The Boldt Company: Creating a Culture of Safety

Nov. 1, 2008
Some "bold thinking" helped Boldt become a safety leader.

The numbers are impressive: 1,500+ employees in 13 cities in six states, with $710 million in yearly project volume. As a national provider of construction-related services such as planning and development, project management and general contracting, Boldt has a diverse customer base (commercial, educational, healthcare, industrial, manufacturing, pulp and paper, power/renewable energy), posing disparate safety challenges.

In addition to the human and economic toll of worksite incidents, the negative publicity generated by such incidents adds to an already competitive market. Project owners scrutinize bidders' safety profiles with a rigorous prequalification process. “If we don't measure up, we don't get the business,” says Corporate Safety Director Jeff Schilleman, adding that Boldt often is awarded contracts based on its outstanding safety program despite not being the lowest bidder.

So, how does the nation's 68th largest at-risk construction manager achieve a lost-time injury rate that is half the industry average? By celebrating dedication to safety as a company-wide core value, and by tolerating nothing less.


The constantly changing environment in which Appleton, Wis.-based Boldt operates requires a proactive approach to safety, with commitment that extends to all who set foot on the jobsite. To this end, Boldt's approach includes:

  • Design-phase collaboration with architects, engineers and project owners

  • Inspection of all mechanical equipment prior to use

  • Mandatory, site-specific safety orientation for workers/frequent visitors, condensed orientation for all others and mandatory personal protective equipment for all.

  • Daily safety analysis with crew-wide communication of potential hazards

  • Verbal and intranet near-miss reporting with immediate correction, tracking and company-wide communication.

Fall prevention is critical at Boldt, and the company's program emphasizes risk-reducing behaviors. “Engineering out” a potential fall mechanically is the first line of defense, followed, if needed, by the use of fall-arrest equipment such as roof striders and horizontal lifelines.

An industry pioneer in the area of ergonomics, Boldt continually evaluates all devices/tools for better design, increases job rotation for physically challenging tasks, promotes the use of PPE such as anti-vibration gloves for jack-hammering and, throughout its offices, provides specially designed ergonomic chairs and ensures optimal positioning and upgrading of computer equipment.


Boldt has created a culture that embraces safety, both on and off the jobsite - loaning safety glasses to the “do-it-yourselfer” who borrows a power saw, rewarding participation in the annual Healthy Lifestyle Risk Assessment Testing program with a $100 reduction in annual medical plan premiums and spreading the safety message through community outreach.

Management and operations meetings begin and end with a safety message, and company executives routinely visit jobsites for a first-hand perspective. Supervisors are taught to “stop, discuss and retrain” when a safety breach is observed.

Industry standards are viewed as minimum (and frequently exceeded) requirements. Each project manager, superintendent and foreman is required to complete 10- and 30-hour OSHA training, and at least one of each subcontractor's workers must have completed, at the minimum, the 10-hour course. Mandatory first-aid training incorporates realistic simulations of construction emergencies, and personnel receive specialized training in wind turbine rescue, cranes and rigging. In light of an ever-changing workforce, “Back to Basics” provides extensive training for new hires and reevaluation/reinforcement for existing personnel.

But it's the “strategic goal of continuous improvement and incident reduction,” achieved in 2007, that Schilleman cites as Boldt's greatest accomplishment to date. Dubbed “BoldThinking,” the collaborative continuous improvement process encourages the entire Boldt community to make recommendations for improvement, producing critical updates to the company's safety initiative. The behavioral-based focus is on “plan, do, check and act.” Specific goal achievement is rewarded with luncheons and awards, but the “real” reward has been the 20 percent improvement in safety performance over 3 years, and the new perspective on safety that comes from “concentrating on measuring successes rather than reporting failures.”

Evidence of Boldt's new “SAFETY: A Way of Life” campaign will soon be visible on jobsite signage and hard hat stickers. Behind the scenes, “We'll continue our push to be world-class and incident-free,” says Schilleman, who calls this goal both simple and realistic.

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