Creating a strong safety program is a critical, yet sometimes overlooked, aspect of running a successful solar installation company. It’s not just about meeting bare-minimum regulatory requirements or avoiding accidents; it’s about fostering a work environment where every team member feels valued, protected, and empowered to prioritize safety in their daily tasks.

In this video session, HeatSpring instructor Tripper Gawan shares his expertise on the key elements that go into building a robust safety program within a solar construction company. From the crucial role of leadership in setting the tone to the importance of clear documentation and protocols, Tripper provides a roadmap for fostering a work environment where every team member feels the importance of prioritizing safety. By aligning your team around a shared mission and promoting self-accountability, you can create a culture where safety is woven into the fabric of your organization, ultimately leading to a safer, more efficient workplace for your entire team.

This blog is a part of a series on solar construction safety. In case you missed it, here’s a link to the earlier posts – Why Do Companies Need a Safety Program? and How Do Companies Start a Safety Program? If you’d like to dive deeper into these topics, check out Tripper’s course Solar Construction Safety

What are some of the key elements? The key element first is culture. Culture is paramount. If the owner/operators and the employees aren’t meeting in the middle on expectation for safety, there’s going to be disjointedness in the organization because expectation and facilitation of the program are going to be misaligned.

And so the beginning of that program – the key element is – starting with the recruiting and with the head hunting and with the offer letters and putting that in your guidelines of your roles and responsibilities for when you’re putting your posts out for these positions. We’re a safety-minded company. Safety. Safety. Safety. Safety has to be a part of the process.

The message – and I always tie back to Paul O’Neill at Alcoa – and a lot of people know this story that have been in construction management for a long time. He comes in and he says – Hey, I’m revamping everything. I’m starting with safety. And his entire company was like, what the heck?

Everybody lost their mind. All the investors lost their minds. Here comes this guy and they want to be focused on the bottom line and profits and efficiencies. And he’s like no, I’m resetting it all. We’re starting with safety.  And some people might wonder, why would someone at the CEO level…and to go back to the first part of the question – how does some solar company start a safety program?

It starts from the top. So if you don’t have one yet and you’re the boss, get on it now. Start it now. And change the mindset of your people. We go into a little more about why it’s so important in the culture for this. And like I said, establishing that culture is so important because you need a mission for your team to get aligned around.

If you’re going on a camping trip and it’s ethereal where you’re going, people won’t know how to prepare. They won’t know what gear to bring. They won’t know what food to have. And so when you’re going on these long journeys – and safety is a long journey – you have to know where your end goal is – i.e. what kind of safety culture? Do you want ultimate safety where everybody’s accountable? Everybody’s checking the boxes? Again, that starts with you developing that program. 

Back to the key elements again. It first initiates and starts with bringing in the standard guidelines of expectation of what the hazards could potentially be for your job site.

And then identifying those hazards allows you to start to eliminate them. So if you’re a company that only works on the ground, you don’t have hardhat level hazards you have to identify. So thinking about hardhat safety is probably not in the paradigm of the construct of your safety program. It might be ancillary.

Other key elements would be getting documentation clearly at hand that’s referenceable. If you don’t have an environment where your employees can quickly and efficiently search for, Hey, I’m about to tie into an electrical service panel with a 20 amp breaker. I need to remove the dead front. What do I do? 

Hopefully it’s not your first day of work and they’re asking you to do that kind of thing. So they’ve got protocols for  job site safety training, initiation training for your onboarding process, and getting some of those alignments on what that employee can expect when they get in the field.

Now you’re developing a culture of self-accountability, self-management, self-governance, and that all ties into those like primary, I would argue maybe like three key factors or three key elements in the safety program. 

  • So top down, bottom up. Everybody’s got to be aligned. 
  • You’ve got to have the documentation.
  • And then you have to have a really strong culture where everybody agrees that’s the mission. 

So  hopefully that summarizes the key elements that you need to ensure that the safety program kicks off well.