The Shelly Company
- Written by: Mike Schoch
- Produced by: Bill Keaton
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Few things make a person feel vulnerable like working on a paving crew. The only breeze under the beating sun may come from speeding traffic, and the only shade may be from the heavy machinery laying hot asphalt.
At least, that’s how it looks from the outside. But according to one of Ohio’s largest paving contractors, the work site can be safe and reasonably comfortable if workers pitch in to make it that way.
The Shelly Company, headquartered in Thornville, Ohio, has 1,600 employees spread out over 84 facilities across the Buckeye State, including 31 asphalt plants, 28 aggregate sites, 16 ready-mix concrete plants, five rail yards, three liquid terminals and one building materials yard. Despite the sheer volume of its operations, it has very, very few incidents.
For the past three years, the subsidiary of Oldcastle Materials has won safety awards from its parent company for having a million consecutive hours without safety incidents each year.
“We live by a culture of see, stop, do,” says Jamie Sturgeon, public relations representative. “It’s about helping your brothers so everyone goes home the same way they came in that day.”
Talking, not punishing
The “see, stop, do” mentality works like it sounds. Because safety is The Shelly Company’s priority, employees are encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for potential safety hazards, stop working when they do see them and, finally, take action. Sturgeon points out that this strategy only works if employees feel like they’re helping each other by speaking up, not tattling.
When employees are involved in near-misses, the company asks them to sit down and talk about it, often creating an educational video from the conversation.
“We thought, who better to share thoughts on how to be safe than the boots on the ground and the folks in front of the hazard,” she says.
In one case, she says, a safety specialist at The Shelly Company happened to drive by a ready mix concrete truck driver who was talking on his cellphone. Following its protocol for the offense, the company asked the driver to give a presentation to his coworkers, as well as shoot a video in which he gave advice to other drivers who might feel compelled to pick up their phones while behind the wheel.
In addition to workplace communication, Sturgeon says The Shelly Company tries to emphasize the importance of safety in employees’ home lives. During the truck driver’s video, the driver’s son read a letter that he wrote to his dad, exhorting him to be safe and keep coming home.
The idea, Sturgeon says, is not just to create a safe workplace, but to instill safe practices that employees will bring home. In this case, the end goal wasn’t that the driver wouldn’t talk on his phone while driving the company truck, but that he wouldn’t talk on the phone any time he drove, whether taking his son to school, or a family member to a doctor’s appointment.
“We don’t consider safety a work policy,” she says. “It’s a family business and you have to live and breathe it at work and home.”
Safety in the family
Sturgeon says Shelly’s national parent company, Oldcastle Materials (OM), is at least partially responsible for this approach to safety because it rewards and recognizes best practices.
OM offers an Innovation Award as well as a Community Ambassador Award for its regional offices that pioneer ways to keep sites safe. In 2016, The Shelly Company won just such an award for designing a safer gate with which to equip asphalt silos. Sturgeon says the awards are an easy and cost-effective way for other OM subsidiaries to share best practices.
Within The Shelly Company, Sturgeon says employees, ranging from sales reps to managers and asphalt loaders, sit down and analyze safety concerns for specific areas of the company, and then present those suggestions to co-workers.
A face to the name
Responsibility is another value touted by Shelly, which is why it says it participates in local initiatives, including rehabilitating former mining sites for wildlife and running educational programs. One such project is a Rocks Build our World Program that educates students of all ages on geology and how it pertains to construction.
At its asphalt plants, the company will hold open houses, tours and customer appreciation days.
With all this outreach, Sturgeon says the idea is to contribute to the area the company works in and hires from. Safety and community contributions are simply the best way.
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