Construction, Human Resources, and Lakeshore

Elzinga & Volkers celebrates its safety streak

Construction firm has more than 2,500 days without an incident.

April 11, 2014
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Twenty-five hundred days and counting — that’s how long it’s been since Elzinga & Volkers had a day of lost time due to an injury.

It’s an almost seven-year milestone accomplishment for the Holland-based general contractor, one which was celebrated last month with its Alive 365: Safety Week for 2014, an event that offered training sessions on construction safety throughout West Michigan.

The event included representatives from the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan, Associated Builders and Contractors of West Michigan and Michigan Occupational Safety Administration.

“Establishing a safety-first corporate culture at Elzinga & Volkers remains our number one focus,” said Mike Novakoski, president and CEO. “We hope to share our learning with others in the industry so they have the tools and knowledge to make every jobsite the safest possible environment for their workers.

“This requires careful planning, but if it helps save a life or prevent an injury, it is worth the extra effort.”

This isn’t the first time Elzinga & Volkers has had a long streak without major time-loss injuries, said John Parker, the company’s vice president of project development. The company’s last streak was more than 1,000 days long.

“Considering the fact that we have almost 100 different people out there in the field, it’s a pretty significant number of hours worked,” he said. “It’s almost 1 million hours.”

Novakoski attributes the safety legacy to being intentional about safety training, company culture, and choosing new employees who will be mindful of their co-workers.

That carefulness has not only kept employees safe, but also has saved the company money, he said. There is a moral obligation to keep workers safe, he said, and the construction industry as a whole is moving toward more safety.

“We had a person share at our safety symposium about a lost worker who had perished from a safety-related incident, and he used the term ‘millions’ (of dollars) — the shutdown of jobs, the legal costs, the lost productivity … and it goes on for years,” Novakoski said.

“When the Golden Gate Bridge was built, they had a number of allowable deaths in mind. They said, ‘This is probably what we’re going to experience: For every million dollars, we’ll expect to lose a life.’

“Today, the industry is so far away from that.”

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