Committed to Zero: How We Made Real Safety Happen

At Interstates, we have been very fortunate in our safety achievements. For instance, reaching 1,000,000 hours without a recordable incident in 2016. Or more recently, the ABC National Safety Excellence Pinnacle award.  Only 10 of 23,000 member companies earned this top level award. Because of achievements like these, we are often asked “how we do it.” That is a great question with some soft, but important, answers.

Safety Starts With Leadership

As I reflect on the question of how we do it, my mind is drawn to some key milestone moments in our history. It took time for our leadership team to fully understand how much they impact every discussion and every decision about safety. Therefore, we were challenged with addressing our leaders’ commitment to safety. Of course our company has always been safety-oriented, yet we weren’t fully believing that a zero-injury culture was within our reach. We wanted it to be more about front-line leadership and responsible tradespeople. Yet, after some serious soul-searching and dedication to the idea that zero is possible, we did it. Our leaders were able to set the tone for our entire organization. We understood that whatever tone we set, we were the ones leading our people. Therefore, we needed to change what we were working towards.

Engaging the Front Line

Once our leader team was on board, we were ready to take this to the next level. The next milestone was engaging our front line leaders. Which, in our world, are project managers and field leaders. Again, the core of our mission was to encourage a zero-injury mindset. We found it helpful to make it personal by talking about what motivates us (to both good and bad behaviors). Additionally, we had a greater impact by developing and sharing our own stories. It was important for front line leaders to think intentionally about how they lead, what they reinforce, influence, and allow within their teams. Not all of these conversations were easy, but they were definitely worthwhile.

Focusing on the Why and How

After we had our people on board and felt ready pursue a zero-injury culture, we were able to start scouring the industry for techniques to make it happen. These were the how’s that we could now use, because we already had the why solidly in place. Some try to accomplish these tasks by only focusing on the how’s – processes, procedures, software, etc. However, we can tell you from experience, you may put a dent in your safety challenges with how’s, but you will not finish the race and win the day without getting the why right first. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. The hard work of culturally attacking this huge industry issue must be done.

Along our pursuit of a zero-injury culture, one resource we found particularly helpful was the ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Safety Road Map. It is full of proven (real numbers) techniques, to culturally and tactically make a difference. It has impactful and informative research that is focused on making a cultural difference in our industry. Click here to view the report (Safety Road Map on page 8).


This blog post was written by Dave Crumrine.


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