Leading the Solar Industry in Safety: Q&A with Adam Barss

Safety is one of Borrego Solar’s top company principles and as a result we strive to put safety first in everything we do. Solar projects come with many of the safety risks of any other construction site. With its high volume of work, it’s imperative that Borrego protects its workers, customers, the public and the environment.

Our goal is to be the safest commercial solar company and help establish solar best practices for our growing industry. At the helm of this mission is our Director of Safety, Adam Barss. Adam began his career in safety as a Safety Superintendent for Turner Construction building high rises and laboratories in New York and Boston. After Turner, he became a safety consultant for laboratories throughout the Boston area. After consulting for a few years, he joined Shire Pharmaceuticals and managed a manufacturing plant in Cambridge, MA, then moved on to JCR Construction, a utility contractor, as their Safety Manager. JCR was acquired by Quanta Services, a large corporation, where he then assisted in building safety cultures with their other operating units throughout the country. After establishing the safety culture at JCR, he joined Borrego Solar as their Safety Director.

In this Q&A, Adam shares how he’s helping to cement our safety-first culture at Borrego, make sure we’re at the forefront of safety best practices, and why it’s important for our customers.

Adam Barss, Director of Safety for Borrego Solar

What’s your role at Borrego and why is it important?

My role is to educate and train my staff on safety regulations while building a culture of safety so that everyone goes home un-injured at the end of the day. 

I do this through building relationships with our staff and team members while using my experience and understanding of regulations to educate and train our staff. This not only includes workers onsite during construction but also making sure our operations and maintenance team is properly trained to stay safe after project completion as well. 

Solar is a relatively new industry and regulations are still being developed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to define where solar fits. With that lack of guidance, it’s still kind of a cowboy industry. Some of our competitors are still at the starting line. 

Considering Borrego’s continued expansion, having a safety expert like myself enables the company to get ahead of competitors and help create standards for the industry as a whole.  

I use knowledge of best practices from my career to enable Borrego to go above and beyond to create a sense of trust and transparency that makes our customers feel confident in continuing to work with us.
Adam Barss, Director of Safety

How does having a dedicated safety expert on staff provide additional value to customers?

Our emphasis on safety ensures compliance, as well as the well-being of our customers, the environment and the public. Safety incidents can also delay a project and create additional costs in the loss of time, materials and people. 

With our large volume of work, we have never had a hospitalization or major injury on a Borrego project. I’m proud of that strong safety record. I use knowledge of best practices from my career to enable Borrego to go above and beyond to create a sense of trust and transparency that makes our customers feel confident in continuing to work with us. 

What are some of the safety concerns on a solar job site, and how do you address them?

The things we have to be aware of differ from project to project. For example, on rooftop projects falling is a concern so we use proper fall protection equipment. We also need to make sure we’re getting up and down from the roof in a safe manner. 

On ground-mount projects, we use a lot of motorized, moving equipment so we require horn signals and bright-colored clothing for employees.

On all projects, we ensure workers are wearing fire-rated clothing to prevent exposure to electrical events such as arc flashes. We work in all kinds of environments, from hot conditions in which we need to watch heat stroke to harsh winters with ice that needs to be removed to prevent slips, trips and falls.

At the same time, we want to make sure we’re protecting the natural environment with proper barricades and entry points. Additionally, we want to protect the public by making sure people, especially children, don’t access our work areas. We provide signs and parameter fences to clearly define our project sites.

Finally, we always need to be prepared for emergency situations, such as fires.

I work with my team to develop procedures to identify hazards associated with specific tasks and how to prevent those hazards.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the people I work with at Borrego Solar. It’s a great group of individuals who like to work as a team. When I first started, I noticed how excited the Site Supervisors and Project Managers were to have someone on board to ask questions or bounce ideas off of. Every day, it’s about working hard but at the same time we have fun.

I also love working with our customers. In keeping with Borrego’s guiding principle of trust and transparency, I like to educate our customers about safety events while receiving both their positive and negative feedback to prevent such events from happening in the future.

Lastly, l feel like I’m making an impact at Borrego as an industry-leading commercial solar company. I’m helping to create and implement best practices that set the standard for safety in the industry.

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