America's Safest Companies 'Get' Safety's Benefits

Nov. 21, 2006
When it comes to safety, the 10 businesses selected to be Occupational Hazards' 2006 America's Safest Companies just plain "get it." From their top executives all the way down to the factory floor, these companies get it. They get the importance of ...

When it comes to safety, the 10 businesses selected to be Occupational Hazards' 2006 America's Safest Companies just plain "get it."

From their top executives all the way down to the factory floor, these companies get it. They get the importance of safety committees, training, job-hazard analyses, audits, stop-work authority and management visibility.

They get the symbiotic relationship between safety and productivity, profits, morale and employee retention. As Koch-Glitsch President Bob DiFulgentiz puts it, the qualities that helped the company's Wichita, Kan., manufacturing facility become an OSHA VPP Star site are the same qualities needed "to deliver on time, have a high-quality product and have good productivity."

"Amazingly, when we focus on safety, all the other measurements improved," DiFulgentiz says. "It's just good for business."

DiFulgentiz is just one of several company leaders in this year's class who want to have their fingers on the pulse of every injury, accident or near-miss. For example, EnPro Industries President and CEO Ernest Schaub requires all lost-time injuries to be reported to him - and other senior executives - within 24 hours. Schaub views this policy as common sense.

Of course, accidents and injuries are rare at EnPro and the other America's Safest Companies. By just about every metric, these companies boast safety records that are in the upper echelon of their industries.

How do they do it? Since Occupational Hazards first launched America's Safest Companies in 2002, we've found some common denominators. To name just a few:

  • Upper management commitment - At Noble Corp., executive management has spent more than $35 million over the past 10 years on EHS equipment, training and initiatives.
  • Comprehensive training - Rust Constructors requires its new hires to take part in a multi-stage training/orientation process that introduces and reinforces safety strategies.
  • Employee involvement - At OFG Jasper Cherry Street, employees lead and conduct the safety committee meetings.

As we introduce the 2006 class of America's Safest Companies, we'd like to thank this year's sponsors. MCR Safety is the Gold sponsor for this special section as well as for the awards reception, which was held Nov. 6 in San Diego. PureSafety and North Safety Products are the Silver sponsors. A big thank-you from Occupational Hazards to our three sponsors, and congratulations to the 2006 America's Safest Companies!

(Articles written by Josh Cable, associate editor, and Sandy Smith, chief editor.)

Safety Seals EnPro's Success

At EnPro, few business issues command the type of attention that safety does.

When Charlotte, N.C.-based EnPro Industries Inc. spun off from Goodrich Corp. in 2002, company officials saw it as a "unique opportunity to do the types of things we wanted to do," explains Joe Wheatley, EnPro's corporate director of EHS affairs.

One of the first things the company did was establish a requirement that every lost-time incident - at any of EnPro's 34 manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and Asia - be reported to the CEO, division president, general manager and corporate director of EHS affairs within 24 hours of the incident.

"That kind of set the tone for the company and how safety fit into our culture," Wheatley says.

Few business issues at EnPro require that kind of timely communication to President and CEO Ernest Schaub, who, by the way, believes having such a reporting system is just plain common sense.

"We're talking about a person's well-being here," Schaub says. "I would think you would want to know about that - about how bad they got hurt, what the circumstances of the accident were and what's being done to make sure this kind of thing never happens again."

The concern for employees' well-being goes beyond lip service. EnPro Industries - which has a diverse mix of products that includes industrial sealing products, air compressors, diesel engines and self-lubricating bearings - provides employees with an escort to the hospital no matter how minor the injury.

Of course, incidents and injuries are increasingly rare among EnPro's approximately 4,400 workers worldwide. The company's lost-time incident rate has been trending downward in recent years, dropping from 2.03 in 1999 to 0.34 in 2006 (as of June), while its recordable rate has plummeted from 6.57 in 1999 to 2.47 as of June 2006.

EnPro companies are no strangers to safety accolades. At press time, Beloit, Wisc.-based Fairbanks Morse Engine had gone 5 years without a lost-time incident. Bay Minette, Ala.-based Quincy Compressor was selected as one of Occupational Hazards' America's Safest Companies in 2003.

