An Inside Look at Interstate's Safety-Driven Culture
In keeping with this year’s National Safety Month theme of “What I live for,” we wanted to answer the question from the Interstate perspective and talk about how it impacts safety and our relationships with employees, customers and the public—and why it’s so important.
What We Know
At Interstate, our leadership team knows our employees don’t always live for their work. They work so they can support their families, enjoy their lives and pursue their passions. We also know how important safety is to our clients. When we show up on a site, our customers need to trust we will not cause additional safety issues or put their employees or the public at risk. That’s why we’ve made safety the top priority on every job and have created a safety-focused culture.
Doing the Right Thing
It’s no secret disaster restoration and construction projects involve risks, and different companies have different philosophies of how best to manage those risks. At Interstate, two of of our core values are “doing the right thing” and “accountability,” and they have a significant impact on how we approach our day-to-day operations.
So what does “do the right thing” mean from a practical standpoint?
Providing comprehensive safety training – One thing that Interstate does differently is we require all of our supervisors—all the way up to the CEO and COO—to complete Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30-hour Construction Training. While this approach is time-consuming and expensive, we feel it’s critical all of our leadership has the building blocks they need to recognize potential hazards and how to address them.
Giving supervisors the authority to stop and fix issues – We also give all of our supervisors and managers the authority to stop work when they see a potential or obvious hazard, so it can be properly addressed before an employee or anyone else is hurt. This means our supervisors focus on details as small as how extension cords are stored in a hallway all the way up to the overall approach we use to address a structural issue in a building. Our employees are empowered to choose safety over convenience every time.
Walking away from unsafe requests – Our commitment to “doing the right thing” runs so deep at Interstate that we will walk away from a job if we believe it is outside of our safety realm. And we have. There have been times when a client has requested we approach a job differently than what we felt was safe and we chose to pass on the job as a result.
Obtaining third-party validation – We know it’s one thing to say we value safety at Interstate, but it’s another thing entirely to prove it. That’s why Interstate also works with outside accrediting companies to validate our programs and rate us amongst other contractors. As part of accreditation processes, we must submit all of our programs, answer detailed questions, submit training and safety meeting records, and allow access to our job sites and employees to make sure everyone is properly trained. Each time we’ve done this, Interstate has received outstanding ratings. We have even received compliments from OSHA.
We don’t assign safety training because it’s a good topic or something that regulators require. We assign it so our employees have the knowledge they need to make sound safety-related decisions.
At the end of the day, everyone is held accountable for good safety practices at Interstate and we work closely with supervisors to make sure mistakes are treated as learning exercises and processes are put in place to ensure they don’t happen again. Our processes emphasize finding ways to improve and when disciplinary action is needed, the actions come from direct supervisors.
A Work in Progress
Interstate’s strong commitment to safety has always been there, but the dedicated focus kicked into high gear about six years ago. The transformation to a safety-oriented company has taken a lot of hard work and dedication. We realize that given all of the variables on every job site, there will always be challenges. However, living-out our core values and continuing to always “do the right thing” helps to keep safety a top priority.
About the Author: John Hogan
John is Director of Safety at Interstate. With over 16 years' experience managing corporate safety programs, he specializes in developing industry leading safety processes and procedures to ensure the safety of employees, clients and the public on jobsites. John holds numerous professional certifications including OSHA 500 & 501 and Safety Management from the American Society of Safety Engineers.