2018 CEOs Who "Get It"
Peter A. Wilson
President and CEO
Barriere Construction Co. LLC
- Chairs the joint employee-management committee, reviewing safety incidents and safety alerts and determining safety recognition rewards, as well as completing one annual project to increase interdivisional investment in safety.
- Personally conducts weekly field visits and encourages executive committee members to conduct Leadership Walks, documenting presence using an electronic field audit form.
- Requires all supervisors to have core and specialized safety training, safety trainers to be certified instructors, and challenged supervisors to attain the Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals.
As the top asphalt producer in the state of Louisiana, Barriere Construction’s mission is to safely provide quality asphalt and concrete paving, industrial and heavy civil construction services and materials to customers in a rewarding work environment. Barriere Construction employs 475 workers.
Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?
After the unexpected death of my father 40 years ago, my mother, Betty Wilson, made the difficult decision to step up and run the company because my brothers and I were too young at the time. The culture of care for our employees she instilled in us all will always be her trademark at Barriere. Having spent my entire career working at Barriere, I have had the pleasure of staying closely connected to our workforce, which we feel is the best in the industry. When taking over the role as CEO in 2015, I was honored to carry on the legacy of my grandfather, father, mother and brother before me. Our employees are the lifeblood of our business, and it is my responsibility as CEO to ensure their safety and well-being.
Why is safety a core value at your organization?
As our primary core value states, “We put the safety of our employees and the public first.” Simply put, safety is a core value at Barriere because taking care of our people is the right thing to do. We know we are nothing without our employees. To this end, we strive to keep employees until they retire by helping them build careers in construction. We are proud to have several generations of families currently working for our company. To me, this indicates the level of security and opportunity we offer as an employer. We try hard to be a company where employees want to come work and our safety programs play a large part in this. On the other hand, our customers demand we work safely, especially in our private markets. When we excel in safety, we ultimately develop a competitive advantage, which can be a major differentiator from our competition. The fact that we, as a largely public works contractor, can take our low incident rate into the private/industrial market speaks volumes to our customers. Having every employee at Barriere be responsible for the safety of themselves and their co-workers quickly becomes mutually beneficial for employees and customers alike.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
Our biggest obstacle is overcoming the perception that production is the driving force and that risks can be taken to meet the schedule or are in response to poor planning.
We decided to take a proactive approach to find where we could improve our safety message. Last year, our employees participated in an anonymous survey to gauge their beliefs, perceptions and opinions as they relate to Barriere’s safety culture. Safety is the responsibility of every employee, and this survey was an opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard. The findings were used to help us identify and bridge gaps in our safety culture, and to improve and grow together as a unified company.
As a result, management took further action by conducting regularly scheduled Leadership Walks to focus on engaging with employees in the field and to encourage and recognize safe work practices. In addition, I make weekly field visits to discuss the importance of safety, health and financial wellness, and everyone’s responsibility to stop any unsafe tasks or conditions.
How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?
Leading by example, we drive safety responsibilities into our operations and hold our supervisors accountable. We teach our employees that they not only have the authority but also the obligation to stop and correct unsafe acts or conditions. When we communicate at Barriere, whether by mail, email, newsletters, videos, etc., we discuss safety each and every time. We also teach employees how to bring safety home and try to educate their families on the importance of safety. We start all internal meetings off with “safety minutes” and it is always the first item of the agenda on every progress meeting.
How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?
We measure both leading and lagging indicators, which we publish internally each month with the mindset that what gets measured gets done. While we use lagging indicators to measure our incident rate, we focus on leading indicators to predict future results. For example, we find that new employees may not understand how important safety is to us, so we have a strong focus on pre-job orientation, our new employee mentor program and our required core safety training.
What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?
We share home safety tips each week in conjunction with our weekly toolbox talks. We also strive to involve the families of our employees in safety during our annual employee picnic and have a safety art calendar drawing contest for the employees’ children. We have hired a full-time Wellness Nurse as a resource for health screens, education programs, disease and weight management, and nicotine cessation. For the last four years, we have had over 80 percent of employees and spouses participate in our outcomes-based wellness program. We want our employees to be healthy during their time at Barriere, but more importantly, long after they retire from a career in construction.