Sweating the Small Stuff

The maxim "don't sweat the small stuff" isn't always applicable to safety. Wheatley, in fact, emphasizes to employees that the difference between a recordable incident and a first aid incident often is 1 millimeter.

"If a small cut on your hand was just a millimeter deeper or longer, it wouldn't need just a Band-Aid. It would require stitches," Wheatley explains. "That's a recordable incident."

Such a philosophy is the basis of EnPro's emphasis on eliminating near-misses and first aid incidents - the leading indicators on the bottom of the "incident triangle," Wheatley notes.

"For every 10,000 near-misses there are 1,000 first aids. For every 1,000 first aids there are 100 recordables, and for every 100 recordables there are 10 lost-times," Wheatley says. "We believe if we can reduce the number of near-misses we can reduce the potential for a first aid or a recordable."

Wheatley is quick to point to EnPro's safety committee structure as another reason for the company's safety success. Rather than having one company-wide committee, each EnPro manufacturing facility has multiple, rotating safety committees - each covering a specific area such as ergonomics, audits/inspections and training - to give employees more opportunities to get involved in the safety process. The committees typically are led by a member of management and are comprised primarily of plant-level workers.

"Often what you see in the traditional safety committee system is the committee tends to be a repository for complaints," Wheatley says. "We try to make it more proactive."

While often the difference between a first aid incident and a recordable incident is small, safety is a big issue for EnPro - an issue that carries as much weight as profits. That is evidenced by the fact that EnPro's 2005 annual report includes graphic representations of only three metrics: profit margin, gross profit and lost-time case rate.

Safety clearly is an issue that earns executives' full attention, and not just when there's a lost-time incident. When an EnPro site meets or exceeds the goals set in its safety plan for the year, Schaub and/or other senior executives travel to the site to present the President's Safety Award. During the awards banquet, the executives serve lunch or dinner to EnPro employees at the site.

"It gives us a chance to personally congratulate the people who have won the award," Schaub says. "It also shows how much we appreciate them. We have a little banter with them, a little fun. It makes their day."

Fluor: Integrating Environment, Health and Safety

At Fluor Corp., successfully managing EHS issues is an essential component of the business strategy.

Fluor Corp. has as many safety and health professionals - 350 - as some of the other 2006 America's Safest Companies have employees. Fluor, on the other hand, has 41,000 employees worldwide, making it the largest company included on this year's list. The key to managing such a large engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance operation is consistency, says Cherry Nalley, who's with Fluor's HSE department.

"Fluor globally has implemented a standardized HSE management system. The HSE management system aims to apply best-practice hazard management techniques to systematically identify and manage HSE risk that may be associated with the business of the company," says Nalley. "Fluor's global HSE knowledge management system ensures that HSE practices availability and consistency."

Management System

The structure of Fluor's HSE management system incorporates several levels of control documents. These standardized practices ensure safety and healthy work performance at each Fluor project and office globally. The measurement and evaluation tools used by the company include:

Audit - Auditing is the primary tool for measuring performance. The following audit protocols are developed and implemented:

  • Systems audit to measure implementation and effectiveness of the HSE management system;
  • Compliance audit to measure compliance with the HSE practices and procedures; and
  • Performance audit to measure whether the required performance level is being met.

Client Review - A client review process provides feedback from Fluor clients. Projects and offices are given the opportunity to review the effectiveness of the HSE management system and to provide suggestions on continued improvements.

HSE Alignment Process - HSE professionals integrally are involved in the alignment process before and during project start-up. They identify key areas of the project that require particular attention and help to adapt or create procedures that are tailored to the project. In addition, it allows HSE personnel to become part of the project team and provides an opportunity to disseminate information on the HSE responsibilities of all project personnel.

Document Review - The HSE management system is reviewed on an annual basis, unless otherwise determined by the HSE board, to allow for improvements and new initiatives formally to be included in the system.

Communication of the HSE Management System - HSE management communicates the HSE management system to Fluor employees and other stakeholders through training, Knowledge OnLine (the company's information and training resource), printed documents and other forms of communication. These communications facilitate the effective use of the HSE management system and promote a high level of awareness regarding HSE issues.

