Once upon a time, Northern Improvement Co. considered accidents and injuries as costs of doing business. Over the years, however, the Fargo, N.D.-based construction firm has come to view safety as a "cornerstone" of its business, Vice President and Safety Manager Jack Kolberg says. The company's safety record has helped Northern Improvement secure a number of new contracts – even when the firm didn't submit the lowest bid.
"We're involved in quite a bit of work in North Dakota's oil fields. Most companies that we work for in the oil patch have high expectations for contractors and have to meet very strict safety requirements in order to secure work," Kolberg explains. "We no longer look at safety as an expense, but realize that safety indeed is a profit base."
The company takes a top-down and bottom-up approach to EHS. President Tom McCormick stays involved in safety on a daily basis, and clearly states the company's philosophy in its EHS policy: "No job shall be considered complete unless every precaution and safety practice has been performed." The firm encourages associate to participate in safety committees, safety huddles and anonymous safety-perception surveys.
Northern Improvement rewards employees for their participation in safety activities. Associates get scratch-off tickets for taking part in daily and weekly safety huddles, and are entered in monthly cash drawings when they report near misses.
The company places a special emphasis on training. As part of its onboarding process, experienced workers mentor new hires on how to safely complete their job tasks.
"We can only expect employees to perform safely when given both the education and the tools to do their jobs," Kolberg says.
Northern Improvement's customers aren't the only ones that have recognized the firm's EHS efforts. In 2011, five Northern Improvement sites received the North Dakota Safety Council's Occupational Safety Merit Award, and the firm twice has received the Associated General Contractors of America's Construction Safety Excellence Award.
Northern Improvement Co.
1 EHS professional