The Associated General Contractors of Alaska logo
Tune Your Energy title
Companies honored for creating safe workspaces
By Rindi White
Leslie Whatley
Excellence in Safety Building Division, Davis Constructors & Engineers Inc.

afety is more than talking with your team about appropriate ladder use or eye protection on the job site. It’s a practice, one that is perfected over time and driven by a company-wide commitment to safety from project beginning to end, including reporting unsafe job practices and equipment in need of repair.

Associated General Contractors of Alaska, or AGC, and ConocoPhillips recognized four companies and one individual for outstanding commitments to safety at the ConocoPhillips Excellence in Safety Luncheon on November 10, a part of the 2022 AGC Annual Convention.

Excellence in Safety Building Division

“At Davis, we do not believe that a healthy and safe work environment occurs by chance. It is the result of good work habits and constant attention to company policy by everyone at all times,” wrote representatives of Davis Constructors & Engineers, Inc. in their award submission. “‘Success is no accident’ is our guiding principle at Davis.”

The company invites independent third parties to inspect its job sites and review its safety program. This year Davis has been recommended and accepted into Gold Status for the CHASE, or Construction Health and Safety Excellence, program. The program, developed by Alaska Occupational Safety and Health, or AKOSH, builds partnerships with Alaska contractors to develop a proactive approach to reducing injuries within the construction industry.

Having an open policy for employee feedback helps Davis make safety a strength. Employee solutions the company received include converting tools from electric to battery operated to reduce tripping hazards from cords; using a single-strap ice cleat that is easier than typical ice cleats to put on and take off; and using employee-designed and fabricated tools made specifically for moving heavy objects safely.

Other Davis innovations include having a variety of in-house departments visit job sites to help the whole team understand what happens on the site and how to keep all jobs running safely; researching and reviewing potential projects for risks and, in some cases, choosing not to bid work that does not meet company standards for safety; mitigating risk with pre-planning; work stoppage if unsafe conditions arise; and post-construction reviews. The company includes subcontractors in its safety program, and there is consistent involvement from company leaders in the safety program.

“Our company and safety culture wasn’t built overnight; it’s been an evolutionary process. Davis is lucky enough to have second generation employees who were trained the ‘Davis Way’ a decade ago and now train a new generation,” says Davis Safety Manager Kurt Waggoner. “When we win awards in safety, it helps bring a sense of pride to our company and well-deserved recognition for choosing safety. Our employees are our greatest asset, and when they are motivated to put safety first in their workday, it encourages all of our employees.”

Excellence in Safety Heavy Division

“Safety is a core value at Ahtna. It starts at the very top, with Ahtna’s president, Tim Finnigan,” Ahtna Infrastructure & Technologies LLC’s safety narrative states.

Finnigan has received five US Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, Celebrate Safety awards and the prestigious USACE Pacific Ocean Division Chief of Engineers award as project leader. Finnigan encourages all field representatives, managers, and supervisors to start every meeting with a safety moment.

Ahtna holds a zero DART, or Days Away, Restrictions, Transfers, rate for Ahtna’s Alaska operations from the company’s formation in 2019 to September 2022 when the award submissions were made. In addition to other safety training, Ahtna incorporates a Behavior Based Safety methodology, which employees are trained on annually, that raises employee safety awareness, modifies behavior, improves safety leadership skills, and creates a proactive positive safety attitude. The company also requires all field supervisory personnel to complete the AKOSH thirty-hour training course, first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training and selected safety topics that are project- and site-specific. The company sets aside an entire day for employee safety training, led by the company president and director of construction. Attendance is required for all staff—including field and office personnel—and topics cover a wide array of practical safety applications and training in a fun and upbeat atmosphere. Ahtna also requires all subcontractors to complete a pre-job orientation about Ahtna’s safety program prior to heading to the jobsite.

Putting safety first affects every aspect of the workplace, says Ronald DesGranges, Ahtna’s vice-president of construction.

“Ahtna’s focus on safety helps protect our workers from injury and illness, which in turn gets them home safe, lowers costs, increases productivity and quality, reduces turnover, raises employee morale, and enhances overall business operations within Ahtna. These benefits are carried through to Ahtna’s customers, who also see excellence in project performance, lower costs, and on-time project completion.”

man holding Excellence In Safety Highway Division plaque
Excellence in Safety Highway Division, Granite Construction Company

Excellence in Safety Highway Division

At Granite Construction Company, company leaders say safety is about people, not projects. It’s about stories, not statistics. Safety is about connecting people. And it’s deeply personal. “At Granite, we are responsible for making safe choices not only for ourselves but for those around us,” Granite leaders stated in the company’s award submittal.