Performance Measurement - A system of performance measurement was implemented to assess the overall effectiveness of the HSE management system. This measurement system includes setting and measuring of strategies, objectives and goals; collation of statistics; recording of HSE initiatives; and skill base identification. In addition, a general awareness program provides feedback on HSE awareness to all employees.

Employee Participation

Fluor employees are encouraged to participate in the safety process in a variety of ways, among them:

  • STAs (Safety Task Assignments) - Employees participate in pre-job planning meetings where a task-specific STA is discussed and comments or recommended changes are developed. The STA is finalized following employee input. Employees perform the STAs with their foremen.
  • Event Investigations - Employees directly involved in an event (incident, accident or near-miss) routinely participate in the event investigation. In addition, employees in the work crew participate in critiques of events. Employees with special skills or training are frequently asked to participate as subject-matter experts in investigations.

"For an effective safety culture to be established, everyone within the organization must believe in its safety philosophy and recognize the importance of adhering to its principles," says Nalley.

"Fluor's safety culture demonstrates an environment where its employees believe achieving zero injuries is possible and dedication to this goal influences every decision" management and employees make, she adds.

Employee Ownership is 'Where the Rubber Meets the Road' at Koch-Glitsch

A strong safety program is just part of the equation.

Bob DiFulgentiz, president of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch-Glitsch LP, marvels at the heights of safety the company has reached. The most recent pinnacle: Koch-Glitsch's 382 employees worked all of 2005 without a lost-time or recordable injury, which DiFulgentiz calls "amazing."

DiFulgentiz notes that Koch-Glitsch - which makes mass transfer and mist elimination products for the chemical, petrochemical, refining, gas processing, pharmaceutical and specialty industries - always has had a strong safety program.

But DiFulgentiz also believes "a strong safety program does not ensure success."

What has elevated Koch-Glitsch's safety program in recent years, DiFulgentiz says, is employee ownership of safety.

"A good safety program is important," DiFulgentiz says. "But unless the employees on the floor own it, and live it and breathe it and are committed to it, it's not going to work."

From participating in safety committees and job-hazard analyses to writing articles for the company's safety newsletter, it is clear that Koch-Glitsch fosters employee ownership of safety. For example:

  • Employees participate in safety audits - of their own job tasks and of other job tasks - as well as in behavior observations.
  • In the increasingly rare event that an accident or near-miss occurs, employees are involved in "the analysis of what went wrong, what the preventative action is and the implementation of preventative measures," DiFulgentiz notes.
  • Operating procedures for a number of machines have been written by the employees who operate the equipment.

"The safety program is important to me, DiFulgentiz says, "but where the rubber meets the road is when employees own it."

In DiFulgentiz's view, you need to look at the intangibles - such as the company's safety culture - to see the whole picture.

Perhaps the most telling sign of a thriving safety culture is when an employee notices that a co-worker has forgotten his eye protection - or some other critical safety measure - and then reminds the co-worker to put on his safety goggles.

"I've been to places where, if the boss goes out in the shop and doesn't have his safety glasses on, nothing happens because he's the boss," DiFulgentiz says. "[At Koch-Glitsch], if I'm on the shop floor and I don't have safety glasses, I'm written up by about 30 employees in 30 seconds."

Oregon Steel Mills: 'Deadlines Can Be Missed'

At this Portland, Ore., company, employees are expected to put safety over production.

When asked what role safety plays in the way Oregon Steel Mills, Portland Steel Works, does business, Gary Wood, safety, health and security manager, is quick to state that safety does not play a "role" in the corporate culture. "It is a value that can be seen in attitudes and behavior," Wood says. "As such, it becomes a part of all processes."

And safety at Oregon Steel Mills extends beyond employees, to relationships with contractors, vendors and customers.

"All the steps in our business of processing steel plate, coil and pipe from purchased slabs require the right safety culture," says Wood. "Safety is an integral part of our business."

