Policy & Practice Consensus
Safety Help Today, LLC’s custom approach to safety redefines conventional constraints
For Amber Pappas and Jim Anderson, safety is a vocation and a passion born of responsibility, near misses and even heartbreak. The two established Safety Help Today, LLC in 2018 as a way to make a difference, especially to small and midsize contractors.
Pappas confirms, “Many companies, especially contractors, think they can’t afford a safety program that rivals the comprehensive programs of very large companies. I’m here to say, yes you can. It doesn’t have to cost tens of thousands of dollars to have a quality safety and health program.”
She and Anderson are putting words into action through Safety Help Today, which develops and dispenses customized safety awareness and prevention strategies that go beyond policy to practice.
Since its founding, the company has delivered on its promise, helping contractors, municipalities and other organizations spanning from Arizona to Alaska.
Tragedy & Training
Pappas has worked in the construction industry for over 20 years, in a variety of roles including Project Manager and Superintendent for a metal frame and drywall contractor. Eventually, she was assigned the role of Director of Safety Operations.
She recalls, “I didn’t know where to start or even what to ask. But there were many resources and some templates and I signed up for plenty of classes.”
It wasn’t long before her interest became a passion, and the student became the teacher. She became a certified Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) instructor—OSHA 500 (Trainer for Construction) and OSHA 501 (Trainer for General Industry). Along the way, she met Anderson, also an authorized trainer.
Anderson, a Master Electrician and Owner of AEC Electric, had also developed a strong interest in hazard protection policies and programs, largely through interaction with his company’s safety officer. He explains, “Safety is always a priority, especially when dealing with electricity, so I was invested in the program our safety officer put together and even tagged along to take classes with him.”
When he met Pappas in 2012, Anderson remembers the instant connection, adding, “She and I started talking and realized that we had compatible expertise with my focus on electrical systems and her expertise in scaffolding and fall protection.”
The two teamed up to host training sessions with each other, mostly at their individual companies. As their reputation in the Phoenix area grew, so did requests from other safety officers and owners. A few years later, a tragic event that resulted in a one of Pappas’ employees dying on a project, redirected her professional goals. “I wanted his life to mean something. I believed this was a call to action for me,” Pappas says.
She quit her job and, in 2018, Pappas and Anderson founded Safety Help Today.
Beyond the Boiler Plate
Pappas and Anderson believe their combined experiences give them an uncommon perspective of safety awareness and hazard protection. Anderson explains, “Too often in construction, there is a disconnect between safety policies enacted by the owners and the application of those policies in the field. To shape a true safety culture, the safety and health program must mean something to the entire company. Field crews must be trained in ways to deal with the hazards of the job in a pragmatic way, and awareness must be continually reinforced so they are ingrained in the everyday practices.”
Pappas, who is also a trainer for the National Safety Council and Board of Certified Safety Professionals, agrees, adding, “Anyone can Google and download a safety program, but that’s not going to protect workers. We want safety health programs that work, that continually educate workers, provide tools and resources and, bottom line, save lives. Safety that’s going to work for the long haul can’t be boilerplate…and it absolutely must include effective training.”
“We want safety health programs that work, that continually educate workers, provide tools and resources and, bottom line, save lives.” Amber Pappas, President and Co-Founder, Safety Help Today, LLC
The initial goal of the company was to focus on small and midsize contractors. “This is a market segment that struggles to develop effective safety programs and, oftentimes, these companies can’t afford a dedicated safety officer,” Pappas says. “We offer all of our expertise and through the development of feasible safety programs, training and accountability, change the safety culture of the company.”
From training to inspections, Safety Help Today’s program is designed to clearly translate health and safety best practices to working men and women, while at the same time exposing many of the misconceptions of health and safety programs.
The courses include OSHA 10- and 30-hour (English and Spanish), Aerial/Scissor, Fall Protection, First Aid/CPR, Silica Dust, Electrical Safety, Excavation and Trenching, Work Zone Flagger, and Confined Spaces to name a few.
An Inside Look
Jenna Keck and Ryan Hardy, members of the commercial construction division of Williamson Development, a Peoria, Arizona-based company, began using Safety Help Today’s services in 2018. The division is focused on underground utilities trenching and excavation, and includes 25 employees, mostly skilled labor. For both Hardy and Keck, the first critical step in the formation of the division was to establish a comprehensive safety culture and program.
“That’s not as easy as it sounds,” Keck explains. “A small business like ours can’t afford to hire a top industry safety specialist, but we wanted that kind of accountability.”
When she saw the Safety Help Today truck on the road, she believed it was a sign. She and Hardy met with Pappas to discuss the programs and the pricing. Keck says, “She came that day, showed us her program and we signed up immediately.”
Specifically, Pappas developed a customized safety program that ranged from toolbox talks and OSHA 10/30 certifications to the development of a safety and health program and low-cost and free classes. “She was very comprehensive in providing an explanation of why we need every piece of the manual, as well as the tools and guidelines to deliver,” Keck adds.
Over the last 18 months of their partnership, Keck has determined that Safety Help Today really shines as a resource for additional training. “The inspectors regularly visit our job sites and prepare safety reports to keep us accountable and reinforce best practices. Amber will even do pre-site safety visits. She is very passionate about safety; this is not just a job to her,” she explains.
Even employees are all-in with the program. “They feel like they are more valued because of our safety concerns and more confident in the methods they use to complete their jobs,” Keck says. Recently, an OSHA inspector visited a job. One quick call to Pappas, and she was at the job site to help answer questions and reinforce Williamson Development’s continuous improvement safety practices.
Keck says, “We didn’t have any issues and we were able to show that safety is at the forefront of our business. Amber and her team really believe in safety and it shows in every part of our relationship.”
Since 2018, Safety Help Today has grown from just Anderson and Pappas, to eight with the addition of inspectors, trainers and administrators. All of the company’s inspectors have direct construction field experience, so they understand the constraints related to schedule and job scope and know how to communicate and train.
They’ve also expanded their sphere of influence from contractors to include municipalities and also organizations such as Native Renewables. Previously, Safety Help Today provided safety and health training as part of the group’s Solar Workforce Training Program in Flagstaff, Arizona. Native Renewables is now developing its Navajo Clean Energy Program, which will offer affordable energy access to thousands of Native American homes currently without grid-tied electricity. A vital component of this program is training to provide the skills needed to install and maintain off-grid photovoltaics systems.
As well, the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska, contracted Safety Help Today to support the community’s annual Safety Week event. Pappas and her team provided multiple safety courses, including OSHA 30-hour training, Forklift, Mobile Elevating Work Platforms, Lockout/Tagout (LOTO), Trenching and even a session on Toxic Chemical Handling for maintenance employees.
Pappas concludes, “We can help any organization that is under OSHA jurisdiction. Our goal is to take our services to a dozen major cities in the coming years. Our program is reproducible and affordable—but most importantly, we believe it’s saving lives through training, communication and practice.”