San Diego, CA
2,200 employees | 150 sites | 28 EHS professionals
Electrical contractor Helix Electric is willing to put its safety policies to the test.
When working on a project that involved another contractor who was applying a spray foam insulation containing the chemical MDI, the team raised concerns that appropriate precautions were not taken during the spraying and that Helix employees could be exposed to the hazardous chemical. The field team removed Helix employees from the building and asked the safety leadership team for guidance.
The leadership team negotiated with the other contractor to resolve the issue successfully despite threats of delays and negative consequences.
The safety of the projects is so important to Helix that it even determines which projects the company pursues. “We pride ourselves on doing the most complex projects in the industry, and doing them better and safer than the competition,” says Eric Simmons, Helix’s corporate safety director. “We have found that safety does not happen independently of other things but instead is a key performance indicator.”
And the company’s performance metrics have been improving. Since 2015 Helix has cut its TIR rates by more than 50% despite moving into several new markets and growing dramatically during that time period.
One of the ways Helix is able to achieve safety improvements is by actively engaging employees in safety challenges. The safety improvement team process involves forming a cross-functional team and asking them to work on specific safety issues. Ideas from these teams have led to updating the company’s Pre-task Planning and new hire safety orientations.
Additionally, on large complex projects Helix has a site safety committee comprised of craft level employees on the site. “The forum allows employees to have a very active voice in how the safety process is working on that site and to express ideas for improvement,” explains Simmons.
In the end it all boils down to culture. “Our culture is the biggest piece of our safety program,” says Simmons. “We cannot be everywhere, but we can be confident that our people will do the right thing no matter who is or is not watching.”