This year’s SMACNA Safety Innovation Award went to University Mechanical Contractors (UMC) for their pride-based safety program that encourages staff to “do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.”
General Heating & Air Conditioning of Madison, Wisconsin and The Murphy Company of St. Louis, Missouri received honorable mentions.
“Construction workers are typically very proud people, and they like to be a part of something bigger and look over their shoulder and say, ‘Hey, I was part of that project,’” says UMC Safety Director Kirk Baisch. “We wanted to tap into what makes people tick. When you make people proud of the safety program, they start driving the safety in all aspects, and they tend to lead the job sites, and help coach people to come along with us.”
President and CEO Jerry Bush sees value in innovation. “I think there are a lot of safety programs that are doing it the way that they’ve always done it, and I think to encourage and incentivize contractors to think outside the box, and do things a little differently, is a good thing.”
General Heating developed a behavioral-based safety program. With approximately 40 job sites going at a time, and only three safety professionals, it made sense to have employees take an active role. Workers perform peer reviews by taking a few minutes to observe, document and correct any unsafe acts or conditions they see.
Jeff Hanson, General Heating’s safety manager, notes that their goal was to “get safety operating on a regular basis without having a safety professional on a jobsite.” By training and involving employees, they now “have 200 or 300 at-risk behaviors being corrected every year that normally safety would never see or correct.”
The Murphy Company has a Total Work Health initiative focusing on employees’ physical, mental and overall life health. They have developed multiple programs offering information about addiction, depression and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Rick Reams, vice president of Safety and Quality at Murphy, says they care about their employees “24 hours a day, not eight hours a day. We’ve spent over 100 years building our safety culture here to make sure that, while they’re at work, we have them doing the right things, and we’re protecting them and helping them. Why wouldn’t we want to do that the rest of the time?” He believes their approach gives employees courage to seek help when they need it.
Raffi Elchemmas, national health and safety manager for Milwaukee Tool, one of the sponsors, says the award is “an opportunity for SMACNA members to drive towards being the best and being recognized for that. We’re proud to partner with SMACNA and Federated to offer this type of recognition for a company that’s improving health and safety for workers.”
Nathan Oland, senior national account executive at Federated Insurance, notes that, “SMACNA’s members have always been safety leaders. The companies recognized are willing to share their safety best-practices for the betterment of all contractors, which is a testament to the culture of both their business and SMACNA.”
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