With a new U.S. president and new changes to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scope of safety in the construction sector is expecting to see some changes for 2021. Anthony Krake, vice president of operations for ConstructSecure, recently sat down with CoatingsPro to share opinions, trends, and outlooks for the industry. A complete transcript is available below.
For more information, connect with Anthony at www.linkedin.com/in/anthonykrake.
Stephanie Chizik: Thanks so much for joining us today, Anthony.
Anthony Krake: Thank you.
SC: Why don’t you start by giving our listeners a bit of your background?
AK: Sure. I actually do have a pretty unique background. I have a mix of health and safety, quality, technology as well. I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in occupational safety and health engineering. I’m a certified safety professional with about 10 years practicing as in-the-field safety. I started my career in industrial coatings, and at one time I was a NACE Coatings Inspector Level II, until I left the industry to primarily focus on health and safety. I’ve worked at some fairly high-profile mega developments in New York City, spent years working in heavy civil marine construction before I moved on to my current role.
SC: That’s actually a great segue to give us an overview of what you're doing now.
AK: I’m currently the vice president of operations at ConstructSecure. We’re a SaaS-based platform. We develop applications for contractor risk management, prequalification, inspections, incident tracking, just a general fleet of online, web-based applications targeted at the construction industry.
SC: When you say “SaaS-based,” does that mean web-based?
AK: Yes, so “software as a service.” Pretty much most of the type of systems that you pay by the user and have a cloud-based application, mobile apps. It’s typically referred to as a SaaS platform.
SC: That’s great. That’s a new term for me and probably very useful right now. The elephant in the room, still — the elephant will not go away — is COVID. I feel like because we’ve all had to work remotely and those kinds of changes that we’ve been making, I bet SaaS-based platforms are really great right now. Are you seeing a growth or any changes in the industry pertaining to that?
AK: For sure. Everybody has needed to move a lot of their operations online — whether it’s utilizing meeting platforms, finding new ways to integrate with your own teams, like through Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Skype platforms. It’s been great overall for the technology industry, and especially in the health and safety sector. We, as an industry, never stopped. We’re still pushing forward. Safety and COVID do go hand in hand, and many of the people in this industry have needed to focus their new efforts toward maintaining regulations and keeping their people safe. Tools like inspection platforms have been vital to maintaining all of that.
SC: Just to clarify, when you say “inspection platforms,” are you talking about a coating inspector or are you talking about different types of inspections?
AK: In terms of safety inspections, compliance inspections, when we talk about a COVID-type inspection. Do you have hand sanitizer? Do you have signage up? Just your general jobsite-type observations and inspections.
SC: Okay, great. Obviously, there’s a lot that has to be inspected pertaining to safety on the jobsites, which are still having to go on right now — luckily, they are still able to go on right now. Are you seeing any information that you could give to the contractors and business owners pertaining to COVID? Then, hopefully, we can move on from the COVID topic, but it certainly is affecting the industry, I would think.
AK: Yes, COVID is definitely something that we’re all never going to forget. Honestly, the whole world is tired of COVID. Safety professionals are tired of it. We’re constantly worrying about our families and keeping up with changes. But, just like with anything else, complacency is a killer, and we all need to be diligent in making sure we are following the rules. It’s going to continue. It’s going to be a little bit more, unfortunately, and we’ll just need to keep pushing through, maintaining our social distancing, doing our best to enforce masks, and anything else we can do to try to stop the spread and keep our companies moving.
SC: I think the fatigue is certainly upon all of us, and hopefully we can continue to do what we need to do.
SC: We’re recording this during the week of the United States inauguration of the new president. How is that affecting the industry — or any other things going on in the construction industry, safety industry, that our listeners should know about?
AK: Overall, the biggest change, as you said, for the entire country right now is the transition from a Republican Trump administration into Democratic Biden administration. History shows that in Democratic administrations, OSHA does have more power. They do more enforcement. The fines typically are higher. Even earlier today, the media was reporting that Biden is expected to sign an executive order that requires the Department of Labor to update recommendations and for OSHA to consider a temporary emergency standard to address the pandemic. Companies may actually be mandated by the federal government to wear masks and do social distancing, place sanitizing stations and communication plans, all under the threat of having penalties if you don’t.
With Democratic administrations, it’s always been seen that OSHA does have more power, and they are a lot less willing to work with companies that have repeat or those types of willful violations. They’ve talked about having more enforcement officers, and generally with a Democratic administration, it’s a lot more pro-worker, pro-union type policies, which in some situations will play against business owners in the event that they do have an OSHA inspection.
