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LIUNA Signatory Contractor Barton Malow Takes a Proactive Approach to Safety

As LIUNA signatory contractor Barton Malow looked to begin work on a new battery plant in Lansing, Michigan, worker safety and health was top of mind. That’s because the company had recently completed two similar battery plant projects – one in Lordstown, Ohio and the other in Spring Hill, Tennessee – and knew the kind of hazards that would be present on a project of this size.

As Wade Kremer, the Civil Superintendent at Barton Malow explains, those previous projects helped guide the company’s plans for the safety refresher training workers would need as site prep and other work got underway.

Construction in progress at the Lordstown, Ohio battery plant site. Image copyright: Barton Malow

“From our experience in Spring Hill especially, we wanted to focus on trench safety, confined spaces and preventing struck-bys,” said Kremer. “There’s a lot of equipment moving around, with spotters for almost all activities, and we knew workers would be in even tighter spaces as the project grew.”

Battery plants are large and complex projects, and the Lansing, Michigan site was no exception. Barton Malow’s Civil crew for this phase of the project included 25 to 30 Laborers on site and 50 Operators, with more on the GC and Concrete side of the business.

Because they knew what hazards to expect, Barton Malow decided to be proactive in making sure workers were trained to recognize and avoid them. “We had a lot of newer workers here at the Lansing site and thought this awareness and refresher training would be good for those crews to go through,” said Kremer.

The challenge was finding the best way to get workers up to speed. Training workers once work begins usually means slowing down the project and increasing payroll costs as workers get paid to attend training instead of working on site. A 23-year member of LIUNA Local 499, Kremer decided to contact LIUNA Training of Michigan to see if they could help.

LIUNA Training of Michigan Mobile Training

After hearing about Barton Malow’s training needs, Daryl Gallant, Training Director at LIUNA Training of Michigan, suggested making use of the training fund’s mobile training unit. These mobile trailers offer the same technology as a classroom setting, with the added benefit of being able to go directly to the contractor for onsite training.

“These members were already working nine and ten hour days, so being able to go to them with our mobile classroom was a big benefit,” said Gallant. This allowed Barton Malow crews to attend a half-day training in the morning and pick up work on site after lunch.

Another positive of the mobile classroom was the smaller class size. “We trained eight or nine people at a time rather than trying to do the entire group at once,” said Gallant. “As a former trainer myself, I believe that’s the group size where really quality training can take place.”

Using their mobile classroom, LIUNA Training of Michigan instructors trained Barton Malow employees – Laborers and other trades alike – on trench safety, confined spaces and preventing struck-bys.

“Many signatory contractors may not realize they’re already helping to support the training center through the labor agreement they sign,” said Gallant. “My message to them is you’re already helping to pay for it, why not give us a call and see how we can help?”

For more information about LIUNA Training of Michigan, including course offerings, class schedules and more, visit www.lt-mi.org.

Building a Positive Safety Culture at Barton Malow

After this first round of training, many construction contractors would’ve considered the job done. Instead, Barton Malow continued to be proactive by asking workers onsite what additional safety concerns they had. The discussion that followed led to another round of calls and meetings with LIUNA Training, this time to set up spotter and flagger training.

“We noticed inconsistencies across the site in how vehicles were backing and how that was being handled,” said Kremer. “The idea for the second batch of training came from several team members during our Pledge for Safety week, and we ended up getting refresher spotter training for all Laborers on site – Civil, GC and Concrete.”

This kind of worker involvement is a key part of building trust with workers and one of several ways to develop a strong safety culture. It helps empower workers and ensures they have a voice in the workplace and feel comfortable speaking up when they see hazards. Most importantly, it helps ensure that LIUNA members receive training that’s tailored to the hazards they will see on a day-to-day basis.

“The team at LIUNA Training helped us set a new standard among Barton Malow Civil jobs,” said Kremer. “That would not have been possible without their mobile classroom and instructors. It was quite a feat to get all this done during the busiest time of year and not affect our project negatively.”

Barton Malow has been in business for 98 years and has 16 offices in 10 states. For more information about their projects and career opportunities, visit www.bartonmalow.com.

[Nick Fox]

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