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EGC Construction recently reached an impressive milestone over a decade in the making: four million effort hours without time lost due to an injury. All told, it’s been 11 years since the Newport, Kentucky–based company had a lost-time incident.

“We’re a very safe company that cares deeply about safety,” says EGC Safety Director Andy Baldhoff. “It’s just a hard milestone to hit, and we have.”

EGC’s record achievement is rooted in a safety culture that permeates every level of the company. “Our company just started from the top, [and] believes that safety should be a complete culture,” Baldhoff says. “They don’t just preach it; they believe it.”

A Total Approach

EGC is a self-performing general contractor and design-builder serving clients from its home base in Newport. Founded in 1978, the company has more than 140 craft professionals, including electricians, pipefitters and welders, carpenters, steel erectors, fabricators, millwrights and riggers. “All of our work is unique,” Baldhoff says. “We have a reputation for being problem solvers and moving really big machines/equipment. EGC has been trusted to engineer installations of multiple production lines for well-known global clients.”

It’s complicated work with little margin for error, demanding a total approach to safety. That begins with the upfront team that handles job estimating, which builds safety into their estimates. From there, planning staff further incorporate safety. And finally, Baldhoff says, craftspeople “prove day in and day out that our approach to safety works.”

No matter the job, preparation is key. “Every meeting starts with a safety topic; every day, every task in the field and throughout the day—every new job is evaluated,” Baldhoff says. “There’s a brief meeting, a safety task analysis, and everything that could possibly be looked at before we do work is done.”

EGC Vice President Robert Simmons adds: “We involve the people that are doing the work in the planning of the work, with the craft knowledge, the background and the capability to do the work.”

That means empowering everyone on the jobsite to speak up for safety. “Everyone on the job has the power to stop work if they feel unsafe,” Baldhoff says. “And it doesn’t start back to work until everyone is in agreement that the safety procedures are put into place.”

Training is a major part of the safety ethos at EGC. The company strives to have every worker complete a 30-hour OSHA safety course within their first 90 days of employment. All employees also have access to continuing education in class and online. “We push training on an annual basis and then on a specific task basis also,” Baldhoff says. “So, confined space, fall protection—we don’t just do the basics, we go for advanced training in all those categories.”

Walking the Walk

Not that EGC has been without challenges in achieving such long-term safety success. For example, the company has been working with a multinational manufacturing client on a project for which work needs to be done on and around existing production lines, including adding a mezzanine over one of them, with upgrades in the same area.

“Getting the overhead work done—in the timespan the owner requested, to minimize downtime to the production line—would have required more hours worked in a week than the maximum 60 hours [that] EGC permits for its employees,” Baldhoff says. “The owner suggested we add more workers to the project, but that wasn’t a viable solution. However, we did come up with a proposal to work around the clock with three different crews.”

Two crews worked 10-hour shifts Monday through Saturday, day and night, while the third crew worked eight-hour weekend shifts, including the Sunday shift. Additionally, EGC will prefabricate as much of the mezzanine as possible offsite, to minimize the amount of time the production line is out of action.

“We do a lot of dangerous work, from rigging to elevated work to confined space,” Simmons says. “Nothing that we do is worth getting hurt. We walk the walk.”

Sometimes that means realigning a customer’s values to be more like theirs. “A recent customer did not share our safety values and repeatedly asked us to compromise our safety standards,” Baldhoff says. “I am proud of the way EGC leadership did not lose sight of its core beliefs. It showed our employees that they are valued more than profit.

“This particular project had many subcontractors onsite due to the tight schedule,” Baldhoff says. “Our people were constantly being asked if EGC was hiring, because other workers wanted to work for a company that would have their backs.”

Family Culture

But EGC recognizes that there’s still room to grow, especially when it comes to safety technology. “Technology is coming a long way,” Simmons says. “We have a system called behavioral observation study that we’re moving online, so we can get real-time data; [it’s the same way] for our STAs [safety task assignments] and our safety plan. Technology is coming leaps and bounds, and we’re trying to grasp it as tightly as we can.”

In addition to technology, EGC cites innovations such as prefabrication as key to advancing its safety journey. “We’re really looking more into deep-diving safety analysis during preconstruction phases of projects,” says Colin Smith, an EGC project manager. “Obviously, we’ve always looked at that, but [EGC is] taking extra effort—subcontractor prequalifications, identifying even the constructability of a building and how safety plays into that role and how we erect a structure and build out a building.”

For Simmons, safety goes back to the relationships that EGC’s team has built over decades in business. “We’re talking about people here,” he says. “It’s the right thing to do. These are our friends, our acquaintances, our family, people we’ve known a long time, people who have worked together for a long time. We treat each other like family here.”

Baldhoff adds: “EGC in particular has lots of people with 10-plus years, lots of people with 20-plus years and several with 30-plus years. We spend more time with our company family than with our actual family. So, the concern for our brother is genuine.”

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