“Safety by choice means we choose to work safely in every situation without compromise,” says Chris Rodriguez, Safety Manager for Granite Construction. “This award reflects the hard work and dedication of our craft workforce and project leadership to build each project with a genuine commitment to the safety of every single employee. We won this award because of the individual and collective efforts of every employee, recognizing safety as our number-one core value,” he says.

Granite is celebrating zero recordable injuries for the 2022 season, and it recently received the Governor’s Safety Award of Excellence for its 2021 safety performance. The company’s Alaska Region equipment department is approaching a 10-year milestone without a recordable injury, and its materials department has more than three years of zero recordable injuries.

Rodriguez says winning the Excellence in Safety award helps demonstrate to both current and prospective employees and business partners that Granite is an industry leader in building “even the most challenging work safely.”

“World-class companies strive for world-class safety results. Winning this award is an achievement that we are tremendously proud of,” he says.

man holding Excellence in Safety Individual Award plaque

Excellence in Safety Individual Award, Craig Worrell

Excellence in Safety Specialty Division

ASRC Earthworks LLC, or AEL, sees safety as a continual process of refining and evolution.

“AEL’s management believes that an excellent safety culture begins with knowledge and training. Employee training starts at the time of hire and continues throughout their employment tenure,” AEL officials wrote in the company’s award submission.

The AEL safety management team holds various safety courses throughout the year for field and office personnel, and each year the company holds a multi-day safety refresher training that all employees must attend.

“We do not see safety as an extra task but see it as an integral part of project planning from day one,” AEL leaders wrote.

Planning for safety pays off. Jason Nichols, preconstruction manager for ASRC Construction, says the company has not had a lost workday incident in more than three years, and it holds a DART rate of zero over the same time period.

The company maintains a policy of recognizing anyone—employee or subcontractor—who feels it necessary to stop work to discuss a potentially unsafe situation and mitigate the risk.

“Our most valuable assets are our employees, and AEL strives to ensure that everybody goes home safely, every day, including subcontractors, on-site representatives, and anyone who may access our job sites. Our firm has a safety culture of Zero Incidents, and we empower Safety Champions who lead by example in the office and on project sites and buy in to continuously shift the safety culture forward,” AEL leaders wrote.

Nichols says winning helps underscore AEL’s safety goals.

“Winning a safety award such as this validates our efforts in promoting a company-wide, zero-incident safety culture and speaks to the work of our HSE team and the entire organization,” he says. “In addition, the award further illustrates our commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of our employees, customers, community, and the environment.”

Excellence in Safety Individual award

A culture of safety should include everyone in the company. And it does at Davis Constructors & Engineers; safety is modeled from the top down. But within the company, the commitment to safety of one individual stands out.

Craig Worrell, director of fleet operations at Davis Constructors & Engineers, overhauled the company’s fleet operations safety protocol eight years ago, when the company made some moves that led to company growth. Growth meant a sizable increase in Davis’ vehicle fleet, more new mechanics, and the need for well-understood safety protocols.

Stepping up with new ideas, even if they mean slowing production down to reduce the likelihood of injury, is something Worrell has become known for. Some of the programs implemented include twice-weekly safety meetings led by employees; twice-monthly leadership training; daily equipment checks; and daily stretch and flex programs. It has paid off. The company recently celebrated seven years of zero lost time or OSHA recordable incidents for fleet personnel, and Davis and Mass X have achieved two- and three-year stretches of no recordable incidents on major jobs. The key to the program’s success, Worrell says, is involvement.

“Our program is very strong and backed up by the owners, senior leadership, managers, and all who are part of the Davis/Mass X team. The message is unilateral with complete support as we include our people in constant safety trainings, awards internally, and accolades from outside of the organization when we receive them. This is part of why our safety culture runs so deep and we have buy-in from our teams, because we all believe in the safety process. This creates a very circular pattern and with each revolution it grows and keeps the momentum of the program and the participation at the highest level,” he says.

“For the past fifteen years, Craig has dedicated his career to his employees and co-workers. He is one-of-a-kind and was the driving force behind the change in the Davis Safety program. Every day Craig chooses to put his team’s safety above everything else. As a result, he is leading the equipment industry to a bright and safe future. Never looking for the spotlight or recognition, Craig’s efforts often go unnoticed because he always gets the job done,” Davis leaders wrote when applying for the individual award.

Worrell says receiving the award helps keep momentum of the company’s safety program high.

“I believe that these forms of recognition help cement the ideas of safety culture with the employees that we are all working towards the same foundational goal and someone else recognized it. I think this brings a level of pride for our folks which they are proud to share internally and with their loved ones. Additionally, I think it sends a message to newcomers that safety is very important to us and helps to set the stage for success in their career with Davis and Mass X,“ Worrell says.

Rindi White is editor of The Alaska Contractor. Photos by Photo Emporium.