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When a job involves working on energized power lines, there is no room for error—one safety incident could be deadly. Coutts Bros., a Maine-based utility contractor, understands the potential fatal consequences and created a culture of safety to minimize that risk.

Making the Change

The cultural shift started three years ago. First, the company hired a new safety director, Jared Rossignol, and then developed a behavior-based process for safety training. It also went through Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Safety Training and Evaluation Process and invested in unmanned aerial systems for high-voltage asset inspection.

“Not only do clients require our safety record and a safety plan for every project we bid on, but the entire construction industry has been shifting the focus to safety as a first priority,” Rossignol says. “Coutts Bros. was passionate about being at the forefront of this effort.”

Next, the company began working to change the company-wide mindset about safety. “Traditionally, safety directors in the industry aren’t the most popular,” Rossignol says. “There’s certainly a stigma that safety professionals are the ‘cops’ looking for employees’ missteps.”

So Rossignol started changing his reputation from a threat on the jobsite to a resource. “I feel so strongly about fostering mutual respect around safety on the jobsite,” Rossignol says. “By bringing my safety knowledge to each job, coupled with our employees’ knowledge of their work, we have been able to shift the mindset to a ‘safety first’ mentality.”

The company also began revising policies and procedures to help ensure employees’ safety. All employees now must go through a program that includes classroom-based training, standardized testing and on-the-job training. The company created a large training center to simulate every type of work it does, developed an apprenticeship program and hosts a monthly company-wide Safety Training Day. Coutts Bros. also encourages employees to weigh in on the safety program.

“We encourage openness and honesty from our employees,” Rossignol says. “If they hear or see something being done differently by another company and they feel it will help them work safer, we explore that method.”

On every job, Coutts Bros. performs inspections to make sure the job is in compliance with clients’ safety policies, as well as local, state and federal regulations. The company also analyzes in-house and industry data to locate trends in its work.

“Getting onsite to see the behaviors during each task is what makes our program tick,” Rossignol says. “Documenting and acknowledging the successes is every bit as important as providing feedback for improvement.”

Coutts Bros.’ new outlook on safety has paid off. The company recently won ABC’s National Safety Merit Award and has seen an increase in productivity and quality on each job.

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