Rewards and Recognition

Woods says that the goal is to get all 400 employees actively thinking about safety and safety solutions. One way to do that, he adds, is to recognize and reward employees who take an active part in making safety improvements. The company's unique incentive program includes these steps:

  • Employees identify a condition that can be improved to make the workplace safer. It can be related to equipment, procedures, training or any other aspect of safety. "The proposal must not be to fix something that is broken or out of compliance," adds Woods, "because all employees are expected to do that as part of their jobs."
  • Employees submit proposals to their safety coordinator on how to improve safety in that situation. This is done using a designated form and it includes details with estimated costs.
  • The proposal is evaluated by the department safety coordinators and the operations management group. Evaluations are conducted weekly. The proposal might be modified before approval is given.
  • After the proposal is approved, the employee must take an active role in getting the project completed, either by doing the work himself or by entering a work order.
  • After the work is completed, department management reviews and evaluates the project. If the project meets expectations, the employee receives a monetary award and a write-up and photograph are posted in the facility as recognition.

The program was implemented in mid-2001, and to date, 730 projects have been completed.

Woods says that safety starts with top managers, who have created a culture that places great emphasis on safe work.

"Employees are authorized and expected to put safety over production. Deadlines can be missed," Wood says. "Going home the way you came is more important than risking someone's safety in order to meet a production goal or deadline. This is the philosophy communicated frequently when we listen to management promote safety. People accept the freedom this gives them to work safely."

The Science (and Heart) of Safety

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory relies on both innovative ideas and practical principles to achieve its safety success.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), based in Richland, Wash., is in the business of "delivering breakthrough science and technology" to support the objectives of the Department of Energy.

However, "advancing the frontiers of new scientific knowledge and innovative technologies," as PNNL describes just one aspect of its mission, is not for the faint of heart. PNNL's 4,375 scientists, engineers and staff members - at research facilities in Richland and Sequim, Wash. - encounter a wide range of safety and health challenges, from potential radiological and biological exposures to working with lasers, magnets and "every kind of chemical you can imagine," explains PNNL Director of Environment, Safety, Health and Quality Roby Enge.

Factor in the "everyday industrial hazards you have with maintenance and operations," and PNNL faces "a tremendous variety of hazards and potential hazards," Enge says.

The complex range of hazards intrinsic to its research has required PNNL to devise some innovative solutions to advance the frontiers of safety.

High on the list of innovations is PNNL's Standards-Based Management System (SBMS), which is an online information system that provides PNNL staff members with up-to-date policies, standards and laboratory-wide procedures and guidelines.

PNNL officials point to SBMS as "the foundation upon which PNNL achieved validation and certification to ISO 14001, ISM and VPP." However, log onto SBMS and you won't find procedures that are "VPP-driven procedures or ISO 140001-driven procedures," because "they are simply incorporated into the way we do business," Enge explains.

"Oftentimes, you go into a facility and they have a VPP program or an ISO 14001 program that are standalone," Enge says. "We take the requirements that meet those standards and integrate them into our systems and processes for doing work."

Other innovative intranet tools PNNL has implemented to enhance safety include its:

  • Chemical Management System, which tracks chemicals "from ordering through disposal," according to Cindy Caldwell, PNNL's Technical Group manager of worker safety and health. The system also supports permitting and reporting and measures compliance with facility inventory limits.
  • Map Information Tool, which gives users access to information on building layouts, room occupants, emergency equipment, evacuation routes, first aid providers and the location of select hazards (such as chemicals or radioactive material).
  • Electronic Prep and Risk, which is a process that helps identify risks and mitigation strategies prior to beginning a project.

PNNL in 2004 launched what it called a Safety Performance Improvement Plan, which was an umbrella for many of the initiatives mentioned above. But Caldwell notes that PNNL's current high level of safety performance - in 7.1 million hours worked in 2005, it had just 14 lost- and restricted-workday cases - is the result of more than just a single plan or initiative.

"We needed to get into the hearts and minds of people," Caldwell says.

Getting to the Heart of Safety

Upper management support of safety is a common trait among America's Safest Companies, and PNNL Director Dr. Len Peters plays a key role in communicating to employees that safety is a fundamental value and that the safety of PNNL employees is PNNL's No. 1 concern. Peters conveys these messages via e-mail, video clips and face-to-face all-hands meetings, while also emphasizing safety in all open meetings with management and staff.

Just as importantly, Peters and PNNL executives walk the talk, as they "consistently provide the resources needed for staff to do things right - and safely," according to Enge.

PNNL has a number of mechanisms for empowering employees to take a hands-on approach. For example, staff members play an active role in pre-work hazard analysis. "Typically, pre-job planning and self-assessment are cooperative exercises conducted by the staff that do the work, line management and program management," according to Enge.

