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Safety never suffers: Conway construction company dedicated to the idea of avoiding accidents.

The words "construction" and "safety" are hardly synonymous.

But at Conway's Nabholz Construction Corp., officials make an effort to see that they go hand in hand.

In 1990, there were 2,100 work-related deaths in the U.S. construction industry, according to the National Safety Council.

Of 6.4 million American construction workers, 210,000 suffered disabling injuries that year.

Gary Massey, the Nabholz safety director, says it has been at least 12 years since the Conway-based company has had a major accident at one of its job sites.

The 42-year-old firm has never had a fatality.

The National Safety Council reports that in 1990, job accidents (for all sectors of the economy, not just construction) cost $63.8 billion. That's $540 for every American worker.

Days lost due to accidents affect completion dates and overhead costs.

"We have a moral obligation to provide job safety for our employees," says Dan Nabholz, the company's chief executive officer. "It really isn't an alternative."

Nabholz says safety is more of a concern at some companies than others.

"It's such a highly competitive industry, contractors are afraid to increase their overhead by promoting a safety department," he says. "But there's a strong cash advantage to having one."

The company instituted a safety program in 1972. At the time, it was one of the first of its kind for a general contractor.

The safety program allows the company to keep workmen's compensation payments to a minimum. Nabholz's employer modification rate, the calculation used to decide workmen's compensation payments, is .36. Most construction firms average between .75 and 1.0, according to Nabholz.

Nabholz spends about $400,000 per year on workmen's compensation insurance.

"If we had a 1.0, we would be spending another $500,000 annually," Nabholz says. ". . . It's a direct savings to our clients."

The safety program has an annual budget of $80,000.

On A Mission

The company's mission statement can be found on the walls of most offices and on laminated cards given employees when they join Nabholz.

The statement reads in part, "We will provide challenging assignments and a work environment that allows them to reach their career potential."

An explanation of the company's policy on drug and alcohol abuse is given to each applicant. Once construction workers are hired, they must submit to various tests.

"The managers, the secretaries, the laborers . . . when you come to work at Nabholz, you have to go through our screening program," Dan Nabholz says.

Even senior managers must undergo yearly physical examinations that include drug tests.

"We felt we had to do it to promote job-site safety," Nabholz says.

Massey helps coordinate screenings and regularly visits job sites in search of safety violations. He joined the firm 13 years ago as a laborer and moved up the ladder to foreman and superintendent.

He is just the second Nabholz employee to hold the position.

"We have a low turnover rate here," Massey says. "Most people who start here are career people. They usually stay."

Massey has visited job sites across Arkansas and in Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. He must make sure the company remains in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Department of Labor regulations.

"They look at everything pretty closely," Massey says. "They're tough, but I would hate to think what the industry as a whole would be like without some sort of regulation."

Potential Problems

Massey says the primary dangers for construction workers are falls, falling objects, electrical shocks and excavation accidents.

Massey holds weekly safety meetings with employees.

"They don't want to be injured," he says. "I think everybody is safer than they were 10 years ago."

The newest addition to Nabholz's safety department is known as the Safety Van.

The van seats only two people but holds a variety of safety and medical equipment. Its contents range from hard hats and earplugs to aspirin and an emergency breathing apparatus.

The van, purchased a year ago, includes a television and videocassette recorder. Massey uses videos to educate employees on subjects such as handling chemicals.

"What is really gratifying is the way the clients have responded to this," Nabholz says.

Massey performs safety studies before projects begin and after they are completed.

"We'll get the drawings out and look for potential problems," he says of the pre-project studies. "We preach preventive medicine."

Massey says the company's entire management team is dedicated to the safety program.

"If management sees a problem, it quickly fixes it," he says. "I'm involved in virtually everything that goes on."

"It's not just dollars," Nabholz says. "You can't just throw dollars at a problem and expect it to go away."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Raising Steel, part 2; Nabholz Construction Co.
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 29, 1992
Previous Article:Building on the border: Siloam Springs is home to a multimillion-dollar construction project list.
Next Article:Building a better image: construction industry promotes training programs in an attempt to avoid labor shortage.

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