Safety is a Team Sport

by Art Rouse

DSCN0659The annual joint meeting between the NC Subcontractors Alliance (formerly the ASAC-Charlotte Chapter) and the Charlotte Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) was held November 19th at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. The Air Museum is the final resting place of US Airways Flight 1549, the “Miracle on the Hudson.” This flight was the first time a commercial airliner was able to make a successful crash landing on water without the loss of a single life.

The keynote speaker at the meeting of 95 attendees was Cherie Berry, Commissioner of Labor for the State of North Carolina. Ms. Berry used Flight 1549 as an example of how teamwork and training on the job can save lives. It took the teamwork and training of the Captain and First Officer, the flight attendants, the passengers, the rescue boats, the tower and the NY Emergency Services to accomplish this amazing feat. It also took the designers, engineers and builders of the airplane to produce an airplane durable enough to survive the landing without breaking apart.

Ms. Berry likened this to safety in the workplace. It takes teamwork and training to provide a safe workplace. Businesses need to have a safety plan. The plan needs to be communicated to the workers and the workers must be trained to work safely and avoid hazards.

Ms. Berry also announced that the Injury rate in North Carolina for 2012 had dropped to 2.9 cases per 100 workers, down from 3.1 for the three previous years. She also announced that the fatalities in NC through October were 23. That is a historic low for the same period in prior years, but she stated that the only acceptable number is zero.DSCN0637

Another thing she urged is for businesses to partner with the NC Department of Labor to assure safe workplaces. She stated that the Department of Labor offers, in fact encourages, businesses to request courtesy safety inspections. There are no penalties assessed during a courtesy inspection. The only expectation is that all the hazards found need to be abated. She stated the department would rather the money that might have been spent on fines be spent on abating the hazards and providing a safe workplace. She is proud that North Carolina’s injury rates are well below the national average and partly attributes that to the teamwork between the Department of Labor and business owners.

Cherie Berry has been the NC Commissioner of Labor since 2000. Prior to that she served in the NC House of Representatives focusing on issues relating to small businesses. Before her public service career, she and her husband owned a small business that during its history produced over a million miles of spark plug wires. She has the second most recognizable name in the state. Her picture and signature are on the operating certificate of every elevator in the State of North Carolina.