There are multiple avenues for employees to provide feedback, including PNNL's online suggestion tool and an annual safety suggestion contest that offers prizes such as round-trip airfare to the winner's destination of choice.

Safety committees, meanwhile, give employees a chance to shape safety policies, procedures and activities. The laboratory's VPP Steering Committee -; PNNL has been a VPP Star site since 2001 - perhaps is the best example of employee involvement. Committee members form a team each year to conduct a safety assessment of PNNL's operations, providing PNNL "with really wonderful assessment information," according to Enge.

"[Employees] get at the heart of issues that management often doesn't see," Enge says. "When workers interview other workers, you get pretty much the unvarnished truth."

Expectations Are High at OFG Jasper Cherry Street

Employees take the lead when it comes to safety at this wood products company.

"I have 183 safety managers out there making safety improvements every day that we probably won't know about," says Mike Epp, safety, environmental, security and facilities manager for OFG Jasper Cherry Street, a Jasper, Ind., manufacturer of wood veneer panels.

That's a lot of safety managers; how many employees do you have? he's asked. His answer: "183."

When a new employee is hired, the expectation is that he or she will work in a safe manner, because the corporate culture demands it. Employee orientation covers the usual things like payroll, but the greatest amount of time during orientation - 2 hours - is spent on an overview of the safety process at the company. And before new employees are permitted to work alone, they, their supervisors and their co-worker/mentors have to sign off on a formal document that indicates they perform their job tasks in a safe manner.

"We don't make any decision at this facility without considering quality, quantity and safety. We live the safety culture," says Epp.

Employee Participation

OFG Jasper Cherry Street has "intact work groups" of 8 to 12 employees who meet before every shift and are challenged to work on ways to improve the manufacturing process. The teams address safety, ergonomics, quality and manufacturing improvements.

"When these teams identify areas for improvement, they are given time to work on their ideas," says Epp. "The teams that have worked on projects are recognized during an awards ceremony that recognizes the best projects, which includes Best Safety Improvement."

In addition, employees are asked to turn in maintenance requests and, once that project is completed, are asked to sign off that the fix meets their expectations. Also, employees lead and conduct safety committee meetings. "The safety manager attends these meetings only as a resource. If the committee has issues that need additional capital or resources, the safety manager works with them to complete their projects," Epp notes.

Epp says he has worked at some very safe companies, "but this company truly takes the safety culture to the next level. In a world where injuries cost companies a lot of money, we have proven that injuries are not a normal result of everyday activities.

"If an injury occurs," he adds, noting that employees have worked more than 2 years without a lost-time injury, "it is everyone's responsibility to respond and eliminate the circumstances that lead to that employee being hurt."

When Team Members Talked, PCI Listened

Roundtable discussions led to ergonomic improvements.

Columbus, Ga.-based Precision Components International Inc. (PCI) views its employees as "team members," explains EHS Manager Michael Langan, REM. In keeping with that philosophy, when PCI set out to eliminate musculoskeletal injuries - which were accounting for most of its OSHA recordable cases - the company made sure to include team members in the discussions.

"The team members are the ones who are out there on the floor, 8 hours a day, day in and day out," Langan explains. "They're part of the solution."

PCI, which makes jet engine blades at two facilities in Columbus, Ga., convened roundtable discussions with benching operators in the finishing department - who are involved in some of the most repetitive tasks, such as operating the buffing wheels - to come up with ways to wipe out strains, sprains, aches and pains.

The company also called in physicians from the local branch of the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic, which specializes in treating musculoskeletal injuries; and students from the Medical College of Georgia's Department of Occupational Therapy, located at Columbus State University.

As a result of the discussions with team members and local experts, PCI purchased ergonomic chairs with armrests and footrests; implemented stretching breaks; and is in the process of designing and building its own adjustable-height benching stations.

Perhaps the pièce de résistance was the purchase of three automatic robotic finishing cell machines - at a cost of $250,000 each - which have reduced nearly 50 percent of the repetitive tasks in the Finishing Department.

Since making these changes, musculoskeletal injuries "are now the exception rather than the rule," according to Langan. So are most other injuries. Since 1998, PCI has reduced its OSHA recordable rate by 66.3 percent and its workers' compensation costs by more than 50 percent, the company says.

