On November 13-17, the most renowned risk management experts in the country will gather in San Diego for the 31st Annual Construction Risk Conference by IRMI (International Risk Management Institute). One professional (or team) charged with managing construction risk for their companies will receive the Gary E. Bird Horizon Award, sponsored by Marsh.

The award recognizes innovation in construction risk management, reminding the industry that continuous improvement is important to identify and control risks.

The timing of this year’s award has special significance—it honors the memory of Gary E. Bird, a nationally known risk management expert, and other professionals who died on 9/11 on the tenth anniversary of the event.

Award finalists share their winning strategies:

Allan M. Yokoyama

Safety Administrator, Albert C. Kobayashi, Inc.

Strategy: In July of 2005, Albert C. Kobayashi, Inc. recognized a need for re-evaluating how they incorporate safety into their operations. At that time, the safety administrator, was solely responsible for safety. They decided to extend this program throughout all company levels and empower employees with ownership of safety protocols. Before their Do The Right Thing program, safety was only compliance-driven. “We instituted a safety recognition program to recognize safe behavior rather than focusing on accidents.” The company had an increase in reported claims that allowed them to address problems and correct them. Everyone was rewarded equally. As a result, their OSHA Incidence Rate was reduced by 82.98% in 2009 and further reduced by 66.67% in 2010.

Words of Wisdom: “At safety meetings, I let the workers talk about issues rather than leading the discussion…It’s about changing attitudes.”

Bob Johnson

Director of Safety, Granite Construction, Inc.

Strategy: Granite, one of the largest heavy civil contractors in America, relies on Bob Johnson to manage 65 full-time safety professionals. The program Johnson designed keeps employees from walking, reaching and bending more than necessary to prevent injuries. “In construction, we always put everything on the ground,” he says. This program allowed them to stage materials and plan the jobsite from an ergonomic standpoint. “We literally got out a stopwatch and watched people walk around.”

Words of Wisdom: “Our workforce is getting older. Instead of wearing out our good people, we needed to find a way to adapt and move the materials on the jobsite to the workers.”

Shari Natovitz

Vice President and Risk Manager, Silverstein Properties

Strategy: Silverstein Properties is building three projects at The World Trade Center with several general contractors. “We work in New York where labor laws are in effect, and liability suits can be brought.” They wanted to consistently apply safety regulations across all their projects. Based on observations, they devised a program and then worked with their broker to use a product called ESafety to implement the plan. This provided a way to have all eyes on the project reports by accessing information from an iPad or laptop in the field. In turn, this helps them understand if a GC is effectively managing their trade contractors. “We give them a report card.” With this information, they can identify contractors who need additional resources and education.

Words of Wisdom: “You can’t have separate loss control and claims systems.”

Vicki Harkleroad

Director of Corporate Insurance, Tennessee Valley Authority

Strategy: When Harkleroad took over in 1990, TVA was in the process of moving from an internal workforce to hiring more contract labor. The OCIP program has saved money on insurance costs and improved safety. “Because of the way our contracts were structured, we reserved the right to select contractors who could participate in the OCIP program.” They consider these contractors partners. “The OCIP has facilitated communication among contractors about safety requirements.” During quarterly safety meetings, they share loss experiences and brainstorm new strategies like consolidating their training tracking to avoid duplicate coverage—a move that saved more than $150,000.

Words of Wisdom: “Because our safety programs are strong, we get additional recognition for that when negotiating our insurance rates.”

Lillian Mendez

Insurance Coordinator, W.E. O’Neil Construction Company

Strategy: Working for a commercial contractor, Mendez is in charge of overseeing the subcontractor insurance to ensure it is compliant, and she submits the company’s insurance to project owners. Her position was created to track compliance, and her background working with a construction brokerage firm guaranteed its success. She uses accounting software to track compliance and withhold invoice payments until appropriate documentation and correct endorsements have been submitted.

Words of Wisdom: “The key is hiring someone with industry knowledge who can speak with brokers and subs.”