CDMCS Celebrates 10 Years Revolutionizing Safety for Dredging Industry

The Council for Dredging and Marine Construction Safety (CDMCS), the nation’s dredging and marine construction safety council and formal partnership between U.S. dredging contractors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is celebrating ten years of progress in safety and occupational health leadership. The 10th of April marked the date that three organizations – Dredging Contractors of America (DCA), USACE, and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) – came together to officially launch what would quickly become the unified voice for safety for the industry. In those ten years there has been plenty of progress to take note of according to its management team of Devon Carlock (Cottrell Contracting), Michael Gerhardt (DCA) and Albert Wong (USACE HQ).

CDMCS was borne out of the positive working relationship and energy that had been created by the Dredging Safety Management Program (DSMP), a dredge plant certification program jointly managed by DCA and USACE. When the DSMP was dissolved in 2008, the CDMCS leaped forward immediately working hand-in-glove with its federal partners at the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), OSHA, and USACE on updating and improving specific language in the Corps Safety Manual EM385-1-1 and the Unified Facilities Guidance Specification (UFGS) related to SSHO training and experience, survey swimming, and crane operations. The council quickly began to broaden its base, produce a suite of safety resource material, and track regulatory changes in occupational safety and health. Walls began to break down as corporate safety directors throughout the industry began to use this peer-to-peer forum for exchanging information on good catches and lessons learned, as well as for sharing in-house safety policies and procedures.

“Safety culture in the industry was changing, and CDMCS was there to promote and sustain it on a national level. The contractors who spearheaded this endeavor in its early days had a vision of a group that would promote the dredging industry as a world-class leader in safety and resolve key issues. That dream is now a reality, “ says Michael Gerhardt.

Today, the CDMCS remains committed to its vision of creating a 100% injury-free workplace for the dredging and marine construction industry by embracing its core values of teamwork, trust and transparency and sticking to its mission of raising the industry standard on safety and building a safety-first culture in collaboration with USACE. Members believe that we are stronger together, that we must empower but also hold accountable, and that we must share information to save lives.

Safety is a shared responsibility. That is why CDMCS members submit quarterly safety statistics detailing the nature of the injury and the body part impacted. This information reveals incident and injury trends that drive council activities. For example, it objectively revealed that hand injuries are the second most common injury while working on dredging and support vessels, only surpassed by back and soft tissue injuries. CDMCS’s response was the creation of a comprehensive training video on hand safety awareness and hazard prevention, which has already been widely incorporated into safety management training programs across the country.

CDMCS has also recently produced a collection of documents called The Good Catch Series designed to remind on-site employees to be proactive about safety and take the right precautions to prevent a serious injury. In conjunction with job site safety posters and toolbox topics, this new resource expands the CDMCS archive of member benefits and builds out its new website.

“Best practices in safety are indeed scalable to companies of all sizes,” says Co-Chair Devon Carlock, who has made it a priority from day one to present new ideas, technology and safety procedures, which were successfully implemented at Cottrell Contracting, a small business, to the broader group of medium-sized and large-sized businesses for consideration and implementation.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, RFID’s locate sensors, and improved hand, face, and head protection have all been demonstrated and discussed at CDMCS quarterly meetings. According to Carlock, “Having the forum to discuss seasonal weather restrictions and hazards, SSHO qualifications, and a multitude of other topics with USACE leadership has been an invaluable resource for Cottrell and fellow CDMCS members.”

During this year the council intends to focus on fatigue management, ergonomics, and drug and alcohol abuse. They are also ready to partner with USACE on the next rewrite of the EM385-1-1 Safety Manual, a process that occurs approximately once every five years. Most importantly, however, CDMCS members will seek dramatic and meaningful improvements to the lack of accurate underwater pipeline and utility documentation available to contractors working on USACE dredging projects, the seriousness of which is only underscored by the recent natural gas pipeline strike near Port O’Connor, Texas on April 17. USACE, the Coast Guard, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the Department of Transportation (PHMSA-DOT), GulfSafe, and the Coastal and Marine Operators (CAMO) will attend the next CDMCS quarterly meeting on May 16 in Washington, D.C. to discuss a path forward for better coordination and proper documentation of existing and future lines. Participation from the American Waterways Operators and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will round out the agenda.

Lastly, the council is pleased to announce that it will begin annually recognizing individuals and companies for displaying exemplary leadership in safety. Recipients of the CDMCS Leadership in Safety Awards will be honored later this year at the first Annual CDMCS Safety Awards Dinner on November 13.

To learn more about CDMCS, visit our booth #78 at WEDA’s Dredging Summit and Expo next month in Norfolk, VA.