As Construction Safety Week 2023 continues, one of the largest and most successful construction companies in Texas opens up about winning another Construction Safety Excellence Award from AGC.
A large general contractor that does business throughout the state of Texas, Jordan Foster Construction handles everything in heavy civil from roads to bridges, and their building group also carries out multi-family construction, as well as ground-up vertical work in the commercial space.
Amazingly enough, Jordan Foster has yet again been named the 1st place recipient of another Construction Safety Excellence Award from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), a premier authority in the construction industry. Jordan Foster took home this year’s honors for the Highway & Transportation division in the category of over 800,000 annual work hours.
With Jordan Foster being an active user of HCSS’ entire platform of software for the construction industry, we reached out to their executive team for Construction Safety Week 2023 and got the inside scoop regarding what has made their safety program so effective.
One of the Safest Companies in Construction
Damian Alvarez, their Environment Health & Safety (EHS) Director, recalls how when he and Kagerer first started working together years ago, she began asking him the same questions she still asks today: “What are you proud of? What are we doing differently? What can we do better? And how can we let other people know about this?”
“That's how we start formulating our groundwork and our foundation to how we’re going to prepare for the AGC’s CSEA awards,” Alvarez says. “I'm a firm believer that iron sharpens iron. Because I’m competitive, we strive to be, not as myself or even the safety team but as a company, the best in class.”
Despite winning the award, Alvarez notes that Jordan Foster isn’t taking any time off from improving. They’re still driving forward, and that means constantly learning from industry peers. “What's that saying, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?” Alvarez says. “So how can we imitate what other people are doing, and how can we improve upon that?”
Pushing the Future of Safety
At the same time, Jordan Foster is more than willing to share their own discoveries with other like-minded companies to help them improve in the same areas.
“We love to share what we're doing also,” Kagerer comments. “If we come up with something that's the best practice, we share it with the industry and with everyone. That's another way to push the industry forward related to safety for the future.”
Asma Bayunus, EHS Operations Manager, emphasizes the importance of this award for recognizing their employees out in the field, as well as their company’s overall values.
“This safety excellence award means a lot because it not only encompasses our safety program in the field [where] our risk team members work, but also it encompasses the values that Jordan Foster has continuously promoted in industry of being forward-thinking and working and thinking outside of the box.”
Jordan Foster’s focus on technology, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), mental health awareness, suicide awareness, and employee retention, along with promoting women in construction, are just a few goals and practices that have resulted in a successful program their CEO Darren Woody has proactively championed.
Embodying This Year’s Theme of “Strong Voices, Safe Choices”
When Tricia Kagerer hears “strong voices, safe choices,” what first comes to her mind is Jordan Foster having created a communication channel most construction companies overlook.
“We're hearing from those people that are closest to the work that are at the highest risk of having an issue,” Kagerer says. “Every day, our amazing people go out and work in the field, and they know better than anybody how they can improve, what they need, and what could we do better.”
Encourage Team Members to Speak Up
As executive leadership, it’s all too common to never hear from those precious workers who actually have their boots on the ground. Kagerer and her team have a program in place to avoid this pratfall: “I think ‘strong voices’ is creating a common language of leadership and a communication network so that people who are decision makers actually know how we can make a difference and how we can improve. That has worked very well for us over the last couple of years and we just continue to multiply that philosophy.”
“Where we make a difference is we don't only give people that opportunity to speak up, but we teach people how to speak up,” Alvarez adds. “We have created this language, this communication that we have now where our field safety leader – and anybody who sees anything – has that common language with their superintendent that they can go up to them and say, ‘Hey, we think we could do this a better way.’ Construction is inherently dangerous, but they're making a difference to not only their crews, but to the families of their crews. So that to me is a very strong voice that we have been empowered to use.”
On the operations side of safety, Asma Bayunus has proved instrumental in how their company has changed with the times to continue minimizing incidents and making the industry an all-around safer work environment for hundreds of employees across Texas.
“We are in an ever-evolving industry. What was good for us a few years ago will not be good for us a few years later,” she admits. “We're very, very good at making sure that we continue the conversations that we need to have within Jordan Foster to keep us moving forward and be pioneers in this industry.”
This approach entails looking at every situation as a hurdle, not a barrier.
“The uncomfortable conversations sometimes are the most important conversations to have,” Bayunus continues. “Investing in not only the company that you're in, but predominantly the people that you employ, is an extreme way of not only valuing them, keeping them safe, but also making sure that the values in the culture that you as a company are promoting, is emulated and also spoken about at large.”
To get that crucial buy-in from employees, Damian Alvarez always makes it a point to keep everyone informed as to the reasons the aging protocol cannot remain the same.
“Don't forget those closest to the work,” he states. “They are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle of everything that we do. A lot of people say they don't like change. That's not true, because we're always changing our cars, our clothes, our hairstyles, and our phones especially. We do like change. The big question about change is not what we're changing, but why we're changing it. Once you explain to people why we change things, it seems to go a lot easier.”
From Kagerer’s perspective, having an approach of servant leadership – and being in service to make operations better – is a game-changer when contributing to your company.
“To create a culture of true safety, the safety team needs to be ingrained and in lockstep with operations. When there's an adversary relationship, it's not going to work,” she says.
Transcending the Run-of-the-Mill Compliance Culture
Fortunately, the construction industry has come a long way in terms of safety. Tricia Kagerer has personally witnessed its progression, especially in recent times.
“I've been around for a while,” Kagerer says. “Unfortunately, safety did start from a compliance culture. There was a requirement for a manual and compliance, and there was this typical safety professional seen as, ‘I'm coming through to find out what's wrong and to write you up.’ That was the environment for many, many years. And in the last maybe 5-10 years, we're finally getting to a place where we're talking about what's right for the people. Being able to integrate a culture of care initiative through the lens of safety has made a big difference.”
At the end of the day, this culture of care for Jordan Foster has always featured safety at the helm. Beyond getting workers home safely to their families at night, a method like this has also resulted in the business thriving too.
“We all agree that we have to protect our people, so that gives everyone a common starting place,” Kagerer says. “Yes, we're in the business of making money, but if you protect your people, and you have a strong culture of safety that can be replicated on every project that you have, then you're going to be a better builder across all aspects of what it takes to be excellent.”
Find Out More About Jordan Foster's Award-Winning Safety Culture
To learn more about one of the most trusted general contractors in construction, head over to their website at www.jordanfosterconstruction.com.