UMC Reaches the One-Million-Hours Safe Milestone

by Sandy Chapin

Currently working in a fast-paced construction boom and doubling the company’s workforce in 2018, University Mechanical Contractors (UMC) exemplifies best-in-class safety excellence with the record to back it up. UMC just passed the tremendous safety milestone of one-million hours worked without a recordable safety incident.

UMC has completely transformed their entire safety culture into a superior model of proud and empowered employees with astonishing results:

  • More than one-million consecutive-safe hours
  • 578 consecutive days recordable-incident-free company-wide
  • Three years recordable-free – Major projects group
  • More than one-fourth of reported incidents have been personal/non-work related – “keep small problems small”

“UMC established our new safety program to inspire the overarching principle that motivates UMC’s crews to work safely and to look out for one another—pride,” said Kirk Baisch, safety director and firm partner. Our “Pride-based Safety” program is based on knowing you’re doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, especially when no one is looking.”

Kirk Baisch, Safety Director

UMC’s pride-based safety culture consists of simple, yet powerful, strategies that always keep safety top of mind:

“Own your Zone” – Encourages each employee to evaluate their work area and ensure it is organized and ready for efficient work. When a jobsite is conceptualized as a grid of zones, each person takes responsibility for the activities in and condition of their own zone, then the whole jobsite becomes organized and coordinated.

“One of the cornerstones of UMC’s safety culture is personal empowerment,” Baisch explained. “Own your zone” came from about a half-dozen serious accidents that were caused by third parties or other contractors. UMC employees were not hurting themselves, they were getting hurt by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The UMC safety program focuses on external and environmental forces which has boosted awareness and significantly changed outcomes. The overall concept: If each person is responsible for their own work and work area, then the entire job will be organized and efficient.”

“5 for 5” – Encourages crews to do hazard assessments every five minutes—each employee stops work, scans and analyzes their surroundings for five seconds to assess the hazards with a continuous improvement mindset to positively impact the work environment. By doing brief and frequent assessments, work continues efficiently, and hazards are anticipated before they become issues.

“We complete risk assessments for every task to emphasize the best possible safety protocols, not simply by following the rules,” said Baisch. “Crossing the street with the walk signal is legal but may be unsafe if there are distractions or low visibility. The same is true in construction where a worker may be tied-off but could still fall and get hurt due to distractions or work conditions.”

Baisch went on to say, “With this type of safety record the industry tends to question reporting methods. We can say with confidence that reporting and communication has gone up. At least a quarter of incidents that are reported are non-work related or personal issues. We attribute the willingness of staff to share concerns to open communication and trust along with our philosophy of keeping small problems small.”

Baisch credits unwavering leadership support at all levels for the success of UMC’s safety program. From the company’s partners to the foremen and field staff, all speak with one voice to carry the UMC pride-based safety message throughout the company.

“The most successful way to maximize a safety excellence culture is to tap into the pride and professionalism of the whole team,” said Baisch.

UMC has received continued award recognition year-after-year as a leader in groundbreaking safety programs and initiatives.

  • MCAA 1st Place National Safety Excellence Award – 2018
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2018
  • MCAWW WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2017
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2017
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2016
  • AGC of WA Safety Professional of the Year – 2015
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2015
  • AGC 1st Place National Safety Excellence Award – 2014
  • SMACNA 3rd Place National Safety Excellence – 2014
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2014
  • AGC of WA Most Improved Contractor – 2014
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2013
  • AGC of WA 1st Place Safety Excellence – 2011
  • AGC of WA Most Improved Contractor – 2011