SC: That’s fascinating to me. I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but do you have any idea why it’s such a different trend when it comes to Republican versus Democrat?
AK: Many times, at least in my opinion, the Republicans look at corporations as the leading entity. That’s why there’s a lot of deregulation. We saw a lot during Trump with the pulling back of the EPA. We did see pulling back of OSHA. If you speak with people that have had OSHA inspections in the last few years, it does feel that OSHA does have their hands tied in different ways trying to work more with the employer rather than fine them. There’s arguments on both sides of which one is better, but typically Democratic are more pro-union. Union actually typically has higher health and safety standards for protecting the workers, so having higher enforcement on behalf of the government typically goes hand-in-hand with those types of policies.
SC: That makes sense. And you're right, it’s definitely something that we’ve observed over the past four years. I’m sure there’s benefits and drawbacks to both sorts of schools of thought when it comes to the use of OSHA and safety regulations. Thanks for giving me the overview.
AK: No problem.
SC: You've obviously been in the industry, not only just the safety side of the house, but also specific to coatings, as you mentioned at the beginning of our chat, for a while now. Have you seen many trends that have been developing over the past few years and seeing any trends that might be happening in the future for safety in construction?
AK: Construction safety has always been interesting. You have your ups and downs. It does follow the way that the economy is going. If you have more construction, you have more funding for federal projects. You unfortunately do see an uptick in incidents just due to the sheer volume of work. They’re constantly changing, but a new emerging safety topic that’s been coming out is regarding what a lot of people are deeming SIF, which is severe injury or fatality, which focuses around not just looking at what happened in the incident, but what could have happened.
There’s been studies that have been done that focus on big companies and all of their incidents. While they might have a lowering recordable rate, their potential to have series accidents or fatalities has always maintained the same. So you're seeing some of these bigger construction companies start to focus on not the outcome. Don’t focus on the recordables and the lost times, but focus on how bad it could have been. You might have had a rigging failure that three guys were standing around. Nobody got hurt, but that could have severely injured somebody. It could have killed the whole crew. Those types of numbers have not been going down. So the whole concept and the theory behind safety and safety management have begun to take a bit of a turn in a lot of these bigger thought groups.
SC: I think what you're saying is that a near miss is not a win, that if someone —
AK: Reporting your misses is a great way to drive a safety culture. The next step of the near miss is you need to investigate it, and you need to investigate it just as much as you would have if it was actually a serious incident or a recordable. But many companies are focusing in on the potential of the incident. You can have someone trip and roll their ankle and end up in surgery and get a lost-time incident. While that’s serious and can affect that person for a long time, the chances of them being killed is lower than the situation where the rigging failed with the crane. Companies are starting to have a different outlook. Instead of looking at what actually happened, whether it was a recordable or a lost-time, instead look at how bad it could have been. That comes in play for a near miss, where thankfully nothing did happen, all the way through to your more serious incidents, regardless of the outcome.
SC: Do you think that by tracking that a little bit more closely, we’ll be able to avoid having those — even minor — but major incidents in the future?
AK: From my direct experience, I focused one of the companies toward that outlook. The company was focused originally on doing investigations on every recordable. That was a standard, so whether you had a cut on your finger that you just had to get stitched, all the way through some more serious incidents, the same type of investigation happened. If you've ever been in the field, ever been an inspector or an investigator, it’s a lot of work for a guy who cut his finger, and it’s kind of black and white what happened.
Meanwhile, the major incidents, the near misses that could have been so severe, people are like “Let’s not report this because I don’t want to go through the whole investigation.” Flipping the philosophy to “Let’s not look at the outcome. Let’s look at what could have happened.” Maybe that guy who got the stitch, he wasn’t wearing glove, he was using a hand tool, really no chance to life-alter. Any type of injury — no amputation, things like that. Let’s do our primary stuff, do our reporting, have a standdown, have a discussion, and look at changing policies, but let’s not stop the company and the operations and make a huge deal. But when a situation comes up that we want to make noise, make sure you're making noise in the right areas. That’s where this concept of how bad it could have been really comes into play.
SC: That sounds like it really could make a huge impact. That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. Any other trends for the future or tips that you want to share with our listeners?
