Procore set out to find the companies, projects and individuals that stood out for their bold achievements in construction. Among the 27 outstanding finalists selected, nine were named winners of the 2022 Groundbreaker Awards. This article is the fourth in a nine-part series spotlighting each winner.
McCarthy Building Companies’ ongoing goal is “To Be the Best Builder in America” and a major focus behind this commitment to excellence is their focus on safety. Headquartered in St. Louis, MO, the self-performing general contractor has launched countless safety initiatives over the past several decades, all with the goal of keeping their team safe while valuing each individual. Across 18 offices all over the United States, their safety culture is defined by five key anchors: ownership, make it personal, execution, accountability and positive reinforcement.
At McCarthy, the only acceptable goal is zero incidents. In 2021, the team successfully achieved a Best-In-Class Total Project Recordable Incident rate of 0.54, their lowest ever, and nearly five times lower than the industry average of 3.0. Even more remarkable is that it was achieved in the throes of a global pandemic.
It’s evident that their commitment to safety is real. Rob Graham, Vice President – National Safety, spoke to Procore about McCarthy’s commitment to continuously improving safety on every project for every employee, craft professional and member of the community who comes in contact with a McCarthy project.
A history of commitment
Since its establishment in 1864, McCarthy has focused on staying ahead of industry curves, including safety. When other organizations weren’t necessarily prioritizing investment in safety programs, the team at McCarthy made it their primary concern.
“Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, when safety was really starting to take hold of the construction industry, we had the commitment of our executive leadership,” recalls Graham. “We knew we couldn’t afford not to be safe and made it a priority to be a leader in the industry.”
From executives to apprentices in the field, a total commitment to safety has been critical for McCarthy. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, this focus has only been amplified and served to remind the team that planning for safety and constant improvement to safety is the way to ensure everyone goes home safely every night.
Fostering safety from the ground up
As an employee-owned, self-performing general contractor, McCarthy has many long tenured field craft employees that have worked on a wide range of projects. In both the office and field, the standards for safety are maintained and consistently communicated, fostering a culture of pride and personal accountability.
“Our skilled workers tell us they’re so happy to be on McCarthy projects because of our commitment to safety—our jobsites are cleaner, we use the right equipment and most importantly, we care,” Graham says.
McCarthy recently launched Take Pride in Safety, sprung from safety having different meanings to different people, but that no matter what, it was a source of pride for all. This program encourages each employee to make safety personal, and that practice has resulted in award-winning results.
Beyond this Groundbreaker Award, McCarthy has been recognized several times, including receiving AGC’s Construction Safety of Excellence Award and the Excellence in Mental Health Advocacy Award by NAHB. Sixty-two percent of their projects have established an OSHA partnership.
Safety beyond the hardhat
McCarthy doesn’t only focus on the physical safety of their employees—they also prioritize mental health and wellbeing. A tough-mentality mindset is prevalent in the industry, but McCarthy is working to break stereotypes and minimize psychological risk on every job. McCarthy places a focus on increasing a personal approach to every aspect of safety, fostering a family-like atmosphere.
“It all starts with recognizing the issue and encouraging the conversation—you really can’t communicate it enough. You have to break down those silos and help people feel comfortable to speak up when they might need help,” Graham explains. “We’re making some good strides and keep trying to improve on it.”
Every employee, from the trades to executives, has a unique set of stressors, and everyone is provided with suicide prevention and counseling resources as well as mental health helpline information. Being an employee-owned organization creates an even greater sense of community and a personal touch to every interaction. A mentally and physically safe jobsite doesn’t just protect employees—it impacts the bottom line, and is a win for everyone.
Sharing what has improved the psychological well-being of their employees is something McCarthy is keen to do. Finding industry partners who are focused on safety improvement has been critical to success. Graham and his team are glad to see that the industry is increasingly becoming more open about acknowledging challenges around mental wellbeing and working to improve it.
“There are no trade secrets when it comes to safety, and as an industry, when it comes to mental health, we’re starting to share the same mindset,” says Graham. “If something has been really effective, we want to share it and collaborate to spread awareness.”
Minimizing risk with technology
Digitization of safety data has played an important role on projects, especially the use of Procore. McCarthy developed a 38-template customized safety inspection program within Procore that they call “McCarthy Vital Processes,” or MVP. This allows teams to track safety compliance and identify opportunities for improvement.
In 2021, project teams completed 50,436 MVP Safety Inspections, correcting and identifying hazards by over 50% compared to 2020. These safety analytics have made a difference in providing the concrete evidence behind McCarthy’s programs.
“We use Procore and maximize these tools the best we can, with custom reports, dashboards, and overall risk management,” says Graham.
While technology greatly supports accountability in safety, it all comes down to personal commitment to safety. At McCarthy, every day is an opportunity for employees to put their standards into practice, allowing them to further build up the safety excellence they’re known for.