“We've improved over the years tremendously,” says Safety Director Peter Bolton of Blythe Construction Inc., a heavy highway and bridge construction contractor. “The fundamental thing is culture. You've got to change the culture.”
Blythe was honored with an America's Safest Company award by creating a safety culture that revolves around prevention and preparation. For example, to address the high risk of construction employees being struck by a moving vehicle, Blythe developed a specific program for workers on foot. This program includes on-the-job training completed every 3 months and either removes workers from ground positions or elevates them to eliminate the risk.
In addition, Blythe has specific, written programs for cranes, fall protection and more. All employees, including subcontractors, must wear hard hats, safety glasses, work boots and Class II reflective vests on construction sites. Blythe also requires 100 percent physical means of fall protection on all sites. Finally, all vehicles must be parked in a “first move forward” position to eliminate backing, a high-risk activity.
The company also focuses on eliminating the potential for traffic accidents in the work zone, another major concern in the industry. Certified workers design and implement work zone traffic controls, and Blythe also uses a visible police presence with flashing lights to alert passing drivers of an upcoming lane closure. These measures helped the company achieve zero preventable accidents on the highway in 2006.
Blythe has improved its safety record significantly over the years, from recording 52 lost-time injuries in 1992 to only three in 2006. In 2007, the company's 500 employees recorded a lost-time injury rate of 1.4, compared to the industry average of 2.2. According to Bolton, this is just the beginning.
“We're looking to be world-class, and we feel like we're well on the road,” he says. “It's not just numbers, of course. It's a culture. And that's where we're headed.”
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