Making Safety Personal

During regular safety job walks, stickers are handed out to those who demonstrate exemplary safety practices in the field. Photo by Shelby Riddell
During regular safety job walks, stickers are handed out to those who demonstrate exemplary safety practices in the field. Photo by Shelby Riddell

Going above and beyond to inspire safe behaviors at the ASU ACLS jobsite in Arizona

When it comes to safety, good or even great is never enough. DPR’s Arizona safety manager, Janet Howe, believes that building a culture of safety requires changing behaviors and commitment from the entire team to make sure everyone goes home to their families each night. “Safety is deeply personal, and we make every effort to remind our project teams and crews,” said Howe.

Tapping into some creativity, DPR projects across the country continually look for safety ideas that encourage teams to change behaviors. At the Arizona State University (ASU) Arizona Center for Law and Society (ACLS) in Phoenix, the team is going above and beyond to optimize jobsite safety by implementing creative new practices.


In an effort to inspire everyone on site, Lew Laws, project manager on the ACLS project, holds weekly brainstorming sessions with the project crews. With lunch provided, ideas are discussed, identifying what is working well, and what could make their jobs even safer and easier. The team has implemented several initiatives that are raising the profile of personal safety. Ideas range from making filtered water more readily available to workers for hydration in the hot Arizona weather to procuring a specific knuckle boom lift that helped the plumbers do their job more safely.


Another product of the safety brainstorming lunches is a hard hat safety sticker program. On regular safety job walks, the ACLS leadership hands out stickers to those who demonstrate exemplary safety practices in the field. For example, while spotting for a co-worker on a ladder, a worker had the idea to change his positioning to better support his partner. By moving to the outside edge, as opposed to the inside—the standard method—he knew it would be easier to prevent a fall risk. The spotter was excited to receive a safety sticker, and, like the proverbial “gold star,” wears it on his hard hat as a point of pride. To date, 80 stickers have been handed out on site.


Another great way to encourage involvement is with friendly competition. Before performing work, the crews fill out a pre-task plan that outlines how they will execute their assigned task in the safest manner possible. This allows workers to think about how they might tackle challenges specific to the jobsite so that they can plan accordingly. At the end of each week, the pre-task plans are reviewed and the three that demonstrate the most thorough safety action plans are awarded with free lunches. Those winning pre-task plans are then shared with the rest of the project team as an opportunity for learning. “This program has been so successful that it has been nearly impossible to pick winning plans in recent weeks—they all go above and beyond,” said Laws.

Building on a strong culture of safety, the passion and personal commitment to these types of creative programs help projects meet their injury-free goals. In an effort to grow beyond industry standards, jobsites are always looking for new ways to push the envelope a little further, especially ideas that can scale up and become the new best practice nationwide. Said Laws, “For DPR and the ACLS team, there’s no such thing as ‘safe enough.’”

Safety results on the project speak volumes for the success of the team, as they make safety a value on site. In October, the team held a safety milestone barbeque for 270 people, celebrating 300,000 hours worked with a zero lost-time incident rate.