Damage Prevention: The Contractor's Perspective

He practices what he preaches, and he preaches participation. “Get involved. Come to the table and discuss the issues. Bring a solution, not just a problem,” are the verbal banners carried by Dean Bernal, Vice President of Safety and Human Resources with J.D. Abrams L.P. in Austin.
Bernal's involvement in promoting the industry's Best Practices and damage prevention includes being a member of the Associated General Contractor's Safety Committee and a member of the One-Call Board of Texas.
“There are a lot of good ideas out there, and we need to be sharing them with everyone involved in damage prevention.” Bernal added. “The contractor has a valid perspective, and I'm simply trying to represent that viewpoint while, at the same time helping to preserve those practices that we all recognize as important to preventing damages.”
Bernal is quick to pint out that his involvement has caused him to have a greater appreciation for those that own and operate underground facilities. He also feels confident that he has brought to light some issues that confront the contractor.
“When I was appointed to the One-Call board, I said, “Hey! Where's the equality of this? There is only one contractor on the board, but there are four utility representatives,” said Bernal. “I came ready to fight, but I learned to appreciate their viewpoint, especially on the difficult issues.” Bernal says that while the “us versus them” attitude is still prevalent in the minds of some, many are finding answers to difficult questions because they decided that they wanted to be part of the solution, rather than continuing to be a part of the problem.
One issue that Bernal feels very strongly about is membership in the one-call system. “Contractors need all the help they can get out there. We don't want to damage facilities. It doesn't matter if it is our fault or not; its downtime, and it costs us, “said Bernal. “Help me to understand that membership is not important and that protecting buried facilities is only my responsibility. I don't think you can.”
Bernal would also like to see more industry involvement in the design process. He knows that if there are conflicts with buried facilities, that it is usually less expensive for the engineers to change the construction route before handing it off to the contractor. “Once again,” said Bernal, “when we're on the job, we're moving a lot of dirt. If we can stay away from their lines, we'll be better off, and they'll be better off.”
Because the majority of professional excavators are small business owners, Bernal believes that they should be encouraged to be a part of the process for change, rather than a target for change. But what do you say to them if they say, “I don't have the time?” Bernal will tell them, “You better find the time because in the end, you'll be spending it one way or another. Why not spend it while you can make a difference.”
J.D. Abrams, Inc. began operation in El Paso, Texas in 1966 in November 2000, the company became J.D. Abrams, L.P. Today they are headquartered in Austin, Texas. Abrams is a full service, heavy civil contractor, specializing in public works infrastructure projects.