Grantham (right) doesn’t compromise.

Eddie Grantham’s success is measured by what doesn’t happen, hour after hour, day after day. At 90,000 labor hours and counting without a recordable injury on a Texas petrochemical jobsite that stews in risk, Grantham, site safety manager, is certainly considered successful.

Grantham, who works for BE&K Inc., Birmingham, on the $100-million project, is quick to credit the safety commitments of the workers and also of project owner BP Alternative Energy. “Safety is an attitude issue,” he says. The key is in getting workers to believe that they can be safe, “day in and day out.” That’s the purpose of daily safety meetings, and of safety paperwork and procedures. Ultimately it all comes back to the standards embraced across the project.

“It starts with integrity,” Grantham emphasizes. “I won’t back down when it comes to safety and I won’t manipulate the numbers.”

BPAE backs him up. Tom Stastny, director of engineering, procurement, and construction, says the company has spread the word that every worker on site has the right to stop work if  safety is at stake. It’s not an empty pledge, either, says Stastny. It has been done.

Inspections fill the days as do safety-plan reviews and safety meetings.

One look around the project shows why. BE&K is building BPAE’s first facility, a 250-MW condensing steam turbine to burn refinery gas in a huge petrochemical complex in Texas City. As Grantham pulls up to the project office at 5:30 a.m., the air smells of sulfur. The complex sprawls as far as you can see in a maze of pipes, steel and stacks. Industrial lights and flares light the pre-dawn sky. Hazard potential is everywhere. In 2005, an explosion at another BP project in the complex killed 15 people. Most were contractors in their trailers. Grantham’s office is nearby. Lesson learned.

Grantham starts the day calibrating an air-quality monitor, taking care to train Efren Solis, who is expected to replace him when he retires in a few years. Then he attacks a mountain of safety task planners that every worker on site is required to complete for every task planned, every day. Grantham works away at auditing them all until it is time to convene the morning safety meeting.

His intense focus on safety is driven by the memory of digging his best friend out of a collapsed hole shortly after starting in construction in 1963, and the experience of taking a 50-lb steel gusset on his hardhat in 1973 after a welder dropped it from 23 ft up. “The doctors couldn’t figure out how my spine survived,” he says.

Walking the site later that day he spots danger. A young man working on shoring is tied off, but the attachment is too low. “If he fell, his line wouldn’t catch him until after his head hit the ground,” he says, and tells a supervisor to call the man down and set him straight. The worker is fortunate. He is safer and since he had made a good-faith effort, he isn’t fired. Grantham’s policy on fall protection: “Zero tolerance: You get one warning—when you are hired.”