Typically, workplace safety is priority one for companies in the electrical construction industry, where the distinction between having a good safety program and an outstanding one could mean the difference between going home at the end of the day or going to the hospital.

To honor those contractors that make an exemplary effort to keep their employees safe, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Arlington, Va., announced the winners of this year's AGC/Willis Construction Safety Excellence Awards at its 88th Annual Convention held in San Antonio. The awards are given to contractors with a proven safety record who embrace a cultural commitment to safety.

One such company is New Tech Electric, a Portland, Ore.-based electrical contractor that won second place in the specialty contractor category for between 100,00 and 300,000 hours worked. According to Warren Sanders, New Tech Electric's safety manager, the company, which employees between 90 and 100 employees at any given time, hasn't suffered a lost-day case since March 2003. Sanders credits this accomplishment to his company's safety culture. “Our injury-free workplace philosophy establishes safety as a value over every work priority,” says Sanders. “The work priority might change by the hour — you could be doing energized electrical work in the morning and pulling wire in the afternoon. Both of those work practices are different, but the injury-free value that you approach each of those work disciplines with is the same.”

Another electrical contractor acknowledged for its dedication to a safe workplace is E C Company, also headquartered in Portland. Mark Hopkins, corporate safety manager for E C Company, says this is the first time his firm's safety program has been nationally recognized. E C Company, which employs approximately 825 people and is one of the largest electrical contractors in the Northwest, received first place in the specialty contractor category for more than 1 million hours worked. According to Hopkins, safety starts at the top. “Our president, George Adams, mandated our safety awareness seminars,” Hopkins says. “In the last three months, we have required a half-day safety training seminar for the top 320 people in the company. Attendance is mandatory. We want to make sure everyone is accountable and responsible for the safe actions and safe performance on their jobsites.”

Like E C Company, New Tech Electric strives to ensure that all employees know what is expected of them when it comes to safety. “The safety training process begins at new hire orientation,” says Sanders. “Whether you're a field person, an office person, or an administrative project manager, New Tech Electric puts people on the same level. There is no differentiation between what you do and what your rights, roles, and responsibilities are within the company.”

Being named a recipient of an AGC/Willis Construction Safety Excellence Award is no small feat. To be considered for the award, finalists are required to have zero work site fatalities. In addition, all entrants are thoroughly screened to ensure their company is committed to a safe work site at every level of employment and has a successful training program, work site hazard identification and control, and safety program innovation. At the AGC Convention, finalists presented their safety program to a panel of safety experts from various organizations around the country.