Project News

Flatiron’s Safety Streak in Canada Continues

Employees on the Firebag Emergency Access Road project stand with safety flags from owner Suncor. Flatiron went seven months—the entire duration of the project—without an incident, a new Suncor record.

Flatiron Construction reached a major safety milestone: We worked more than four million man-hours in 2012 without a single lost-time safety incident. In Canada, Flatiron employees have now worked nearly four years in a row (2009 to 2012) and more than 3.2 million man-hours straight without a lost-time incident. It’s an impressive feat anywhere, but even more so because of the safety challenges that each winter season brings.

“The amazing thing about our record is that it has been accomplished in a harsh winter environment with inclement weather,” said Blair Brandon, president of Flatiron’s Canadian Division.

“We work through four full seasons, with every season having its own set of challenges,” said Pete Walton, Flatiron’s safety manager for Canada.

As a testament to these achievements, Flatiron won several safety awards in Canada this year, including the Alberta Roadbuilders Heavy Contractors Association’s safety award for large employers. Employees on the Firebag Emergency Access Road project also earned accolades from owner Suncor. Every month, Suncor issues a safety flag to the contractor with the best safety performance. Flatiron received seven flags over the course of the eight-month project and was one of the only heavy civil contractors on a Suncor site to achieve seven safety flags in a year.

What’s the secret? Pete says Flatiron’s rigorous safety programs and standards are one reason for much of the company’s success in Canada.

“We put forward the Flatiron safety program, and we instill that in all our employees. We tell people they’ll be held accountable, and they are.” Added Blair, “A lot of workers in Canada are fairly new to the Flatiron way and the Flatiron system, but they have quickly adapted to our culture of safety, which may be stricter than what they’re used to.” Pete also credits project safety managers, who manage first aid on-site so minor injuries or safety hazards don’t escalate to something more serious.“Incident management is key,” explained Pete. “Safety managers can often address a first aid incident immediately to keep it from evolving into a recordable incident.”

Another factor at work is the stringent safety requirements of many owners in Canada. “The oil sands owners have raised the bar another level that we have had to meet and exceed. When they say zero incidents, they mean it,” said Pete.

To help Flatiron employees meet this high standard, Flatiron implemented a new safety hazard analysis program across Canada two years ago that is now a common practice among oil sands clients. It’s called FLHA, or field level hazard assessment. In addition to the daily risk assessments, conducted by work crews as a group to identify hazards on the job site, each worker completes an FLHA to identify specific hazards associated with their individual work.

“With the FLHA, each person is accountable for their activities on any given day. Each worker fills out an FLHA card, and they are responsible for updating it daily as their individual work environment changes,” said Pete. “I think FLHA has contributed a lot to our record, and our numbers bear this out.”

Overall, Pete says the Canadian safety record is about perseverance and dedication by employees. “We’ve been faced with a number of challenges—from rapid expansion of the business and strict owner requirements to working in a four-season environment—and we’ve met and exceeded them,” said Pete. “You need to have a stick-to-it-iveness to succeed here, which our crews have.”

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