Safety in Numbers

We get by with a little help from our friends. These famous lyrics might not have been written about construction safety, but they sure do fit the bill. No project can achieve a safety standard Balfour Beatty calls Zero Harm without the support of like-minded trade partners.

In Florida, Balfour Beatty has developed an incredible partnership with Baker Concrete, which shares our commitment to zero deaths, zero injuries to the public and zero ruined lives among all our people. Currently, Baker Concrete has a total of 310 workers helping bring four major Balfour Beatty projects across Florida to life. According to Chris Diaz, vice president of safety, health and environmental for Balfour Beatty’s Florida Division, “Baker Concrete is a forward-thinking company when it comes to safety. They consistently turn best practices into policy.”

Recently, we spoke with Manny Rodriguez, southeast regional safety director for Baker Concrete, to discuss the ways in which our companies come together to protect our people and the public. 

Q: Baker Concrete’s safety program is known as IIF or “Incident and Injury Free.” What does that mean to your employees?"

A. We began our IIF journey in 2007. This program is a lot like Zero Harm in that it’s both a personal and organizational commitment to eliminating injuries. We believe everyone is accountable for safety, and that means if someone has a concern, they have the right and responsibility to bring it up. 
Working with a general contractor like Balfour Beatty that puts safety ahead of schedule means we can always “take five” to asses a situation and develop a safer plan. Some companies talk a great game, but it’s a different story in the field. When you partner with Balfour Beatty, you know you’re going to produce a quality, profitable product that is built safely.

Q. What are some of the most serious safety issues Baker Concrete faces?

A. Uncapped rebar is one of our biggest threats. It’s incredibly easy for other subcontractors to accidentally knock off caps while they’re working. Someone could easily trip over a 2x4 and land on top of uncapped rebar, which could result in impalement. Balfour Beatty is very supportive of our efforts to ensure all rebar remains properly capped. It’s a team effort. 

We also perform a significant amount of work from heights, so we have a major focus on fall prevention. Many of our current projects in Florida are high-rises, so we provide instruction about how to tie-off into anchor points and the use of horizontal lifelines in work areas that don’t have existing anchor points. Balfour Beatty has held safety stand downs that focus specifically on falls as the leading cause of construction fatalities. When they take the time to stop work and speak passionately about this topic, it really hits home with our people. They understand that all it takes is a momentary lapse in judgment or one bad decision to have life-altering consequences. 

Q. One of the most signature projects we have completed together is Solitair Brickell Apartments in Miami. This was a demanding project located in a tight, urban site. How did our teams work together to keep people and the public safe? 

A. It all started with planning. Our teams got together even before excavation work began to examine and plan for the hazards we’d face. One of the most critical for us was the prevention of falls—both people and dropped objects. Solitair had a one-inch border on all sides from an adjacent building and was surrounded by significant pedestrian and vehicular traffic. From obtaining permits to shut down lanes for deliveries to installing safety nets, this was a team that put safety first. We also found the pull planning exercises Balfour Beatty orchestrated to be an effective tool that helped us organize and allocate our manpower. 

Q. Baker Concrete has some unique initiatives that support its IIF program. Tell us more about the innovative practices you’ve developed.

A. This may sound simple, but one of the best practices we’ve implemented over the years is a pre-work stretch and flex to warm-up muscles and help prevent soft-tissue injuries. Concrete workers are especially prone to back injuries, and this program has decreased those significantly. 

Baker Concrete is also a firm believer in the importance of mentorship. Anytime a new worker joins our team, in addition to orientation, we pair him up with someone who has more years on the job. This practice is especially relevant in today’s industry that is seeing more and more unskilled labor join the workforce. 

Our most impactful initiative extends beyond our workers to include their families and loved ones. If any of our employees is involved in a significant safety infraction that could have resulted in a fatality, we ask that individual to have a loved one write a letter about the impact their loss would have created. When that worker reads the emotional messages their spouse, partner or parent write, it is incredibly powerful. Those workers never again take their choices lightly. 

This National Safety Week, Baker Concrete is proud to celebrate our partnership with Balfour Beatty. Together, we will continue to “walk the walk” in pursuit of IIF and Zero Harm.