Construction is an inherently dangerous business and through the years too many workers have been injured or killed on construction sites where safety was a low priority— even treated as a burden. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today’s professional contractors take safety seriously and so does the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC), epitomized by the W. Burr Bennett Award for Safety Excellence, ASCC’s highest recognition for safety. Each year ASCC selects a specialty concrete contractor and a general contractor that self-perform concrete work for this prestigious award. This year’s winners exemplify what it takes to have a world-class safety program.

Specialty Concrete Contractor:
Prus Construction Co.
Cincinnati, Ohio

“Prus Construction has a rich and very successful safety program; our safety program is strategic, progressive, relevant, and encourages active participation from all of our employees,” says Prus director of safety, Jason Harvey. The result is an EMR of 0.99 for the past 3 years and zero recordable injuries in 2011 in 200,000 hours worked. “Safety is a core value,” says Harvey, with the full support of management and employees being involved and empowered every step of the way.

Safety training at Prus is not glossed over or perfunctory. Training is active, with employees sharing stories, making the training more interesting and memorable. “Our employees complain if they aren’t invited to a particular training session,” says Harvey. “Looking for ways to bring the training into the field, Prus started a safety sticker program, where workers get hardhat stickers specially designed for each specific training program. “On the job, employees see a new sticker on someone else’s hardhat and they inquire about the sticker and the class. This discussion automatically fosters a top-of-mind awareness about safety and brings the practices learned out to the jobsite.”

On a recent municipal project, Prus put its philosophy into action. In the Accident Prevention Plan (AAP) for this project, the company’s objectives are clearly spelled out: “Our goal is to be 100% incident free.” This document also assigns clear lines of responsibility, starting with the project manager and superintendent and delegating this to the site safety officer and the workers themselves: “Each field crew member is responsible for his/her own safety and the safety of his/her coworkers. Field crew members are expected to provide suggestions that will be considered by the project manager and site superintendent relative to their seeking remedies to potential dangers. If any crew member performs dangerous work practices or does not report safety violations, he/she shall be removed from the jobsite and replaced with qualified personnel.” You can’t be much clearer than that.

General Contractor:
Detroit, Mich.

In 2011, Walbridge was awarded the Michigan OSHA Platinum Award for having 7 million man-hours without a lost time injury—they are currently up to 10 million man-hours since 2003 without a lost-time injury. A record like that is only possible through the total commitment of management “to providing all trades people and subcontractors a healthful and safe workplace and to demonstrate leadership, responsibility, and accountability in furthering worker health and safety at all levels,” writes senior corporate safety manager Mike Palazzola.

Walbridge is a full-service national contractor with more than 600 employees—including 50 full-time safety professionals. With over a million man-hours worked in 2011, Walbridge had only 2 recordable incidents for an EMR of 0.60—almost disappointing by its standards. The company’s EMR was 0.57 in 2009 and 0.58 in 2010.

Walbridge’s commitment to safety is embodied in its #1 Core Value: Think, demand, and deliver safety in all aspects of our business. “Safety is discussed first at every meeting at every level,” says Palazzola. “One of the banners Walbridge displays on every job is its Safety Motto: If it is NOT SAFE, I WON’T DO IT and I WON’T LET OTHERS DO IT. With this motto, we encourage every worker on our projects to take ownership of their safety responsibilities.”

Training is key. Every Walbridge employee must complete 30 hours of training each year, amounting to 83,000 hours of safety training since 2004. And the training efforts extend to partners, suppliers, and subcontractors, which also impacts its overall safety record. Every worker is required to be in three safety huddles each day.

Every subcontractor on a Walbridge project must follow strict safety requirements; including having a trained safety person on site with the authority to stop work at any time to make any needed corrections. Subs must have an MSDS file and make sure that their workers are trained in the use of all chemicals. They must have a hearing protection program and a respiratory protection program. Penalties for any safety violations are broken down into three categories ranging from those that would not cause death or serious injury to those that put a person in immediate danger (Class III). A Class III violation results in the removal of the subcontractor from the project for 12 months.

These two companies, and most construction companies today, show that construction can be safe, productive, and profitable.

How EMR is Calculated*

A company’s Experience Modification Rate (EMR) is determined by its insurance company. An EMR of 1.0 is the average; less than 1.0 means the company is safer than average and will therefore have lower premiums. Here’s how the EMR is determined:

  • The company’s payroll is divided by 100, and then by a ‘class rate’ determined by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) that reflects the inherent risk in that job classification.
  • The insurer compares claims history from the past 3 years to that of similar companies. If you’ve had a higher-than-normal rate of injuries in the past, they assume that your rate will continue to be higher in the future.
  • NCCI has a complicated formula that considers the ratio between expected losses in your industry and what your company actually incurred, as well as both the frequency of losses and the severity of those losses. A company with one big loss is going to be ‘penalized’ less than a company with many smaller losses.
  • The result of all that is the EMR, which is then multiplied against the manual premium rate to determine your actual premium.

* Based on information from the Safety Management Group, Indianapolis,