Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Enforcing Safety Rules in Summer is Challenging

By: | July 22, 2016

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York and is a director at large and delegate for the government and public sector division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

Summer is the “high season” for construction and maintenance. It’s time to pave our roadways, stripe them, install crosswalks, pour sidewalks and take a stringent approach to building and property maintenance.

Inevitably, public risk professionals deal with public works departments who choose to go it alone to “get the job done.” More often than not, risk managers hear the complaints of limited funding and resources, and of a lack of understanding by risk professionals that corners have to be cut wherever possible in order to meet deadlines.

I’m particularly fond of the hot sultry days that are perfect for roof repair. We all get that priceless phone call from the community called “Man on the Roof.”

The phone rings and a lady on the phone commends me for the bare-shirted muscular employee on a city building roof enjoying the sun. “Dear … your employee is in fantastic shape and lovely to look at, but shouldn’t you be out there reminding him to wear his safety gear?”

Risk professionals need to personalize their safety message to a level of understanding that each employee can rationalize, understand and make part of their persona.

“Yes, Madam. Might you tell me the location of my employee?”




As you get to the job site you find your employee shirtless, barefooted, in shorts and sitting on the edge of the roof’s eves … throwing OSHA to the wind and every other safety talk you ever gave.

Patience is a virtue … sometimes.

Paving you ask? Shorts, T-shirts wrapped around heads and not a safety vest in sight … they’re too hot in the summer and interfere with tan lines as a matter of practicality, we are told.

And those “flags and signs” you recently purchased to inform the public to be wary, to keep a distance and to stay out of the construction zone? They are often considered trivial because they are too difficult to remember on a hot summer day.

As safety professionals, we all strive to promote and enforce lifesaving “Rules of the Road” before, during and after our projects. Our law enforcement folks try and intercede when they pass by or receive complaints when we can’t get there fast enough.

A poignant and effective sign promoted by the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse I often see in roadwork is Slow Down – My Mommy (Daddy) Works Here. It serves a reminder to the general public and more importantly our public works professionals that their lives are important.

You’ll note, I’ve identified folks as “public works professionals.” It’s an argument I often have with employees who are out on the road maintaining highways, fixing buildings and improving infrastructure.

I advocate respect and a recognition that public works is difficult work. It’s often dirty and messy and well, it’s work that requires perseverance in the worst of weather when we need them the most.

Safety is personal because it belongs not only to the employee, but to their partners, spouses, extended families and their dogs and … even their tarantulas.

Risk professionals need to personalize their safety message to a level of understanding that each employee can rationalize, understand and make part of their persona.

Safety needs to be a language unto itself that is universally accepted as the norm.

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