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Putting Moore into Safety

WB MOORE RECEIVES AGC OF AMERICA’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS SAFETY AWARD

BY AUTUMN CAFIERO GIUSTI

There’s a lot more that goes into jobsite safety than putting a checkmark in a box.

That’s the mindset driving the safety program at WB Moore Company of Charlotte Inc., a Carolinas AGC member, which has stepped up its operations in recent years to develop training, procedures and in-house resources to meet this goal while serving as an electrical contractor for commercial and industrial projects.

Steve Strokis, safety and training manager for WB Moore, says maintaining an effective compliance program isn’t rocket science, but it does call for more than a checklist mentality.

“There’s no real magic formula to it. It’s just showing up every day and trying to develop good habits in your work force,” Strokis says. “There can be a huge disconnect between a safety program and how it’s implemented in the field.”

In recognition of these practices, WB Moore received AGC of America’s most prestigious safety recognition earlier this year when it was named the grand winner of the Willis Construction Excellence Safety Awards.

Kevin Cannon, senior director of safety and health services for AGC, says one of the things that stood out about Moore is the company’s approach to improving itself. The company attended the awards program for several years before actually receiving the recognition. Cannon observed that in previous years, Moore would have its attendees take notes and share ideas at the events on how to continually improve on their company’s safety programs.

“I think that really is what got them to this point – that pursuit of continuous improvement,” Cannon says.

Judging criteria included an overview of the company’s programs, employee involvement, procedures, resources and promotions in the area of safety.

WB Moore has never suffered a work-related catastrophic injury or fatality, or been issued an OSHA citation or violation. “They really do a lot in the way of training and developing their workers. I think that is one of the things they do an exceptional job in,” Cannon says.

SAFETY EVOLUTION
WB Moore got its start in 1978 in Dallas, where the late William Bruce Moore built himself one of the most successful electrical contracting companies in Texas at that time. One of the key members of that team was Billy Graves. In the late ‘80s, Graves relocated from Dallas to Charlotte, North Carolina, to provide the electrical contracting work for what is now the Bank of America Corporate Center, a 60-story high rise in Charlotte and one of the largest construction projects in the Southeast’s history.

After Moore died in 1991 and the company ceased operations, Graves was able to re-establish WB Moore in Charlotte and later open a Raleigh office as well.

As WB Moore evolved, the company started to turn its attention to its safety practices. When the company experienced a
growth spurt about five years ago, Graves believed it was time for WB Moore to bring on an in-house safety and training manager.

Traditionally, in-house safety managers were relegated to general contractor companies. WB Moore helped pioneer the shift toward making safety a concern in the electrical realm by adding in-house safety professionals.

“WB Moore was probably one of the first to make that commitment,” Strokis says.

The company tapped Strokis, who had been on a project manager track and had worked as an apprenticeship instructor, to fill the position. WB Moore also brought on a safety manager for its Raleigh office three hours away.

“It’s becoming more common, but there are a lot of electricals out there that aren’t big enough to support an in-house safety professional the way we are right now,” Strokis said.

Strokis says that when he first came on the job, some of the supervisors at the time didn’t understand why the company
needed a safety program because they had never had it before and safety had never been an issue. Over time, some of those supervisors moved on or retired, while others have come around.

“We’ve made that turn,” Strokis says. “Now I’m dealing with some of the younger supervisors who have been indoctrinated in safety for much of their careers. So for them, it’s natural.”

Strokis says the lynchpin to WB Moore’s safety program is its first-line supervisors.

“They set the tone for everything our crew does as far as productivity and workmanship. That’s the core of our culture,” he says.

TRAINING RESOURCES
WB Moore has also devoted a great deal of resources to safety and training programs. For the company’s annual SafetyFest event, the company shuts down its entire operation for a full day and brings together all employees so they can listen to safety speeches and participate in training exercises. At the end of the event, the employees gather for food, vendor booths and games. “It’s a mandatory event, and we pay our employees to show up,” Strokis says, adding that it’s rare for a company to completely shut down for a day just to talk and train for safety.

“I’ve never seen that level of commitment in any company I’ve worked for,” he says.

Among its other safety efforts, WB Moore holds a quarterly safety slogan contest. The company’s safety committee chooses the best slogan from employee submissions and has the slogan printed on T-shirts that are distributed to everyone in the company. The creator of the winning slogan receives a $50 gift card.

“I can’t tell you how many WB Moore safety t-shirts are walking around the Carolinas right now. I personally own about 40
of them,” Strokis says.

WB Moore also holds a safety coloring contest for their families, in which the children submit entries for safety posters. Twelve winners are chosen for WB Moore’s safety calendar, which goes out to all employees as well as their clients and vendors in December.

WB Moore does most of its training in-house. In addition to apprenticeship training, the company offers career enhancement opportunities for its employees, such as National Electrical Code classes and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification.

SPOTTING JOBSITE PRESSURES
Strokis says that when he gets to a jobsite, he makes a point of walking around to see what kind of pressures the team is under. “When supervisors are under extreme pressure, then they start taking shortcuts. And if you start taking shortcuts and push that down to your crew, things go south in a hurry,” Strokis says. “I say, ‘Take a deep breath, think about the most important thing you’ve got in front of you, which is your crew, and try to de-stress and think about things that way.”

Strokis says he tries to be the calming voice in the background that reminds the crews and supervisors to remember safety. “I understand we make our money by putting conduit and wire in buildings, but the price we have to pay is we have to do it safely,” he says.

And sometimes, that means having to adjust schedules on a weekly basis in order to accommodate safety. Strokis says that striking a balance between safety and productivity is one of his biggest challenges on a daily basis. The safety team regularly sits down with crews to figure out an action plan to complete the job in a safe and practical manner, even if the approach doesn’t keep things moving at warp speed.

“In the real world, I see people talk a lot about safety until it becomes inconvenient because of the pressure of schedules,” he says.“A true commitment is a top-down commitment at every level of the organization, and you don’t stop talking about safety because you have outside pressures. I think as a company, that’s one of our strong points.”