Cultivating a Dynamic Safety Culture
From superintendents to HSE professionals, tradespeople and more, we all contribute to PCL’s safety culture.
Written by the Experts at PCL
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published online by PCL. For more informative articles like this one, visit: https://www.pcl.com/ca/en/insights
At PCL, safety is the cornerstone of our culture, and it’s at the heart of everything we do. We promote and foster a culture where people truly care about one another and where everyone shares in our goal of zero incidents.
Our Toronto District is PCL’s largest office with over 600 of the construction industry’s top talent, including more than 20 dedicated health, safety, and environment (HSE) professionals who strive to ensure everyone returns home safe at the end of the day.
Changing Our Approach to Safety
Flashback to the ‘90s: PCL Toronto didn’t have an HSE team, but there was Tom Erger. Tom was our safety and loss prevention manager from 1990 to 1999 before he transferred to PCL Denver Buildings.
Coming from a background in carpentry and home building, Tom had a strong understanding and technical knowledge of construction, including the overall risks and hazards involved in construction activities.
Tom was an ambassador for what safety should look like at PCL and was instrumental in establishing the safety culture inherent to the Toronto District. He worked with PCL’s corporate director of environment and safety at the time to improve the company’s safety program while developing and fostering it within the district.
“He had an enormous passion for maintaining and creating a strong safety culture, and he was well respected, so when he talked, you listened,” recalls Dean Xuereb, field operations manager. “He was tireless in his efforts to help and was always there when we needed him. When we invited him to a project, he challenged us to be better and brought a wealth of knowledge with him.”
With his boots-on-the-ground approach and understanding personality, Tom’s passion for safety was infectious. Not only was he dedicated to his own position, but also to teaching, mentoring, and coaching everyone who stepped foot on-site about the value of our safety program.
“Tom believed in establishing and maintaining a safety culture through building friends and trust, while working with project teams and trade partners to perform tasks in a safe manner,” says HSE Supervisor Steve McKibbon. “He would come to work every day with the mindset that every worker goes home safe each day to their loved ones.”
Tom passed away suddenly in 2000, but even in his last moments, he was helping someone. To this day, he continues to make an impact with his long-lasting legacy that changed PCL Toronto’s approach to safety.
Recognizing Outstanding Safety Achievements
In honor of Tom, PCL Toronto created the internal Tom Erger Safety Award in 2001. Awarded annually, it recognizes the outstanding safety achievements of PCL Toronto projects that reflect Tom’s vision for safety.
The award is a symbol of HSE excellence that exemplifies an entire project team’s dedication and commitment toward the fundamentals of our HSE program and processes, and our goal of zero incidents.
“The healthy competition drives you to be better at safety. It challenges you to think proactively on the job site,” says recently retired Superintendent Andy van Oosterhout. “I would be disappointed when we didn’t win the award. It’s valuable because of who Tom was; open, passionate, and dependable.”
Safety in Practice
The Corner Brook acute care hospital project team is the most recent recipient of the esteemed award. In our role as design builder in joint venture with Marco Group as part of the Corner Brook Health Partnership team, we are partnered with some of the most reputable firms in Newfoundland and Labrador to deliver the 600,000 square foot regional hospital facility.
The project team achieved many construction milestones in 2021, including enclosing the building structure and deeming the project weather-tight, all while demonstrating a commitment to safety.
Averaging approximately 600 workers on-site to date, we are collaborating with and leveraging the strength of the local workforce. Because we have never worked with most of these trade partners before, they were originally unfamiliar with our rigorous HSE program. Through coaching, mentoring, and training, the project team led the workforce to elevate its safety performance, resulting in over 1 million hours worked by trade partners without a lost-time injury.
Further driving our safety culture, the team established a safety recognition program to recognize workers who are observed performing their task in a safe manner. The project’s occupational health and safety committee selects one winner each month who is featured across the site and receives a token of appreciation for their commitment to safety.
With the support of the HSE team and Western Health, the project team also hosted an on-site pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic that provided convenient access for 100 workers to receive their vaccinations.
“At PCL, we’re continuously looking for innovative ways to improve our safety practices and to work with our trade partners to embrace a mindset that is unwilling to compromise when it comes to keeping people safe at work,” says Bruce Sonnenberg, senior vice president and district manager. “Only together can we achieve our goal our zero incidents and continue Tom’s legacy.”
About PCL Construction
PCL is a group of independent construction companies that carries out work across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and in Australia. These diverse operations in the civil infrastructure, heavy industrial, and buildings markets are supported by a strategic presence in more than 30 major centers. Together, these companies have an annual construction volume of more than $8 billion, making PCL the largest contracting organization in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Watch us build at PCL.com.