AK: When it comes to safety, everything in the world is changing around technology. This isn’t a plug just because I do happen to work for a tech company. But one of the biggest changes that the overall industry is starting to see is the emergence of new types of technology, whether it’s a wearable or incident tracking tools, tracking for SIFs and items like that. It’s so much cheaper now to start implementing these technologies that you’re starting to see it more and more.
I remember a few years ago, when I attended one of the coatings conferences, there was a company using a virtual reality setup to train craft workers on proper spray techniques. VR is becoming a huge thing in the training world. You’re starting to see some of these companies that are providing mobile elevated work platforms utilizing VR headsets with hydraulically controlled man baskets that allow you to train an employee inside of a conference room on how to properly use aerial lifts. It does fall inside of the ANSI requirements. It is a great training tool. In the world that we’re in, sometimes an employee is so desperate for a job, they’ll say, “I’m not afraid of heights.” Then you put them in a basket, and you have a situation where you have a guy who is deathly afraid of heights and he’s 100 feet off the ground, and you're in a really tough situation. With these types of platforms, you can safety train your employees from the ground and monitor them without putting anybody in harm’s way.
Overall, the technology that’s been coming out in the industry, I’m always tracking it because I’m always so interested in some of these advancements that people have made. Safety is really becoming the forefront of many companies, and businesses are looking at opportunities as safety tech is a very valuable market right now.
SC: I think you’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the opportunities that are probably developing out there. I personally can speak to both of those different VR examples that you gave. I went to the IUPAT headquarters here maybe last year or the year before and got to do the scissor lift VR. And CoatingsPro actually used to have a spray booth where we could do the VR through that. It is fascinating, and I could see that being a huge help when it comes to a safer way of training. Very interesting. Anything else before I have a quick, rapid-fire questions for you that I think I’d like to kick off unless you've got anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap things up?
AK: No. Hit me with them.
SC: Okay, perfect. You don’t have to take too much thought with these, but if you want to expand, please feel free to. Just trying out a new segment, so to speak, of our podcast. What is your biggest pet peeve?
AK: Oh, I have so many. [laughter]
SC: You can’t pick just one. [laughter]
AK: My biggest pet peeve is not having processes. The secondary to that is having processes that don’t get followed. I don't know which one is first. But especially in safety, it is so crucial to have those processes in place. Just for efficiency and overall well-being of your employees, everything falls into a process, and it — I don't know which one’s worse, not having it or not following it. But one of the two.
SC: That’s great. Who do you consider to be your hero or mentor?
AK: I don’t have an answer for that one. Let’s skip that one.
SC: What place would you most like to get stuck for a week right now?
AK: Ooh, that’s a good one. I would actually like to get stuck somewhere in, like, Vermont, where there’s a whole bunch of nothing and snow and I can go and snowboard and have a fire and just get away from the city world. I live in a small city outside of Manhattan. So many people, and I want to be able to get away and get a little bit back to normalcy from before this whole pandemic.
SC: A little balance, maybe. That sounds great.
SC: Last one. What is your favorite TV show or movie or book, podcast, sport — entertainment that you’re consuming right now?
AK: I’ve recently got into a lot of Audibles. I was never a big reader, but I have started doing those a lot more, primarily around business and other random nonfiction type things. I’m admittedly a pretty big nerd when it comes to a lot of stuff, tech and just engineering fun things. One thing I didn’t have exposure to much in my undergrad was a lot of business techniques and psychology and how to work with people. I’ve really been getting into a lot of audibles because I can use them on my drive to work, and if I get stuck in New York City traffic, it’s not just listening to the same repeated radio station over and over again.
SC: [laughter] I know exactly what you mean. That’s actually perfect for your role. Obviously, you're into the technology role, so it makes complete sense that you’d like those as well. Well, maybe we’ll have to have you back on, Anthony, so you can answer that other question about your mentor or hero because I’m sure listeners will be dying to know. Thanks again for joining us. If people want to follow up with you with any questions or comments, how can they do that?
AK: The best way is to get me on LinkedIn. Another part of my millennial tech side is I love using LinkedIn. I’m not a big social media person, but I’m always there. You can message me and connect with me, and I’ll answer any questions that I can.
SC: Perfect. Thanks. We’ll make sure to link your profile on LinkedIn in the show notes so that people can find you. Thanks again for joining us. Looking forward to everything progresses. I just want to call out that one comment that you had said, that complacency is a killer. I think that’s really crucial right now. Thanks again.