Cultivating a Culture of Safety
May 05, 2022
As the sun comes up over Timonium, many are just starting their days. Not Lenny– he’s been settled into his office for a few hours and his day is well underway. While an early morning start is a norm for construction, Lenny prides himself on setting a precedent. After all, the nature of his work is establishing ways to improve safety in the construction industry.
Serving as safety manager for Gray & Son for over 7 years, the unspoken message of his early morning routine is just one of the many things he hopes to communicate to the company. “I like to lead by example,” said Lenny. “I think it’s important for those coming in at 5:00 in the morning to see that I’m already here. I’m here to let them know that I care about them and that I respect what they do. When I park my car out in front of this building, they see that I’m here. Without saying a word, it goes a long way.”
Lenny and his team base all their work around this deep level of respect and care. “We don’t want anyone to think that safety is just ‘don’t do this, don’t do that, can’t you read a sign?’. We want our team to feel comfortable and to be able to ask questions. We’re here to help the team, to serve them,” he explained.
A History of Commitment
When it comes to the construction industry, Lenny is no stranger. “I’ve been with Gray & Son for 44 years,” said Lenny. He began his career in 1979 with the concrete division, climbing the ladder and eventually serving as a foreman for nearly three decades. As Gray & Son grew, Lenny’s career was able to do the same. “They asked me if I would like to be a part of safety. At the time, we only had one other person involved in the department,” noted Lenny. Faced with the chance to make a larger impact on a company that had already given him so much, Lenny eagerly entered the next phase of his career with Gray & Son.
To support his career pivot, Gray & Son funded additional education and training for Lenny, allowing him to become well-versed with the myriad of different agencies involved in construction safety. “We deal with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) quite a bit as well as Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH),” explained Lenny. “It’s best that you have a thorough understanding of all the rules and regulations dealing with construction, things like what’s right and what’s wrong, as well as how to deal with government entities.”
Obtaining additional training and certifications has allowed Lenny to grow in a role that has had a major impact on him, both professionally and personally. “For the past 15 or 16 years I’ve been in the Safety department, and for the past seven years I have been the Safety Manager and have been in charge of safety here,” explained Lenny. “I’ve been very blessed. In my position within the Concrete division, I felt confined to just a small group of people. I felt like I needed to reach out and expand and really be able to help others.”
Lenny is not able to accomplish this mission alone. He works closely with several other Gray & Son team members, including Shelly. “I’ve been with Gray & Son for 11 years now, spending the last seven in safety,” said Shelly. She shares a similar passion for service, motivated by bettering those around her. “You’re constantly helping people. You’re looking for ways to make their lives better, easier, safer,” she said. “You feel like you do a lot of good, and you have the opportunity to do a lot of good.”
One of the biggest goals of Lenny and Shelly’s department is to help realign the perception of safety with the goals of the team. “Our department’s goal is to serve people and help people,” said Lenny. “Sometimes people take the concept of safety and view us as the police, but I don’t like that approach. I want to educate, train, and better our employees. The better our employees are, the better our company is.”
Lenny and Shelly know that keeping that attitude is more than just the role of one person. “We’ve built quite a culture here,” said Shelly. “You really have to have everyone buy into safety. We’re not the police, we’re here to educate and learn from any previous incidents.” This transparency has allowed the Safety department to see challenges as a learning opportunity. “If there is an incident, we make sure that everyone is aware of what happened and share ways to avoid it altogether or change the outcome,” said Shelly. “We include everyone in safety so that everyone knows how involved they are in the safety of those around them.”
This co-dependent approach to safety only reiterates the core values of the Gray & Son team. “The word family is used a lot here,” said Lenny. “When you’re out at the job site and you’ve got a crew, you build up a relationship with everybody. It’s your working family, and you want to protect and take care of your fellow workers as much as you can.” To Lenny and the team, safety doesn’t happen in a vacuum– it takes the full buy-in of the entire company.
Investing in the Right Resources
While the work that Lenny, Shelly, and the rest of the Safety department do helps to advance the well-being of the Gray & Son team, they largely credit the success to the investment that Gray & Son management has made into the company. “In the big picture, the employee is the most important resource that we have,” said Lenny. “Gray & Son has gone above and beyond in buying the finest equipment, finest trucks, and the finest technology. But, you need good people to operate all of that equipment and utilize that technology.” This respect for the value that every employee brings to the table has allowed every department and initiative at Gray & Son to thrive, including safety.
The Safety department strives to find interactive, relatable ways to share pertinent information with the company. “When we see a special date coming up, such as Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, we focus on that topic on our Toolbox Talks.” Toolbox Talks are weekly emails shared across the company to educate employees on important topics in workplace safety. “We’ll work to push those topics a little stronger at the time when it’s promoted. We’re really active in that,” said Lenny.
In addition to internal marketing efforts, Lenny recognizes the benefit of connecting with new employees. “I think it’s extremely important to make a new hire feel welcome and comfortable. I encourage that if they don’t know, to ask the question,” said Lenny. “Education is the most important thing to help people in this type of work.”
To foster an environment of curiosity and transparency, Lenny operates with an open-door policy. “My office door is always open,” he said. “Not hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t come back, sit down, and talk to me. Whether it's strictly a safety-related topic or not, it’s good to talk about.” Allowing these conversations is paramount to developing a culture rooted in communication, service, and family.
Paving the Way to a Safer Tomorrow
While the construction industry is ever-evolving, the commitment to safety at Gray & Son will always be constant. With warmer months bringing an influx of projects, Lenny and his team look forward to being able to support and serve their fellow Gray & Son team members. No matter the job site or project, the team will be there to lend a hand and an ear to help it go smoothly.