AGC Honors
Making safety missions critical
The Associated General Contractors of Alaska logo

n any year, maintaining safety on the job is critical. In 2020, safety supervisors took center stage, implementing changing safety procedures as quickly as possible, working to make sure employees were safe, and, if working remotely, that contact was as limited as possible between the remote workforce and the community in which they were working. For many Associated General Contractors of Alaska members, safety is a top concern, and this year worker and crew safety were a focus like never before.

“We struggled with whether or not to present awards this year, without an in-person event. But excellence in safety, especially this year, needs to be celebrated and recognized,” Alicia Siira said when the virtual awards ceremony began Wednesday, November 11.

David Wulf, Vice President of Health, Safety, and Environment for ConocoPhillips, presented the awards during the online presentation, after giving an overview of the work ConocoPhillips has been doing on the North Slope, and how COVID-19 has affected drilling—with never-before-seen shutdowns of Slope activities.

Companies that applied to win the award had to demonstrate strong safety commitment on behalf of company managers; show active employee participation; show ongoing safety training, as well as work site hazard identification and control; and demonstrate innovation in implementing their safety program.

Excellence in Safety – Building Division; Cornerstone General Contractors, Inc.
The Associated General Contractors of Alaska logo
Excellence in Safety – Building Division
Cornerstone General Contractors, Inc.
Excellence in Safety – Building Division

Cornerstone General Contractors, Inc. won the Excellence in Safety—Building Division award. Wulf says the judges commended Cornerstone because its safety staff exchanged ideas with employees on performance, the company implemented a near-miss program that provides new metrics, and it demonstrated visible commitment by managers to safety success.

“At Cornerstone, safety is our number-one priority. We strive to assure that all of our employees can spend their time away from the workplace with their families, and friends in good health and free of injuries,” says Cornerstone’s General Superintendent Keenan Quirk. “We are always searching for ways to do things better and safer without compromise. This award for Excellence in Safety is confirmation that we are on the correct path, but the journey continues.”

Excellence in Safety—Heavy Division; Ahnta Global, LLC
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Excellence in Safety—Heavy Division
Ahnta Global, LLC
Excellence in Safety—Heavy Division

Ahnta Global, LLC won the Excellence in Safety—Heavy Division award by demonstrating that company leaders, including its president, are committed to safety. Wulf says the judges noted that Ahtna Global’s accident and injury rates are well below industry standards and are the lowest among the Ahtna family of companies. Supervisors are trained in behavioral-based safety methodology and the management team backs the “lead by example” approach, Wulf notes.

“We are very pleased to be selected for this prestigious award for construction safety. Our construction projects take us to remote locations across Alaska doing all sorts of tasks. I’m gratified to see our commitment to training and safe operations contributes directly to our employees returning home safely to their families,” says Timothy F. Gould, executive vice president of Ahtna Global, LLC.

Excellence in Safety—Specialty Division; Coldfoot Environmental Services
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Excellence in Safety—Specialty Division
Coldfoot Environmental Services
Excellence in Safety—Specialty Division

Coldfoot Environmental Services won the award for Excellence in Safety—Specialty Division by employing some remarkable measures to keep employees focused on safety.

“Safety songs? The judges would like to hear more about that one,” says Wulf. He says the judges also commended Coldfoot Environmental Services for holding three safety meetings a day and for translating policies for temporary foreign workers, a step that shows inclusion. Company President Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez was lauded for being personally involved in safety procedures.

Rodriguez says he takes an active stance when it comes to safety because he wants employees to recognize the importance of a safe work environment.

“Safety, I think, is the biggest risk that everyone faces out there, from both the employer’s and employee’s standpoint. I want to make sure that everything goes smoothly, that employees are relaying their problems to their manager, and/or to their supervisor,” he says.

He goes on to say that sometimes he leads safety survey meetings. If an employee is having an issue finding the best tool for the job, he’ll help by trying different tools to find one that works.

“If there’s something that I can change to make an employee’s day better or safer, that’s my goal. I think when management gets involved in the safety aspect, especially on a job site, employees value that more than most people would believe. It demonstrates that the company actually cares,” he says.

Coldfoot Environmental has previously won Excellence in Safety awards and was the first Alaska winner of the Associated General Contractors national award for Excellence in Safety. Rodriguez says he believes it demonstrates to employees that the company is taking care of employees by maintaining a safe work environment.

Excellence in Safety — Highway Division; Brice, Incorporated
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Excellence in Safety — Highway Division
Brice, Incorporated
Excellence in Safety—Highway Division

Brice, Inc. won the Excellence in Safety—Highway Division. The company demonstrated a strong commitment to safety through its “shut down” policy in the event of a hazard or imminent danger and through its sound emphasis on regular safety site inspections, daily safety meetings, employee orientation, and task training, Wulf says. Judges also noted that Brice’s program policies, plans, and procedures are designed with all employees, contractors, their families and communities in mind.

Dan Clark, corporate safety officer with Brice, says this year, with so much focus on COVID-19, it has been important to not only implement new COVID-19-related policies, but ensure that employees remain focused on everyday job site safety measures as well.

“We still have to keep these guys and gals from falling off ladders or getting electrocuted,” he says.

Clark says he strives to improve one aspect of the company’s safety plan or implement something new each year.

“By no means is everything perfect, but we’re striving to improve. This year, it was orientation for new hires. What makes it hard for construction—seasonal construction like this—is every year, it’s a new crew. There’s a lot of onus on the superintendents and project management to do the training at different sites each year,” Clark says.

Excellence in Safety —Individual Award; Dora Hughes, Knik Construction
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Excellence in Safety —Individual Award
Dora Hughes, Knik Construction

One of the most coveted safety awards AGC and ConocoPhillips deliver each year is the Individual Award for Excellence in Safety. This year, Dora Hughes, health, safety, and security manager at Knik Construction, was chosen as the individual award winner.

“I was above and beyond surprised and honored to receive this individual award,” Hughes says.

Although Hughes has worked at Knik for twelve years, she has only held the HSE position since September 2019, taking over from now-retired Knik Construction employee Mike Buck. Hughes says Buck laid a firm foundation for safety at the company, and the fact that she knew most of her coworkers made it easy to transition to a management-level position. It was helpful to have that knowledge base in place when 2020’s curveballs started being thrown. Knik regularly works in rural Alaska communities, many of which were heavily affected by the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu epidemic, so when news of the COVID-19 global pandemic spread this spring, community precautions were taken very seriously.

“We had a pandemic plan and specific plans at each of our job sites. In addition to the pandemic plan, we have some people who are from out of state, so we had a travel advisory and a self-quarantine plan for those going into the communities we were working in. We had a housing plan and also an evacuation plan,” says Hughes.

The evacuation plan, she says, was in case of a COVID-19 outbreak. The strategy was complicated after an Alaska-based airline that served rural communities halted flights this year, cutting off a key mode of transportation to many villages. But Hughes says the company adapted and developed workable plans for the nine communities in which they worked over the season.

“We were labeled as a gold standard from the city of Aniak for taking extra precautions, and for the commitment of the employees on the job site,” Hughes says. “It was a challenging season, but everybody stuck through it.”

Hughes says winning the award is an incentive to continue to improve. In the coming year, she hopes to help employees continue to focus on situational awareness and to help employees continue to plan ahead, particularly when they are conducting field work.

All photos a courtesy of their respective company and recipient.