Other initiatives at PCI include machine-specific safety training, safety committees and a wellness program.

Recently, PCI purchased six bicycles for team members to ride around the facility - which encompasses about 1 mile - on their lunch breaks and other breaks. PCI also is considering building a walking trail inside its main facility, according to Langan.

"It's a win-win situation," Langan says of its wellness initiatives. "The company wins by having healthier team members, and healthier employees are going to be more alert and less likely to be injured."

Safety is a Noble Pursuit for Oil and Gas Driller

At Noble Corp., if you can't manage safety, you can't manage.

How important is safety when the nearest hospital is 150 miles away and when dialing 9-1-1 means sending an S-0-S?

Noble Corp. employs more than 5,000 workers and 170 EHS professionals who work on 63 mobile offshore drilling units and at well sites around the world.

Offshore drillers do not have quick access to medical facilities or care, other than those found on the rigs. So, says John Breed, who's based at the company's headquarters in Sugar Land, Texas, the best way to handle injuries is to prevent them.

In an industry that presents significant hazards to its workers, Noble's safety performance has bested the industry average for 14 consecutive years. During this same period, the company's lost-time incident rate declined every year except one. In fact, the company's lost-time incident rate through August 2006 - the most current data - shows a record-low rate of 0.02, a 93 percent improvement year-on-year. This was achieved while experiencing a record increase in manhours worked, from nearly 7.9 million through August 2005 to nearly 8.15 million through August 2006.

"Providing and maintaining safe and healthful working conditions for all our employees at all times is Noble's greatest responsibility," says Breed. "Noble managers and supervisors are accountable for the safety of their employees. If a job cannot be accomplished in a safe manner, we will not attempt the job. Working safely is a condition of employment at Noble. Supervisors who cannot manage safety cannot manage at Noble."

The executive management team, including the CEO, meets quarterly to discuss EHS. The company has spent over $35 million over the last 10 years on EHS equipment, training and initiatives. For example, the company recently converted to fire-retardant coveralls for all employees at significant cost. This voluntary and proactive measure goes above and beyond regulatory requirements.

But then, adds Breed, Noble has never run its business to meet federal requirements. Noble Corp. is run to exceed federal requirements.

Noble "proactively began upgrading the capabilities of our premium semisubmersible rigs in the Gulf of Mexico to improve their performance during Category 5 hurricanes and other major storms," says Breed. "Noble commenced a $30 million upgrade program before the U.S. Minerals Management Service issued guidelines for rig hurricane fitness."

Noble's worldwide operations are certified to ISO 14001, the first drilling contractor in the world to achieve such certification and the only offshore drilling contractor in the world to hold third-party certification to ISO 14001 worldwide. European operations are certified to OHSAS 18001, an internationally accepted safety management system standard. Again, Noble was the first drilling contractor in the world to achieve that certification.

Engaging Employees

No safety process can achieve that kind of success without employee buy-in. Noble makes every effort to engage employees in the safety process. This is done in several ways:

  • Noble offers a safety training supervisors (STS) position in the rig management career path. The STS role allows operations workers to gain safety experience and attracts good safety candidates to enter operations. Having such a position at the company fosters a strong appreciation for behavioral safety processes, the HSEQ Management System and tools such as job safety analysis, toolbox talks and pre-job meetings.
  • The company issues quarterly Safety Champion awards for employees who distinguish themselves by going above and beyond to show that safety is a value for them and who spread that attitude to other crew members. Safety Champions are nominated and elected by their peers.
  • On a daily basis, employees participate in pre-task safety meetings that review the upcoming operation as group, review a portion of the Noble Safety Policy Manual and discuss the potential hazards of what they are about to undertake. During weekly safety meetings, all crew members review performance over the previous week and reflect on how to improve.

Working safely pays dividends at Noble. The company's Short-Term Incentive Plan (STIP) rewards eligible employees for achieving specific goals that improve shareholder value. STIP focuses on quantifiable, measurable financial and operational targets. Employees who achieve their stated goals can earn from 5 percent to 75 percent of their annual salaries.

For eligible employees in operating divisions, safety results currently have the highest weight (50 percent) and therefore are the most important factor in receiving the STIP bonus.

