Oregon OSHA Health and Safety


October 2015

Going the Distance

Company: Arctic Sheet Metal, Inc.

Corporate Safety Director: Clark Vermillion, CHST

Clark Vermillion

Workforce: 125 employees

Common Hazards: Lacerations, sprains and strains, working at height

I think what makes our safety program successful is that I am not afraid to call anyone to ask for help. We have a great network of sharing here in Oregon, with the Construction Safety Summit, ASSE, and Oregon OSHA training workshops. I make friends whom I can call for help and, likewise, I make time for people when they call me. We all go home at the end of the work day to our families.”

~ Clark Vermillion

What is your background and safety philosophy?

I am a building trades steamfitter by trade and a safety professional by training. I have been a full-time safety professional for 20 years. I was with Hoffman Construction for 16 years before coming to Arctic Sheet Metal three years ago. I have a few mentors I stay in contact with on a regular basis.

My safety philosophy is:

Know what you are talking about. Attend trainings and classes in your local area with the people you will be working with. Engage in the safety community. Create a network of people to communicate with.

Give the team members the training, equipment, and tools they need to perform their work and they will be safe.

Provide assistance to the crew for the task that ensures all crew members go home healthy and safe. Be collaborative with information: listen, learn, and share.

I work now with our estimators and project managers to identify concerns during the planning process so "safety" is looked at as a resource and not as "stopping the work." If I can help design out a hazard, well that is just cool!

What are some of the unique safety challenges you face on current projects?

Material handling is always a challenge. Ductwork is not normally heavy, but it is awkward in size and shape. It is difficult to carry and the ends are sharp, raw-edged sheet metal. There is also continuous change in the way material is moved and raised into place. Working at heights with our architectural group is another challenge, including devising a way for 100 percent personal fall arrest systems on a finished metal roof.

How do you ensure employees are aware of all the hazards?

Communication is the key to logistics on any project. It is best to separate walking workers and mobile equipment. Set up pathways for the crew to move freely to and from the building without worrying about being run over. This also makes it easier on the equipment operators and delivery drivers. We recently performed work on a project where the general contractor provided all of the equipment. They had a vision where five subcontractors would each have five forklifts and five-plus mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). That amount of equipment would cause a huge congestion and logistic nightmare. The general contractor provided a fleet of MEWPs for everyone to use. They also provided forklifts with full-time operators. This made the moving on the site easier and weekly scheduling covered who would have what equipment where.

Give the team members the training, equipment, and tools they need to perform their work and they will be safe.”

~ Clark Vermillion

How do you keep your crews engaged in safety issues day to day?

That is the million-dollar question with an elusive answer. The crew led by a supervisor that is engaged will be an engaged crew. As the safety person, I keep safety geared to going home to your other activities: family activities, kids sports, your sports. Sometimes I have to dig around to find out what their trigger is. One time, the guy had no family, no dog, no after-work activities. Then, he finally said, "I have a motorcycle that I am rebuilding." It was the only thing I could find that made him think I have a reason to go home healthy and safe.

What advice do you have for other safety and health managers hoping to make a difference?

Get to know the crew. Listen to them; work with them. Communicate with them; never talk at them. The people doing the job know how to do it the way they were trained by the last person. Work with them on how to prevent a potential injury or ways to increase production. Make safety and production part of your routine. A safe crew is a happy crew; a happy crew is a productive crew. What does the owner want? Production and low costs. What does the safety professional want? No injuries. Make safe production a way of life at work and everyone will be happy. 

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