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Sault contractor puts safety policy into practice

For 22 years, Mike Moore & Sons Construction have nurtured a deeply engrained culture of workplace safety. The Sault Ste.
Notre  Dame March
Sault Ste. Marie's Mike Moore & Sons Construction are the unquestioned leaders in construction workplace safety in garnering their second national award in four years.

For 22 years, Mike Moore & Sons Construction have nurtured a deeply engrained culture of workplace safety.

The Sault Ste. Marie general contractor's record and dedication to being the best in construction workplace safety has filled a trophy case full of local, provincial and national industry awards.

They've gone more than 600,000 hours without a lost-time injury, last recording an incident 12 years ago. Though aiming for a million accident-free hours, “we don't like to talk about it,” said company president Mike Moore. “We don't want to put a curse on us.”

Their rigorous attention to detail earned the company its second national workplace safety award in four years. The Gordon M. Vipond Trophy at the Canadian Construction Association's annual conference in Hawaii this spring.

Finding ways to keep employees out of harm's way was hammered home to Moore many years ago when the previous contracting company he was working for suffered a job site fatality.

“I don't ever want to see that again,” said Moore. “It's not a nice feeling.”

To Moore, his employees are like family. “You want to make sure they go home with their parts and pieces.”

The company is constantly taking safety to new heights in their policy, training, practices and record-keeping.

Two years ago, they hired 40-year industry veteran Bob Ryckman as safety director. He's taken Moore Construction from following a “rules and regulations approach” to more “management systems,” similar to ISO standards.

Instead of hanging up a bunch of rules to follow, each project has a job safety plan completed to identify possible hazards and risks. Roles and responsibilities are assigned to the crew to ensure it's done properly. It's later followed up with an audit.

Those standards are even applied to their subcontractors who receive the same safety orientation as new employees.

“The most challenging thing is translating a binder-full of procedures to what's done on the site,” said Ryckman. “The implementation is the real challenge.”

But the idea is to drill home proper planning and procedure before a task is even performed so that it becomes second nature. “That's not rules, that's culture,” said Ryckman.

Annual, monthly, weekly and daily safety meetings outlining potential risks and objectives are common in-house practice beginning with the morning “tool box meeting” on the job site.

With a constant stream of new provincial regulations and safety blitzes, the company isn't adverse to inviting a Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector to speak to employees.

Though Moore said they maintain a good relationship with the MOL, “sometimes we feel like we're being targeted because they expect way more out of us.”

“But you can't hide from the ministry,” adds Ryckman. “You've got to meet them head-on.”

On larger consortium-like projects, if they're working alongside contractors who are putting Moore employees at risk, supervisors can pull their crew off the site until the project co-ordinator fixes the problem.

Moore and Ryckman both said paying attention to safety has never conflicted with any deadlines. By identifying hazards and following procedures in their project planning, things actually get done more efficiently.

“It allows you to do better organization in time management and coordination,” said Ryckman.

Having a stellar safety record gives potential clients a degree of comfort and has helped keep the company busy.

“We're very proud of our record and we consider it a good sales tool to get more work,” said Moore.

Ryckman, who teaches a heath and safety course at Algoma University, said there is always a financially-rewarding business case to be made for safety, particulary with Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rebates.

To keep employees towing the line, Ryckman said, in his experience, offering annual rewards as employee incentives for no lost time injuries doesn't work.

“Your record looks better, but you're driving reporting underground. You're not improving safety.”

The best recognition to improve morale can be receiving an industry award or for the company to cater lunch to demonstrating a commitment to safety.

Over the years, the company has built an extensive online database of their training records, procedures, documents, health and safety plans for each task and project.

With a dozen employees who have taken the voluntary certified health and safety representative course offered through WSIB, Moore Construction would like to get more employee participation.

Ryckman has developed a 14-chapter heath and safety leadership manual which they'll begin rolling out to employees through PowerPoint presentations.

“We're going to give the guys all the tools they need to be health and safety leaders on the project.”

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