"This weighting emphasizes that working safely is the most important action eligible employees can take to positively impact Noble's shareholder value," says Breed.

There's No Rust on this Safety Program

For Rust Constructors, "safety is a very vital part of what we do."

At Rust Constructors Inc., safety fits pre-project planning "very much like a glove," according to Ronald Cross, director of safety and health for the Birmingham, Ala.-based industrial construction firm.

Before Rust bids on a project, a member of the firm's safety staff visits the site to look for any potential safety and health concerns. Then, before the project begins, Rust develops a site-specific safety plan. Once the project is underway, Rust has designed a number of checks and balances - such as task-specific hazard assessments, weekly site inspections and periodic assessments of the site manager's adherence to safety policies and procedures - to ensure that the plan is followed and, more importantly, that safety becomes an integral part of every task.

"Safety is a very vital part of what we do - all the time," Cross says.

Rust Constructors, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Boise, Idaho-based Washington Group International Inc., has about 240 employees. However, at any given time the firm could have in its charge as many as 1,500 subcontractors working on up to 25 projects around the country, Cross notes.

Rust expects all of its workers - subcontractors included - to meet its high safety standards. To ensure that, Rust has developed a unique, four-part approach to the new-hire orientation process.

The process begins with Rust's new-hire safety orientation program, which includes training materials in English and Spanish. Then, as soon as new hires report to their respective foremen, the foremen conduct task-specific safety orientations. A few days later, the general foremen meet with new hires in each craft to discuss craft-specific safety issues. A few days after that, the superintendents of each craft meet with new hires to recap previous safety training and to discuss the work and safety issues on tap.

Once a project is in full swing, Rust keeps everyone on the site thinking safety at all times by implementing a number of systems and processes, one of which is the Craft Safety Committee.A typical Craft Safety Committee is led by a member of management and includes members of each craft - millwrights, carpenters, electricians, etc. - as well as subcontractors and, sometimes, representatives of the client.

Craft Safety Committees create a collegial environment for craft workers to team up with supervision. The committees "also open up a pipeline for ideas to flow in."

Says Cross: "We've learned our craft hands have some innovative ideas on how to get something done very productively and very safely."

Safety Is on Solid Ground at Walbridge Aldinger Co.

For this Detroit-based general contractor, safety means 3 years and 3.5 million hours without a lost-time injury ... and a whole lot more.

When asked about safety or environmental awards Walbridge Aldinger Co. has received, Stephen Clabaugh, assistant vice president, safety and health, submitted five pages of awards and honors for the company and its 1,200 salaried and hourly trade employees in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"We enjoy receiving awards and getting good press," admits Clabaugh, who leads a team of 30 full-time safety professionals. "But we enjoy having a safe work environment and having our wonderful, skilled work force be injury-free even more."

Safety comes first, literally, at the company. Safety always is first on every meeting agenda at Walbridge Aldinger. That includes site progress meetings, quality steering committee meetings, lean construction meetings, quarterly team meetings, quarterly officers meetings, Monday morning group operations meetings and monthly president's meetings.

Walbridge Aldinger adheres to the Construction Industry Institute's nine best practices as part of its safety program. Those nine areas are: demonstrated management commitment, safety staffing, planning-pre-task analysis, safety education through orientation and training, worker involvement, evaluation and recognition, subcontractor management, accident/incident investigation and drug and alcohol testing.

Investment in Safety

Of the nine best practices, safety training appears to be the one the company takes most seriously.

OSHA's 10-hour training is not enough for Walbridge Aldinger employees. Since 2003, the company has provided over 50,000 hours of safety training to employees, partners, suppliers and subcontractors. Curriculum includes CPR/AED/first aid, mobile crane management, substance abuse awareness, crisis management, site safety orientations, pre-task planning, fall protection, confined space entry and more, depending on what the construction site or situation dictates.

"All employees are actively encouraged to meet or exceed the annual goal of 30 hours of training," says Clabaugh.

"At Walbridge Aldinger, continual learning is the hallmark of our culture," says Clabaugh. "Knowledge is not just a tool we use; it is the very product we sell. As professionals, we are 100 percent committed to sharpening our skills. We offer a training program based on both strategic business need and individual development planning that is second to none."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

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