has recorded 36 workplace-related deaths in Virginia, with 11 of those, or 30.5 percent, in the construction industry.
“Safe jobsites are the most crucial component of construction work. Virginia BEST is designed to reduce employee injuries, improve employee morale and position AGCVA members to be more competitive by becoming the best-in-class construction companies. This historic program will be the model as every state will want to follow Virginia’s lead in the Virginia BEST program,” Cagle said in a statement.
Core elements of the program include:
1) Management leadership and employee involvement
2) Worksite analysis
3) Hazard prevention and control
4) Safety and health training
There are three levels of participation in Virginia BEST.
Level 1 is a basic achievement level for applicants who develop and implement a safety and health management system that meets current VOSH regulatory requirements.
Level 2 is an intermediate achievement level for applicants having an established safety and health management system that exceeds current VOSH regulatory requirements.
Level 3 represents that highest achievement level in the program, with applicants having an exceptional safety and health management system that serves as a model for other construction employers.
Companies that achieve Level 3 will receive an exemption from planned construction inspections from the VOSH program, which allows the agency to focus its limited compliance resources on high injury and illness rate employers, the ACGVA said.
In a news release, the trade group notes several benefits of reducing private sector employer costs associated with injuries, illnesses and fatal accidents. Namely, it enhances a company’s economic viability and competitiveness, increasing available capital for reinvestment, expansion and new hiring.