General contractor Lydig Construction Inc. has 250 employees at 15 sites and all of those workers understand, starting on their first day, that the company prides itself on the fact that they know and understand the importance of the safety culture.
“Safety is not just a priorty — since priorities can change — working safely is part of our culture and behavior everyday, and that will not change…ever,” said Doug Lydig, vice president, safety.
There are not many construction companies, let alone ones with 250 employees, that have three dedicated safety professionals or a “C-level” title in charge of safety. Lydig said his focus is on safety, loss control and workers' compensation claims management. “Safety is good business,” said Lydig, a perception shared by the company president.
“If we are not safe, we will not be in business,” said President Larry Swartz.
Swartz is a star of the company's new worker orientation video, explaining to new employees that they have the right to work in a safe environment and that the company and its employees cannot overlook any hazards that would compromise their ability to return injury-free to their families at the end of their shifts.
The company's Employee Safety Recognition Awards Program (ESRAP) encourages employees to talk to supervisors about any idea they have to improve the safety program, recognizes employees who make a difference in the field by improving ergonomics, determine the right tool for the job or suggest innovative practices. Awards are given to both Lydig employees and subcontractor employees, said Lydig. “The ESRAP does not distinguish who the employee is,” he said. “If they are on our jobsite they will be considered for an award” if they make a suggestion that improves workplace safety. Winners are rewarded with a substantial gift, a gift card or “Lydig-wear,” as well as a feature article in the company's monthly safety publication, “The Hard Hat Herald.”
“[Our safety process] cannot be effective in practice if we do not allow all employees to contribute and evaluate each and every idea that can make us even safer. Safety may start with management's commitment, but it certainly must go full circle,” said Lydig.
The company sponsors Lydig University, to the tune of $300,000 per year, which offers 20 different safety courses that were produced in-house by Lydig employees. Lydig University has a full-time director of education and training. The program features a formal training room that can hold 20 students and a separate computer lab, set up with 16 computers that are tied into the Lydig intranet home page and operating systems. Lydig's business partners are encouraged to use the facility for training for their own employees as well, ensuring all workers on Lydig jobsites are safe.
Others have taken notice of the company's dedication to safety. Lydig Construction worked with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries to develop an ergonomics demonstration project related to the forming, pouring, finishing and striping of concrete forms. The project took months of monitoring and documentation to evaluate the task associated with concrete and repetitive motions. The Lydig safety manual devotes a section to repetitive motion and ways to reduce repetitive stress injuries.
“To say that ‘safety pays’ is true,” said Lydig. “With the success that we've had over a long period of time, owners of our projects do not have to worry if we provide safe worksites; we have proven it.”