In the early 1990s, an Intel Corp. construction project in Ireland received a safety flag, a top local award for an outstanding jobsite safety record. But project leader Art Stout, now the chipmaker’s manager of corporate capital development, wouldn’t allow the flag to be flown, claiming the record "wasn’t good enough."

Intel implemented and honed a tougher corporate-wide construction safety program that has made it an industry role model today. Recordable injuries and illnesses fell from a rate of 5.95 per 100 full-time workers in 1994 to 0.68 just five years later. But the global manufacturer, which spends between $3 billion and $7.5 billion a year on capital investment, still is not satisfied. "We used to think injuries were a natural course of construction," says Stout. "Now we want to get our injury rate beyond zero."

Reaching that goal has pushed Intel to look at safety in a new light and to elevate its jobsite priority to a new level, even above schedule and budget. "We’re willing to sacrifice those two to make sure no one gets hurt," says Stout. For Intel and other owners and contractors, safety these days is permeating the very fabric of the jobsite–creating a "culture" that demands buy-in from top executives and workers alike, and transforming safety management from simply collecting statistics to predicting why deaths and injuries happen and proactively preventing them.

Worker Friendly. Poster on site reminds employees why they need to follow job’s safety rules. (Photo courtesy of Skanska Building)

Despite improved safety performance on construction sites over the years and more exchange of best practices among owners, organized labor, union and nonunion contractors, accidents such as the March 23 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas that killed 15 contractor employees in trailers remind industry officials that all is far from perfect (ENR 4/4 p. 10).

Oil company officials have taken responsibility for the accident and are making reparations, but talk abounds of breakdowns in site safety communications and of contractors hurriedly removing trailers from the refinery boundaries. "In a long-term sense, it’s scary," says Ron Prichard, a Plainfield, Ind., safety consultant also affiliated with the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), a Cincinnati-based group of large owners. "For the last 15 years, everyone has been losing staff in safety and we’ve operated lean for so long, we’re just a cat’s whisker away from a disaster again sometime soon."

Intel and other enlightened owners are spreading the safety responsibility to everyone on site and deep into the company fabric. "When I arrived at Intel three years ago, I got a cup of coffee and an employee warned me to put a lid on the cup," says Bob Predmore, director of worldwide construction. "It may sound simple, but it embeds the culture."

Intel contractors know from the start that the owner means business on safety. Construction bidders must have an "experience modifier rate" of 1.0 or lower, a figure that governs workers’ compensation insurance costs and signifies a responsible firm. "We’re now dealing with contractors that have .6, .7, and .8 three-year rolling averages," says Steve Bowers, Intel’s worldwide safety director. Contractors feel the pain but know it boosts their credentials. "They will grade you on your safety record," says one Intel builder. "They force you to put your money where your mouth is."

Warming Up. Skanska employees follow "stretch and flex" regimen to reduce chances of soft tissue injuries on construction sites. (Photo courtesy of Skanska Building)

Intel officials believe that injuries are not a cost of doing business. "It’s all about leadership and the time and money it takes to get to that point," says Bowers. The chipmaker has led the industry in studying soft tissue injuries, a big problem in construction, says Ali Afghan, construction program manager at Intel’s Oregon site. "Our vision is to raise the bar to another level and see the reduction of muscular and skeletal cumulative trauma disorders." Intel contractors now must define an ergonomics program to cut soft tissue injuries.

Shutting down a project in the cutthroat semiconductor market, even if for just a "near-miss" incident, amplifies Intel’s safety culture message, of-ficials insist. "We stopped a project for two days that was already two weeks behind the critical path," says Predmore.

Afghan admits that the safety credo is a business decision, preserving long-term work force mobility and quality of life. Intel also notes major improvements at overseas sites, particularly in cultures where safety rules never existed or were eschewed. Workers at one Chinese fab plant site once rioted over safety goggle requirements, says Predmore. Last month, he cited the job for 3.5 million man-hours without a recordable incident.

Mega-Results. Chevron project off African coast saw injury rate drop significantly. (Photo courtesy of Chevron)

Officials at Chevron Corp. credit development of the oil company’s "incident and injury-free" safety culture to a small, Austin, Texas-based consulting firm that helped it turn around results at a $650-million fuels plant and pipeline in Saudi Arabia in 1996 (see page 2).

"Our safety program had been unpredictable," says Rick Miller, a Chevron project manager who hired JMJ Associates. "In one year, we had 13.5 million man-hours with one lost-time accident and two recordables." After such results, Chevron tried the JMJ approach at a few pilot sites. Safety statistics were so immediately impressive that the owner used it at all large capital construction jobs. The firm now is using the method for operations and maintenance at refineries.

The JMJ approach builds on a company’s safety processes and procedures by adding a new layer of commitment, says Steve Knisely, a JMJ partner. It requires shifting safety from a priority to a "value," a deep-seated belief that it will not be compromised and will actually drive a company’s actions. "We have a process, but the company does the work," says Knisely, who also counts Intel as a client. "It brings the human element to the workplace and creates an approach for people to understand the consequences of injuries and death." Adds JMJ founder Jay Greenspan, "The construction industry is statistically obsessed but numbers come down when you focus on people."

The approach focuses on safety’s "subjective side," adds Craig May, a Chevron capital project coordinator. "It studies what can’t be measured–behavior, culture and intentions." Chevron’s safety program now gives equal emphasis to subjective issues and processes, he says. May was not always a believer, fearing the approach would be considered too warm and fuzzy for a hard-edged jobsite. "At first, I wondered if we were going to sit around and sing Kumbaya," he says.

On May�s latest project, the hookup and commissioning of Chevron�s Sanha Condensate complex off the coast of Angola that finished this year, 1 million man-hours of work were completed with no lost-time injuries and only one recordable injury. For all Chevron projects, recordable injury rates are down 50% and total days away from work have dropped 60%, officials say. May says top management supports the new approach.

Contractors also are required to sign an agreement with JMJ to use its services but getting their buy-in is not always easy. On Chevron’s oil and gas development project in Tengiz, Kazakhstan, a joint venture of WorleyParsons and Fluor Daniel that...