By Lauren White, RCS Reporter.
Safety Operation Systems (SOS) is known as one of the nation’s top health and safety groups who help roofing contractors really put together customized plans for safety that really make a difference. Isaac Itofe, the owner of SOS, talks with Heidi J. Ellsworth, RoofersCoffeeShop® partner, about his background in roofing, specifically safety compliance, in addition to current safety struggles in the industry, and services SOS provides.
“I got into safety because my father was a contractor, so I grew up in the construction industry. Being a small business owner, you kind of take on a lot of different hats. I guess fortunately for me, one of those roles that I got ‘volun-told’ to do was safety,” Isaac shares. He stepped into this role early in the development of safety compliance and with a father who had an old school mindset for doing things like he had been for the last 30 years. When an OSHA compliance audit and a large citation was issued, his mindset changed. Isaac was tasked with determining how to run a safety program, including, “What should we be doing as an employer to keep our employees safe, and ultimately how to keep daddy out of hot water,” Isaac explains.
After that, Isaac worked in the safety divisions for multiple large general contractors. Some of his work was at “nuclear powerhouses, coal-fired powerhouses, chemical facilities, paper mills, including roofing operations both from a speciality contractor side, such as roofing contractors, electrical contractors, and also from the general contractors side as well,” Isaac explains. While his career was rewarding, he had a longing to develop his own business supporting other business owners in navigating compliance issues. He explains, “It can be difficult for small business owners working for large GC’s [general contractors] that have a lot more resources...to keep up with all the requirements not only from a government perspective, but also the requirements imposed by the general contractor.”
This is how SOS began. And now, for a couple years, Isaac’s focus has been to help contractors figure out how to meet requirements. He takes a practical approach to find solutions to questions like, “How do they keep their folks safe? How do they keep their workers compensation rates down? How do they limit their liability claims?”
With the current labor shortage, many contractors are hiring workers with little to no experience, which Isaac identifies as one of the biggest safety threats for roofing contractors to be aware of. Many experienced roofers are nearing retirement because “...they worked a successful career, or just because the work’s rough and their body’s wearing out and you can’t continue to do that heavy physical labor,” according to Isaac. Currently, there isn’t a large pool of skilled workers to draw from, so contractors are forced to put new hires on jobs immediately, without taking the time to train them properly. Isaac reveals, “...I think that’s the biggest hazard right now is that folks are just so slammed with too much work and they just struggle to provide good hazard recognition training to their employees.”
A large part of SOS is their systematic cultural development within the framework of the roofing company’s structure for safety. This was developed through Isaac’s observations of his father’s company, in addition to his friends who owned their own companies. “What I learned from that experience is that a lot of folks develop their own profile, their own company mindset, their own fingerprint, if you will, that makes their organization unique, regardless of the fact that they may be doing roofing and their competitors may be doing roofing,” Isaac explains. While their struggles may be similar, the organization, the work, the mission, and how the company affects the community are all different.
While some companies are great at handling workers’ compensation or liability issues, they struggle with performing inspection or conducting safety training. SOS can “...identify gaps in their programs, gaps in their companies that they really need help filing,” Isaac reveals. Sometimes workers within the company can become champions for the issues, and SOS will work with that person to boost their skills to help propel the safety program forward.
SOS works with a network of consultants who are verified, credentialed, safety professionals to help develop champions, conduct safety field inspections, and provide OSHA 10- and 30-hour training toolbox talks. They also help companies build their own safety compliance management programs from the ground up, helping them develop safety manuals, and navigate insurance, workers’ compensation, and alcohol and drug abuse programs, among other things.
A RoofersCoffeeShop partner, SOS offers a free 30-minute consultation as part of R-Club, which is a fun, educational, and informative place for contractors to get discounts on classified ads, find additional information, and get consulting from RCS partners. SOS also looks at photos that come to RCS. “Social media is great for building your reputation, building your brand, getting your name out there, showing clients and community members your capabilities,” according to Isaac, but photos on the internet stay there forever. He urges contractors to think about, “Do you want this picture in front of an OSHA inspector? Do you want this picture in front of your insurance folks? If there was an injury that occurred, is this picture detrimental to your company’s reputation?” Only post or send photos that are 100% OSHA compliant to protect your company, your reputation, and your employees.
SOS continues to provide helpful services, pertinent information, and safety tips. Through the development of new relationships with OSHA, SOS is able to provide contractors with official information. Isaac encourages contractors to, “Look past, ‘we’re having compliance issues,’ and build cultures. Let’s focus on getting our employees home safe everyday, and by-and-by compliance issues become non-issues because culture takes hold and starts driving the boat.”
Listen to the podcast to hear more safety tips and information from Isaac Itofe. Check out the RoofersCoffeeShop® podcast page for even more.
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