...held the project’s EPC contract, balked at the requirement. "It took an effort to compel them," says Gary Fischer, Chevron project coordinator. Fluor officials confirm the initial skepticism, citing the firm’s already good safety record. But with evidence of early results, Fluor embraced the approach and now is using it on projects run by three of its large offices, says a spokesman.

Public Problem

With procurement rules tougher to manage in public sector construction, owner-led safety cultures are fewer, officials say. "It would be desirable to include a safety record in the contractor selection process, but we’d have to figure out how to measure it and how to write it into contract language," says Bob Hixon, a former top construction official at the U.S. General Services Administration, who now manages the $540-million U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

Public Eye. The $1.5-billion University of Cincinnati project boosts safety. Photo top left courtesy of The University of Cincinnati.

Even so, some public owners are taking on the task. At the $1.5-billion upgrade and expansion of the University of Cincinnati, officials are making safety a more visible and personal priority for contractors, site workers, community stakeholders and students. "We went from doing a lot of construction with no safety program to winning awards," says Raymond D. Renner, director of construction management. The proximity of 35,000 students and 14,000 staff members propelled the change. The university brought on Joe Glassmeyer, project manager at Cincinnati-based Messer Construction to manage safety activities.

Among the program’s features is a 40-page safety "manual" that spells out the site’s environmental, safety and health requirements and must be signed by all site participants. Contractors initially wanted a change order for the time it took, but then decided it was helping site productivity, says Glassmeyer. "We’re getting better contractors, fewer incidents and no accidents involving students, faculty or the public, he adds. "We get buy-in from workers and teach them how to act in our home on campus." Click here to view chart

This month, the university is among a group of local owners funding a new drug-testing program. Obtaining the drug certification enables workers to take jobs on projects of all participating owners. "We thought there would be grumbling or protests by unions, but no one complained," says Glassmeyer. "It’s something we had to do."

Building trade unions are working with CURT to promote having safety and health criteria included in bid document and selecting contractors based on their safety and health records instead of low bids, says Pete Stafford, executive director of the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights and director of safety and health for the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept. The unions also want mandatory safety training required in project labor agreements.

Colorado Springs Utilities prequalifies all of its contractors based on safety plans and past records. "We have disqualified certain contractors for not meeting our standards," says Chief Operating Officer Jerry Forte. The approach accompanied him to Colorado Springs when he left the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, where site construction contractor Johnson Controls had implemented it. "It didn’t need me to sustain it. It was embedded in everyone’s heart and soul," he says.

Johnson Controls shifted the culture at the DOE site in response to safety issues, says Jon M. Barr, retired president and general manager of the firm’s New Mexico-based unit. "We needed to take a softer approach," says Barr, a retired Navy admiral.

Contractors also are looking beyond lagging indicators of reported incident numbers, focusing instead on leading indicators, such as leadership and employee behavior. "Those are very subjective reviews, but that’s where we can intervene and stop an accident rather than simply reacting to numbers," says John Mathis, manager of environment, safety & health for Bechtel Systems & Infrastructure.

Skanska Building, Parsippany, N.J., has implemented a number of JMJ innovations to build its jobsite safety culture and improve safety results. "In construction, we’re all right-brained engineers. If people get hurt, you just give them goggles and hardhats," says Paul Anderson, COO of its Southeast region. "If that doesn’t work, you just give them better goggles and harder hardhats." He stresses that discussion of "near-misses" on site is equally important. "Instead of safety staffers policing jobsite people, people on the job have to police each other."

Skanska has started a prework exercise program at its sites to reduce injuries and now is seeking cost allowances in its contracts and talking to unions and subs. Anderson notes that on a $45-million Austin museum project, a site bulletin board features photos of workers’ families. There has been just one injury.

Birmingham, Ala.-based BE&K learned its safety values from DuPont, an industry pioneer, says Ted Kennedy, one of the contractor’s founders. "We have a responsibility to see that everyone leaves our job safely," he says. Employees have to know that finishing a job now is not more important than their safety, says Rich Baldwin, safety director. "They can never let a super hurry them," he says. "They have the right to make the job safe."

Small Firm Grows Helping Big Clients Build Safety Cultures
By Mary B. Powers

The consulting firm set up shop 19 years ago on a houseboat in San Francisco Bay to advise small businesses on leadership. Today, JMJ Associates, Austin, Texas, helps some of the world’s largest owners and contractors with global safety programs in multiple languages.

Major clients have included Pfizer, Dow Chemical and Skanska AB. Bovis Lend Lease now is using it on all projects worldwide and BP is considering it for refinery sites–two months after a fatal explosion at its Bay City, Texas, plant.

JMJ’s safety program sprang from its original business developing high-performance teams to push cost and schedule savings on large international projects.

Greenspan Knisely

In Sydney, Australia, JMJ assembled a team that halved the estimated five-year completion date for a huge wastewater tunnel project so it could be finished in time for the 2000 Olympics. "Their interviews were not about our technical expertise or experience, but about how we would respond as a team," says Abdul Rashidi, a project manager at Montgomery Watson, Pasadena, Calif.

JMJ’s leadership development model focuses on the human element, teaching clients how to treat people with dignity and respect, says Steve Knisely, the firm’s chemical engineering-trained partner. "It’s amazing the performance you get with it," he adds. Despite its warm and fuzzy appearance, the JMJ approach always is centered on business. "It helps build healthier cultures and creates individuals profoundly committed to results," Knisely says.

JMJ switched to safety when Monsanto Chemical Co. sought its help to create an injury-free workplace. "We were too naive to know it couldn’t be done," says founder Jay Greenspan. But clients found that productivity, quality and schedules all improved along with safety.