A Different Approach to Safety


Empowering Frontline Employees to Transform Jobsite Safety

Colas Inc. went on a safety culture journey that has reduced recordable incidents by 58%.

What would happen if you empowered your employees to rebuild your safety processes from scratch?  Colas Inc. did it, and the results have been pretty impressive.

Colas Inc. is a U.S. based materials and road construction company.  Like most companies in the industry, Colas had a formal safety program for years.  And, year over year, their performance improved and was good. But when your number one value is safety, good isn’t good enough. Colas wanted excellent. In 2015, leadership laid out a new safety strategy which they named “Goal Zero.” The strategy included an intentional plan to build a safety culture that involved every level of the organization.

“Anyone can have 15 minutes of safety,” said Risk Management Director, Chris Kirby. “We need every person in every place of the organization to be living in a way that creates a safety culture 24/7.”

Putting Employees in the Driver’s Seat

Prior to “Goal Zero,” Colas had a very traditional approach to safety where the safety department was primarily responsible for safety. It’s a common approach, and one that worked well producing positive safety results for Colas, but they knew they could do more, do better. They needed to focus on the safety culture. That’s when they brought in Caterpillar Safety Services to help.

“We need every person in every place of the organization to be living in a way that creates a safety culture 24/7."

They pulled in small groups of front-line employees, known as Continuous Improvement (CI) teams, for Rapid Improvement Workshops (RIW) to work on improving and creating new safety processes. Typically, front-line employees aren’t used to being asked to resolve a safety issue – that’s traditionally up to management.

“It’s been almost 20 years and I’ve never been asked to change nothing except a nozzle on a tack truck,” said employee Dave Huggert.

So, as you may expect, when they kicked off their first 3-day RIW, facilitators were met by a reserved group of workers, arms crossed. Attitudes changed when employees realized that their opinions really mattered. One at a time, workers came out of their shell, and actually started leading the discussions.  They picked apart the existing safety process, threw out what wasn’t working and started from scratch using their own ideas.

Safety Culture Transformed

By the third day, all the employees were engaged and excited. Each member of the group took turns presenting their proposals to Colas leaders, who gave approval for the team to implement their plan.

The process was transformational – both for the safety process at Colas and employee morale.

 “It’s pretty fulfilling to have a chance to change something within the company where you work,” explained Huggart. “It’s making sure everyone is buying into it, which, I’m sold.”

“It’s pretty fulfilling to have a chance to change something within the company where you work.”

Employees left the workshop passionate about the process they had built and were strong safety advocates with their coworkers. 

So did it work? Since starting “Goal Zero” Colas’ Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) has decreased by 58%. And this is only one company’s story among many who have made sustainable safety culture a reality with Caterpillar Safety Services.  Well done Colas.

Interested in transforming your company’s safety program? Check out our free webinar series on Safety Leadership: https://www.cat.com/safetyleadership


Colas Inc. went on a transformational journey to take their safety program to the next level. This is their story.


Frontline employees worked in Continuous Improvement teams to build Colas’ safety processes from scratch. Over 5,000 employees were involved in their company-wide safety transformation.


Safety culture was at the core of Colas’ “Vision Zero” strategy. They worked with Caterpillar Safety Services to engage frontline employees in the process. This “boots on the ground” involvement was key to getting buy-in across their organization.

Cola Inc


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