“When we become leaders of safety, we don’t think in numbers; we think with our hearts.”
With that powerful message, Corrie Pitzer, CEO of SAFEmap International, kicked off the 11th-annual Southern Company Contractor Safety Forum. The forum theme, “Team Up for Safety,” focused on how the company and its contractors together can share information, learn from each other and get everyone home safely every day.
“Our goal is to get everyone, employees and contractors, to return home in the same condition in which they came to work,” said Mark Crosswhite, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Southern Company. “This safety forum emphasizes the importance of teamwork toward reaching that goal. There is significant value created when we partner on safety.”
The importance of contractor safety to Southern Company is easy to see when you look at how much the forum has expanded since its inception 11 years ago. A vision of Safety and Health Director Don Gaddy, the first forum was held with approximately 40 people and included only contractors working on Engineering and Construction Services (E&CS) construction projects.
Gaddy’s vision that the forum grow to include all construction functions in Southern Company is slowly being realized each year. The forum has expanded to include all Southern Company business units and contractor groups, including generation, distribution, transmission, vegetation management, Southern Nuclear and Southern Power, making this year’s meeting, held Nov. 27-28 in Montgomery, the largest to date with approximately 470 attendees and 35 vendors.
“Southern Company can’t be successful in safety if our contractors are not successful in safety,” Gaddy said. “Contractors are our windows to the world. Southern Company knows how to generate and deliver electricity, but we are always willing to learn from others when it comes to safety.”
Penny Manuel, E&CS executive vice president, thanked the contractors for their commitment to safety. “This forum is about Target Zero, but it’s also about building relationships,” Manuel said. “Our contractors are there for us every time we need them; we don’t do anything alone. We have proven that as a team we can get anything done.”
In fact, Southern Company includes many of its contractors in the planning of the forum and incorporates their ideas in Southern Company safety programs. Brad Cole, of Brad Cole Construction Company, said his company worked closely with E&CS to create its STEP (Safety Through Everyone’s Participation) program.
Sammy Christian of T&D Solutions said you can tell that with Southern Company that safety is a team effort. “Southern Company has concern not only about their employees, but its contractors. They are really on board with their contractors.”
Ken Daugherty, of White Electrical Construction Company, said no other forum or association comes close to Southern Company’s Contractor Safety Forum. “Other companies talk safety, but no others have an open forum like Southern Company where you feel like a participant.”
Most contractors return to the forum year after year. Lee Jenkins of Performance Contractors, Inc. said the forum is rewarding and beneficial. “As contractors, we don’t have many opportunities to come together to discuss something that is common with all of us,” he said. “And an owner bringing its contractors in for the sole purpose of safety is priceless.”
Chris Rush of Saiia Construction, LLC, said he knows with Southern Company, safety is about family. “A lot of contractors make safety goals with the mindset that we need to be safe to remain in business with Southern Company,” he said. “However, the truth is we need to be safe because we all need to go home to our families every night. When it becomes emotional, it becomes real.”
From Southern Company Services, E&CS Newsletter, first published December 2012