Q&A with Dan Saddler, Winner of the 2019 Gary E. Bird Horizon Award

We spoke with Dan Saddler, VP of Safety for Structure Tone Southwest, who recently won the prestigious Gary E. Bird Horizon Award. The award is presented annually by International Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMI), to recognize a demonstrated commitment to improving construction risk management through the implementation of innovative, cost-effective, and efficient risk management techniques.

Q: Congratulations on your recent win, Dan! Can you tell us about your winning submission?

A: I wanted to share how Structure Tone Southwest revitalized Safety 360, our behavior-based safety program. Previously, we used mostly paper and electronic versions of checklists, which too often were pencil-whipped and ignored.

Instead of going through the motions of scribbling notes on a form, what I really wanted was for the team to improve the daily planning conversations and how they thought about the potential hazards they might face. I also wanted my team to transition their focus from collecting paper to being daily safety planning coaches and a valued reource for our trade partners.

Q: How do you move past pencil-whipping?

A: I had three simple goals when it came to moving past pencil-whipping: remove barriers to use, increase engagement, and use the data. We had very little overall participation with field engagement from both our team and subcontractors’ field leaders. So the one thing I knew I could not do was introduce another tool to the field or my department that would create a barrier to engagement.

Q: How did you use technology to activate field engagement?

A: SmartTagIt has pioneered a new way for us to improve critical daily safety conversations on the jobsite. In October 2017, we implemented SmartTagIt to capture and record observations, JHAs, subcontractor daily journals and the permitting process, and integrated these with video.

The effort was very grassroots; I had support from my leaders, but using SmartTagIt was never mandatory for the field. We just had conversations with our field leaders. Many said ‘Sure, I’ll try it,’ and usage grew organically from there. At this point, we collect thousands of these conversations and field observations a month. That’s up from a few hundred a YEAR before we started.

With SmartTagiIt, the field is cutting the time it takes to this task by over 65%. Further, our field leaders are utilizing the information being collected—many for the first time in their careers. They also love the social sharing aspect because they get the plans and observations as soon as they occur.

Q: What results have you been able to achieve?

A: Since using SmartTagIt, we’ve had a 25% reduction in accidents and injuries and 30% more man hours worked year over year from 2017 to 2018. Our immediate leadership loves the information we’re getting from the platform. We’re also developing our own team to be better leaders and coaching our contractors to have better planning conversations.