Safety is not just a one-time shot of education that can be injected to provide a lifetime of immunity from hazard. Safety must become a habit for all segments of an installation operation, developed from continuous learning, upgrading and analysis of what works and what doesn’t. The guidelines that must be met or exceeded are established by regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These regulations, referred to as standards, apply to all forms of business. That in and of itself becomes part of the challenge facing those who are in charge of safety aspects.

A good beginning comes from completing an OSHA-recognized, 10-hour training program for installers and management personnel. This will help point you in the direction required to bring your company into compliance. Besides learning about written plans and safety assessments, management will find that OSHA carries a big stick in the way of fines when helping to “encourage” a company toward a safe working environment.

General contractors have helped raise safety awareness among floor covering installation contractors by requiring copies of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and mandating the use of hard hats and proper footwear on the job sites. They often request a copy of a company's safety plan. Self-insured and government projects also go to great lengths to make sure safety issues are taken seriously. It is not unusual to see a safety officer roaming the site to enforce safe work practices.

While sub-contracting provides a safe harbor for installation contractors as far as taxes, insurance, unemployment claims, etc., there is no shelter from safety, nor should there be. OSHA standards spread the responsibility all the way down the chain, including the installation contractor, the retailer, the general contractor and, in some cases, the owner of the site.

No one person can bear all the responsibility for safety education. Everyone must work together for this effort to succeed. Forming a safety committee can really get communication flowing. With some research, a computer and a little work, any company can get its safety act together in short time. Establish office procedures to ensure that the MSDS is current and sent out with the materials. Schedule meetings to get the message of safety to the employees. This is all done to protect installers and others from harm. No one can criticize these efforts.

A qualified installer brings value to any operation. Unfortunately, we often appear to have an aversion to safety. While we possess vast product and skills knowledge, our focus is too-often centered only on getting the job done, with everything else being secondary.

As an educated work force, we can adapt safety into our work practices. An installer wears kneepads as a creature comfort; they are also considered personal protective equipment and they can extend the life of your knees. While we are at it, we need to slow down enough to protect other parts of our bodies. Safety glasses, work gloves and even long sleeve shirts bring an extra level of protection to us.

There are a wide variety of safety glasses, so get a pair that fit comfortably. Be sure to get a case to protect them from damage. Installers need to replace or repair worn or damaged hand tools. The same thing goes for extension cords and electrical leads on power tools.

Embracing safety can be a rallying point for installers. Budget some time and funding to get your company into compliance. The rewards are definitely worth it.