1936 Olympic sprinter champion, Jesse Owens, once set three world records and tied another, all in less than an hour. He was one of the greatest athletes of all time. Don Hutson, legendary split end for the Green Bay Packers, led the Pack to three NFL championships in an 11-year career. Today, they both contribute to our Roofing Safety Level Program (RSLP).

Don Hutson once said, “For every pass I caught in a game, I caught a thousand in practice.” Practice is the cornerstone of our RSLP. We expect accidents, then train our team to design accidents out of our work.

New recruit training

The first week for our new recruits (usually straight out of high school) is exciting. We don’t expect a lot of work to be done and we don’t expect them to know anything that we have not specifically taught them. During week one, they receive gear and learn to wear and inspect all the gear properly. A Roofing Safety Level 2 candidate will become their mentor/instructor.

Our primary teaching method, seeing and doing, has no reading or language barriers and is the most effective way to transfer knowledge. We reinforce lessons by teaching them how to find the answers by researching it themselves. They experience a one-minute suspension in their harness. They experience the discomfort, helplessness and desperation of a dorsal ring suspension and quickly learn the need for a rescue plan and a speedy rescue. Then they experience a suspension from their sternal ring, and work positioning rings. Before the end of day one, the recruit will practice performing self-rescues with their issued gear while suspended in their harness. This helps them become comfortable with their gear.

A popular quote by an anonymous person sums it up well, “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”

A Roofing Safety Level 2 candidate teaches the recruit about each item on our daily job site safety checklist as they work through each item together on actual job sites. This thorough list was compiled over the last two years and details how we set up each job for complete safety success. This means safe conditions for our crews, our clients, and anyone who unexpectedly visits our jobsite.

Their mentor teaches them how to design safe access utilizing Google Earth on an iPad before even heading to the jobsite. They experience the simplicity and smoothness of showing up to a job with a good safety plan and having the proper gear to perform the work safely the first time. They listen as our clients tell us how much they appreciate our safe approach to roofing. They hear me thank our clients for caring about our safety.

Learned skills

This process continues for six months. During those six months, our recruit:

  • Works injury- and accident-free;
  • Demonstrates a dedication to keeping our clients and peers safe;
  • Learns to use their gear properly and keep their rope tight;
  • Is responsible for job site safety (start – finish) on 10 different job sites;
  • Documents this by completing our job site specific safety checklist every morning;
  • Witnesses us double-checking each other’s safety and helping each other daily;
  • Inspires peers to use safe working practices in a professional manner;
  • Designs and implements safe access systems;
  • Becomes creative, learns to recognize problems and present multiple solutions.

This is a bit of responsibility, but each candidate enjoys learning, growing professionally, and accepting that responsibility. We reward them with a bonus and raise once they’ve earned their Roofing Safety Level 1 tier. Next, they are enrolled in our RSL 2 program. Although the requirements are different, the process repeats and soon they will be mentoring the next recruit. Is this system scalable? Absolutely. Can it be applied to any industry or business? Definitely.

More than roofing

Sure, during these six months our recruits learn how to work safely on roofs. That’s important and fantastic; however, this is only half of our goal.

Can you imagine what else they learn during this time?

They see how much we value them and care about each member of our team. As I mentioned in last month’s article for ISHN, they build trust among their team members by helping each other. They develop attention to details that lead to excellence by living our checklist and learning to solve problems. They learn how to interact with clients. They build pride with increased responsibility and successfully solving problems. These lessons are priceless and transferable to any job they may have during the rest of their life.

So, what exactly does Jesse Owens have to do with our program?

Jesse once said, “A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” How long does it take to bring out the best in a person or team? It can take quite a while, but we give our recruits a nice jumpstart in six months with our RSLP.

Conversely, how long does it take for everything to “go South” via an accident or unkind word or act? Only a moment. A Safety Level Program lived daily will help every business succeed. Safety cannot be learned in a 10-hour or 30-hour class; it must be practiced daily. Done properly, it will help each person work safely, deliver their best work to the job at hand, and allow them to enjoy their work in the process.