It would have been easy for management to tell workers at the Marsh Landing Generating Station, a $700 million electricity plant in Antioch, Calif., to just scale the ladder and get on with the project. But throughout construction, supervisors emphasized that work should be completed safely, no matter the cost in dollars or time.
So when foreman Chris Derrico saw a ladder at an odd angle, he had the crew take the time to erect a scaffold. "In ironwork, everything is based on trust," he explains. "On this job, they went above and beyond. Any tool we needed, any safety equipment, they were willing to purchase … When they give you that type of leeway, everybody is willing to do their best."
Eric Johanson, project manager for Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit, which built the station, says trust-building begins on an employee's first day. "We'd just talk," he says. "'What's important to you? What do you like to do away from work?' That's the reason we all want to work safely--so you can go home and do something with your family."
Johanson meets with new employees 30 days after they begin to see if they have concerns. "If you don't follow up," he says, "it's all for naught."
At 20/20 Window Cleaning of NC in Raleigh, N.C., president Jack Evans values consistency. "If a new employee sees you give a veteran a break, you lose trust," he points out. "You have to be consistent, be a leader by example."
David Bruce Fryer of Fryer Roofing in Fresno, Calif., believes trust comes from keeping employees informed about workplace decisions. Many on his team see safety harnesses as cumbersome. "They had to see this was something we all agreed was beneficial," he says. "By having a safe workplace, we've been able to reduce costs, which makes us more competitive and gets us more work, which relates directly to them."
Jim Morrison's award-winning stories have appeared in Smithsonian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Private Clubs, This Old House, National Wildlife, Playboy, Reader's Digest, Utne Reader, and numerous other publications.