Walbridge Receives First Construction Star Award for Workplace Safety & Health Excellence

Contact: Mario L. Morrow 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

September 23, 2010 - Walbridge received the Michigan Voluntary Protection Program for Construction (MVPPC) Star Award, the state's highest workplace safety and health award, today from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). The MIOSHA program is part of the Michigan Department of Energy Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG).

"We are honored to welcome Walbridge into this exceptional group of Michigan companies who represent the ‘Best of the Best' in workplace safety and health," said DELEG Deputy Director & Chief of Staff Susan Corbin. "Not only is Walbridge a world-class leader in the construction industry − they are also sending the message to corporate America that safety and health pays."

Walbridge is the first construction company to qualify for the MVPPC Star Award. The MVPPC Star Award is presented to worksites that provide exemplary workplace protection for their workers. Walbridge is being recognized for its outstanding safety program and practices at the Couzens Hall renovation project on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

DELEG Deputy Director & Chief of Staff Susan Corbin and MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski presented the MVPPC Star Award to Walbridge Chairman and CEO John Rakolta, Jr., who accepted the award on behalf of the company. Associate Vice President for Facilities and Operations Hank Baier represented the University of Michigan.

"This award recognizes a unique partnering effort between Walbridge, our subcontractors and trades, the University of Michigan and MIOSHA," Rakolta said. "Each of these participants was engaged and committed to the MVPPC process at Couzens Hall. We're truly honored to receive this award. But, we can't rest on our laurels. Since we maintain that safety is our highest core value, it requires us to remain vigilant in keeping the focus squarely on safety."

This is the most prestigious safety and health award given in Michigan. MIOSHA established the MVPP program in 1996 to recognize employers actively working toward achieving excellence in workplace safety and health. Since 1999, Michigan has recognized 26 general industry MVPP Star companies.

The University of Michigan's Couzens Hall is currently undergoing major renovation of more than 150,000 square feet of housing space for 560 students. The work includes updating plumbing, heating, ventilation, fire detection and suppression systems, adding wireless high-speed network access, and renovating bath facilities and making accessibility improvements. The renovation will be completed in time for the fall term of 2011.

"The University of Michigan wants to commend the leadership of Michigan OSHA for working with companies in a collaborative manner for the promotion of safe work practices that will help stimulate economic growth in the state," said Baier. "We are proud to be part of this prestigious award, and we congratulate Walbridge for being the first company to receive this important safety award. We also want to thank Walbridge for bringing such a talented team to work with us on the renovation of Couzens Hall."

Unlike general industry MVPP applicants, fixed site construction applicants are required to combine their own rates with their subcontractor's rates, regardless of the hours worked. The incidence rates for Walbridge and its subcontractors are well below the industry average for their NAICS code 236210- Industrial Building Construction. Their total case incidence rate (TCIR) was 1.6 in 2007, 1.9 in 2008, and 2.0 in 2009, compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) industry average of 5.6 in 2007, and 3.4 in 2008 and 2009. The total days away/restricted cases (DART) rate was 0.5 in 2007, 0.6 in 2008, and 0.9 in 2009, compared to the BLS industry average of 1.7 in 2007, and 1.4 in 2008 and 2009.

The MIOSHA review team − Doug Kimmel, Team Leader and CET MVPP Specialist; Pat Sullivan, CET Senior Construction Safety Consultant; and Fred Kirkland, Jr., CET Industrial Hygienist − examined each of the required elements of Walbridge's safety and health management system and the site-specific accident prevention program and found them to be consistent with the high quality required of MVPPC programs. The site meets the MVPPC requirements and the applicable MIOSHA standards are appropriately covered.

During the site review there were 10 Walbridge employees and 143 contract/subcontract employees (representing 18 subcontractors) working at the site. During the review eight formal and 54 informal interviews were conducted. Interviews covered management, health and safety personnel, and contract/subcontract personnel.

Areas of excellence include: 
  • Fall protection required for all employees working at a height of six feet and above. This requirement applies to everyone at the site, including iron workers. 
  • Signage - safety posters, banners, and signs - are posted at the shop trailer and in several locations throughout the jobsite. 
  • An attendant working with a crane operator is required to blow a whistle prior to the crane moving to warn employees of the impending action. 
  • Pre-Task Analysis (PTA) - A PTA involves identifying the basic tasks of a job, determining any existing or potential hazards associated with each of the tasks, and then developing recommendations for eliminating or controlling each of those hazards. 
  • Daily safety huddles (three per day) allow employees the opportunity to evaluate their work processes, ask questions about new work processes, and identify hazards immediately if encountered during their work. 
  • Exploratory demolition for asbestos-containing materials that were not identified in the building survey. This practice prevents accidental disturbance of asbestos-containing materials.

"National VPP sites experience 60 to 80 percent less lost work day injuries than would be expected of an average site in their industry," said Kalinowski. "Not only does the MVPPC program significantly reduce injuries and illnesses - it also has a tremendous impact on the bottom line."

Walbridge has gone nearly seven years without a lost time accident. MIOSHA also presented the CET Platinum Award to Walbridge during the MVPPC ceremony. The MIOSHA Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division recognizes the safety and health achievements of Michigan employers and employees through CET Awards, which are based on excellent safety and health performance. The CET Platinum Award recognizes at least five years without a lost-time accident.

The company has worked with the MIOSHA CET Division over several years, and CET Senior Onsite Construction Consultant Rich Sumner performed a hazard survey on site, which is a part of the award process. This is only the second CET Platinum Award presented to a construction company.

Walbridge is a privately held, top-50 construction company founded in Detroit in 1916. The company offers construction management, design-build, engineering management, general contracting, pre-construction, program management and turnkey solution services. It also self-performs concrete, equipment installation and facility management services. Walbridge employs 600 professionals in offices located in North America, South America and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.walbridge.com.

At the University of Michigan, Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) plans and manages the design and construction of new facilities, additions, renovations, and utility and infrastructure improvements. By managing the design and construction of campus projects, AEC assures that all projects will be completed in accordance with University and State of Michigan criteria for quality design including economics of construction and operation. For more information on the Couzens Hall project, visit: http://www.aec.bf.umich.edu/projects/CouzensHallRenovation/index.html.

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